Since the official start of the pandemic, the world has changed. Between companies and individuals that make up society, there is an outpouring of new concepts that have challenged everything.
Initially, many predicted that it would take at least two years to return to some kind of normality and I don’t believe that by early 2022 we will be there. Out of stock due to the many vulnerabilities in the supply and manufacturing chains, labor shortages, overburdened healthcare systems around the world, no, nothing is “normal”. Not to mention that Europe is hitting a 5th wave and a new variant (Omicron) is coming out of Africa. According to what I see and hear around me and from my clients, everyone has been managing in “Plan B” mode for almost two years now, and we will have to make it a habit.
Everyone is doing the best they can and frankly, our expectations and standards as consumers have been so diminished since the beginning of this dark period. Being answered within 15 minutes by the TV company or your bank is almost thrilling. Being served within 30 minutes at a restaurant is a real blessing. I wrote an article about the covid ready excuse and the reading from back then is still relevant.
Of course, businesses that were already very precarious in their ability to serve their customers suffered the same fate as hospitals, always on the brink. And for some companies, if the Québec CHSLD disaster were translated into client losses, we could characterize the whole situation as another form of catastrophe, with them alone to blame for their poor quality of service. This is normal when you are always managing on the tightrope with a minimum of resources. All it takes is one uncontrollable variable like a pandemic to upset the fragile balance. Who could have foreseen this? Our Prime Minister Mr. Legault said it so well: nobody!
But with almost 2 years of experience navigating the rough waters, what are companies doing to regain control? What are governments doing to regain control? A question that has been in the media for almost two years, and the answers have varied. And then there are the armchair critics with a major in conspiracy theories from “Google University”. It is clear that we are still in troubled waters and will be for a long time.
You may have heard of the Plan B, a French-Canadian series that makes us dream that with a simple call to the Plan B agency service you can go back and correct the wrong choices you made? If you don’t know it, let me tell you that this fantasy is a utopia. In the land of unicorns, fantasies are king. But let’s face it, it’s a dream to imagine that if we had known, that we would have made different decisions. Would we? At least, we hope so. What if you had the ability to time travel? If you had this ability, would you know how to correct your past mistakes? Let’s look at it another way for a moment. What if it were possible to plan for the unexpected?
Contingency and business continuity plans have been around for ages. But it is clear that governments and most businesses still have a lot to learn and do when it comes to their own Plan B. Moreover, with the number of graduates from ENAP (University of Public Administration) and other universities that manage public and private funds, there are many questions to ask when faced with these shortcomings, which are beyond unacceptable and even deadly, as we have seen in Québec’s the CHSLDs.
Aren’t senior managers paid a lot of money to foresee the unforeseeable and justify their accountability? It seems not! If they could call the Plan B agency, I bet they would all try to avoid the problem that caused the transmission of the virus or change their positions before they were responsible for the mess to come.
In any case, if this pandemic teaches us anything, it’s that anything can happen, even the worst-case scenarios. Where do we go from here?
What if we gave ourselves the ability to carry out a real plan B, not by going backwards, but by projecting ourselves forward? Yes, foresight is a discipline that is so fascinating to me because the day we discover that the important thing is not to anticipate what is going to happen in the future, but to plan this future and to anticipate it by acting on the present, well, let’s just say that it changes our perspectives.
Let’s take an example. A decade ago, oil was soaring. The data seemed to show that the curve would continue to rise indefinitely to the point where the cost of gasoline would become a social issue. According to these predictions, the oil apocalypse was coming. But what actually happened? More expensive extraction solutions began to emerge, and at the same time electric cars began to attract more and more market attention. Governments started to provide incentives for the purchase of electric cars and now the future is looking electric. And like magic, the price of oil has fallen back to more normal prices. The same scenario seems to be playing out again in the last few weeks, but this time the rules of the game have changed and so have the causes. This is a perfect example of time travel. Let’s imagine five years from now with the data in hand and the market trends and try to devise scenarios. Let’s create a future that is controlled in the present because we know how to read the indicators, to give them a broader meaning than just mathematics or statistics. It is possible and it is the way to travel in the past… to project ourselves forward to act in the present that will be the past of the future. Still following?
Let’s go back to a very current reality, the labor shortage and working fromform home. More than ten years ago, I was talking about it in my master’s thesis about work-from-home in 1999! It took a pandemic to shatter the unfounded paradigms of leaders over 20 years later. Now, it is a major issue as going back doesn’t seem to be an option anymore. All employees are considering a hybrid or 100% work-from-home arrangement.
In terms of forecasting workforce needs, it has been said and repeated for over a decade. The most advanced employers were well prepared for this reality. The same ones that have set new standards for benefits, including GAFAM (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple, and Microsoft).
Resistance in senior management in this regard has not served their interests, and today looking like the others is no longer an option, it is an absolute necessity in this competitive pool to attract talent.
Standing out is now a real obstacle course. The most innovative companies are even thinking of offering 4-day weeks like in Iceland, New Zealand and Japan in an official and permanent way. Everything is considered for an employer who wants to get the best resources. This is to say that a well-informed and proactive management could already prepare the way in 2010. I used to give conferences on customer and employee experience to explain the importance of being prepared for the scarcity of resources that was already on the horizon.
