Why we should be talking about the future

Last month, I attended the first event of Liquid’s Future Led series on the future of the world and how it impacts us as an organisation. An hour of deep conversation was not enough for our first topic – capitalism crisis. The initiative itself is significant, however, because it underlies one of our attempts to prepare and stay ready for what lies ahead.

What is the Future Led series?

Future Led is an internal series of discussions where together with a panel of speakers and experts, we examine, envision, and explore the trends of the future. Every two months, we take a step back from immediate client problems and look more broadly beyond our horizon. During these events, we touch on impactful and potentially disruptive topics, including Capitalism, Artificial Intelligence, Sustainability, Altruism and Government. We talk about how these affect us individually and as an organisation, as well as how best to prepare for them.


A long overdue conversation

Well before COVID-19, organisations were talking about modifying and adapting for a new world, and the need for changes has always been there. Now, the pandemic has made those needs only more pressing.

The case for change is evident. Businesses that stay agile and adaptable during the pandemic see opportunities and are taking advantage of them, while those slower to change struggle to survive. The pace of change has never been so rapid in so many aspects, and the critical factor is that organisations do not have much time to waste. What we should ask now is no longer if we should change, but how.

How should we prepare ourselves for new challenges and uncertainties that the future brings? What actions should we take today to be ready for them?

A future-ready organisation requires a future-oriented mindset. Therefore, now is the time to have conversations about the future – what the world looks like in the coming decades.


Does it matter, talking about the future now?

My short answer is it absolutely does.

Making sense of the future is at the core of every business’ strategic planning. Understanding what lies ahead allows us to form new visions and map out the paths toward them.

  • Where do we stand 20 years from now?
  • What are the forces shaping the next 20 to 50 years? How will they impact the way we work and define our values?
  • What should we do now to best prepare for them?

Thinking about the future this way prompts us to re-examine our identity, purpose, how we operate and create value, and how we will grow. Consequently, a renewed sense of who we are, clarity around how we work and grow, will improve our chance of staying ahead of the new normal.

We also need to talk about the future because as an organisation we need a long-term, ecosystem mindset. When we think long term and systematically, we can make different trade-offs and decisions, which are measured not by short-term benefits but by their added value far down the road.


How do we talk about the future? The forces impacting the coming decades

The future is uncertain, complex, and multi-faceted, but mega-trends are already happening which will fundamentally shift how we work. A report by PwC has identified several forces that will shape the future. Some of the relevant ones are:
  1. Advances in technology, automation, AI, and robotics
  2. Demographic shifts and an aging population
  3. Increased urbanisation and climate change

With these forces come difficult questions that we should ask ourselves:

  1. How should we leverage artificial intelligence? How do we cultivate human skills and develop our talents to thrive in an age of automation? How do we prepare and protect ourselves from the downsides of technology - cyber-attacks, data privacy, and wide-scale manipulation?
  2. How do we attract and retain talents when an aging population means a shortage of human capital? What are the implications of a growing global population? What can we do to nurture a new generation of young workers with different sets of values, amidst rising inequality? How do we facilitate and promote more diversity in the workplace, now that more women and immigrants are entering the workforce?
  3. With more people living in cities and climate change, how might that affect our future? What can we do to be cleaner, environmentally friendly, and sustainable as an organisation?

Finding the definite answers to these questions might take weeks, if not months. And it might very well be that we will never find an answer to some of them. But this is not the point. What matters is that these questions prompt us to rethink our current way of working, our purpose and value, and our plans going ahead. If in doing so we gain some clarity and direction, then it is all worth the effort.

My takeaways from our first Future Led event - Debating the capitalism crisis

For the first Future Led event, we talked about the future of capitalism and what we, as a business, can do. With Liquid’s CX Director and event moderator, Fiona Armstrong, we sought the diverse views and perspectives of three panellists:

  • Jason Titman, Director of Integr8 Group
  • Yas Grigaliunas, CEO of World’s Biggest Garage Sale
  • Richard Slatter, Twitter’s Director of Strategic Product Partnerships


Left to right: Richard Slatter (on screen), Yas Grigaliunas, Jason Titman, Fiona Armstrong.

I left the event with more questions than answers, which is what these conversations are meant to do. To encapsulate a topic as complex as capitalism in an hour is impossible, but I believe we touched on very key points:

  1. Capitalism has brought prosperity and growth, but it has come at a huge cost. Widening inequality, myopic focus on short-term profits, and unsustainable growth at the expense of social and environmental wellbeing mean that capitalism as we know it will have to change.
  2. Businesses are in a better place than ever to make an impact.
  3. Profits alone no longer justify what businesses do, as a new generation is growing up with a more purpose-driven mindset. To exist as an organisation of the future, companies have to make profits and a positive contribution to society.
  4. Some skills are becoming more essential, namely the ability to think long-term and systematically, as well as the ability to collaborate effectively.

Of course, exploring the trends is only the first step. What’s left for us to do is to make sense of them, how we’re placed in all this, and how to go ahead.