All we had to do was set up a complete monitoring system (see my course outline Training in Monitoring and Reputation Management) and give each sector manager the responsibility of anticipating the future and acting on the present. This is how we time travel, by projecting into the future and acting on the present. Isn’t this the essence of Presence, to be aware that our actions of the moment determine the future of tomorrow?
But foresight is not the prerogative of rigid managers who focus on short-term profits. Even less the bureaucrats who are directed by politicians. Generally, they prefer to shovel anticipated problems forward. Governments do the same thing, they run for four-year terms. They present a plan during the campaign and usually forget about it during the term. Foresight is the antithesis of crisis management, it is prevention. It is about influencing the course of one’s future. It is paving the way for the unforeseeable.
What about environmentalists who have been doing foresight for decades? Now that the fire is in our house, governments are discussing reduction targets. For some, seeing a negative trend is being alarmist. For others, it’s acting before it’s too late. Which side are you on?
I’m getting to the stage in my life where sometimes I feel a bit sorry for having incited so many people to jump into the digital world with a big smile. I had anticipated the danger of sinking like zombies into our screens, but seriously, I never thought that the new masters of the world would put so much effort into manipulating us and submitting us to their agenda.
The recent revelations about Facebook’s Machiavellian plans with the whistle-blower, Frances Haugen, ex-engineer of the social network, send shivers down our spines.
Today, this is the new fight of governments: to recover tax losses and save industries in decline because of their slackness. Hello!!!!! It’s been written in the stars for at least twenty years and the damage is piling up. Wicked foresight, folks! What planet were they living on? It makes me sick to my stomach to think that we’re headed straight for an even worse scenario. Which one is it? The metaverse!!!!
I don’t know if you know of Dr. Michio Kaku ? I made a post about him available here. A true futurist who has well described a potential future in the light of known and imagined scientific breakthroughs. I recommend you to read his fascinating books. It was predictable that the next war of billionaire “stars” would be the metaverse. The time machine… would you believe! Decide where you want to go and you’ll be there in click time!
And frankly, we can’t say that Zuckerberg did not warn us, he even renamed his Facebook group: Meta. His intentions are clear: to dominate the next Internet wave: the metaverse. Hold on tight!
Oh, you don’t know what the metaverse is? Let’s just say that we’re going to fall into a real virtual reality that “really” will live alongside real life… or vice versa. A bit like the beginnings of Second Life where a certain madness had taken the addicts by the throat and the wallet by inventing a “virtual” life inspired by reality. A virtual Monopoly game crossed with the Payday game that gave a meaning to lives that had none left. This time, augmented reality reaches a new level and rest assured that children born today will find this post corny and stupid when they are 10 or 15 years old.
Watch this video which explains the phenomenon perfectly with a journalist who played the metaverse game for 24 consecutive hours. It’s amazing, but very clear.
Now back to the purpose of this post. How will we act now that we know we are facing a new threat to our sanity and societal balance? We can’t deny that we know it, it’s being discussed everywhere. Embracing it is a matter of a few months or two years at the most. How will we deal with metavers as parents, educators, politicians, managers, entrepreneurs, consumers, etc.?
We know there will be benefits to being able to chat with our doctor in the metaverse or our banker and even our colleagues. There will come a time when we will never leave home with these connected glasses or VR (Virtual Reality) glasses in these metaverse worlds. Blade Runner gave us a glimpse of it. Virtual Prostitutes, virtual pushers, virtual conspirators, virtual bandits, virtual customers… customers?!? Ah, it’s getting interesting isn’t it?
What business will resist this? Virtual customers and virtual employees, a real bargain! Then will come the intrusive fake avatars that will be programmed to manipulate us like artificial intelligence algorithms already do, but at a more sophisticated stage. We will have a familiar face on their avatar body that will remind us of a relative or friend who will offer us a good advice or a nice deal. All this according to our own will, because no one will be able to plead innocence.
The metaverse market is already estimated at 1000 billion and the auction on the acquisition of real estate assets has already started. If you wait too long, there will be inflation in this fake world too. Seriously, don’t we have better things to do as a society?
We think this is all science fiction, but it’s not. It’s already here. The race for market share is well underway. The new virtual reality is taking hold and social networks were just an embryonic practice, an introduction to the dangers of screen addiction. From now on, we will have this “screen” glued to our face. A voluntary sharing of our lives for two decades now contained in large databases owned by the masters of the New World. Black Mirror beware, your futuristic shows will be works of art soon.
In conclusion, if we learned from our mistakes, they would already be useful. But even better, if we avoided making them because we know, because we anticipate them in the light of our environment. If technologies were useful to develop predictive models that would allow us to never again experience pandemics, natural disasters, hasty deaths in nursing homes, labor shortages, loss of our taxes to GAFAM… wouldn’t it be time to wake up collectively and demand better from those who should know and do nothing? Or worse from those who know and do nothing?
What will you tell your children when they ask you, what was the real world like before? The one we forgot to preserve. As the natives say, “We don’t inherit the land from our parents, we borrow it from our children!”
Do you have a desire to imagine a new future for your company? I do love to do foresight with visionaries! What can we do today to still be here and in the right place in 3 or 5 years?
I’m not saying that we can control everything, but that to change the future, we must act now. We may not be able to control the winds, but we can adjust the sails. That’s what being a leader is all about, anticipating the unpredictable and managing the predictable.
Let’s build the future together!
This is a translated article originally authored by our brilliant business partner Sylvie Bédard from MindDrop (e-marketing strategies).
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