On being a futurist

| February 3, 2016

What is a futurist and why do we need them? Janine Cahill, one of the world’s top female futurists, shares three trends she believes will profoundly shape the way we will work.

Recently I had the privilege of being named as one of the world’s top female futurists. Acquaintances and clients alike congratulated me on the honour, but were slightly puzzled. What is a futurist? Why do we need futurists? And more importantly, what trends have I been noticing in my futurist speciality area, the world of work?

What is a futurist?

A futurist, in its most basic form, is a person that studies the future in order to help others plan for, understand, and take advantage of it.  Futurists are not psychics – they do not try to predict the future. Instead, they seek to understand the current state of affairs, and then look for possible indicators of future trends. They then extrapolate this knowledge to create different futures that they see as possible, and then implement different plans or ideas based on these.

Why do we need futurists?

The fundamental reason we need futurists, according to the Association of Professional Futurists, is that they give us ‘personal and organisational choice. Although the future is unknown, a person can identify possibilities, select the most favourable outcome and attempt to influence events to create a desired future.’ Therefore, futurists essentially offer us the opportunity to at the very most build, and at the very least influence, our future. And this, it seems, is exactly what many futurists have done – from Robert Ettinger’s 1964 article on the human cryonics, to Peter Singer’s essay on conferring rights to non-human citizens, many leading futurists have helped to not only influence, but actually change, the course of our future.

So over now to the world of work. What are the trends that we at Teazl are noticing, that we think will have a deep future impact? Here’s three of the top trends we believe will profoundly shape the future of work:

The corporate ladder is being obliterated  

Already, we are seeing a shift away from the traditional ‘career ladder’ to a more flexible, fluid protean type of career.  With the transition from a baby-boomer led workforce to one led increasingly by Generation Y and Z’s, the notion of ‘climbing the corporate ladder’ is at risk of being obliterated altogether. Success will no longer be defined by what rung you reach on the ladder, or how fast you reach it, but it will instead be defined by obtaining what matters to the individual. As a result, careers will begin to be managed in a far less structured and hierarchical way, as individuals navigate through a myriad of different options in search of what is ultimately meaningful to them.

Technology is changing everything

There is no doubt that the last two decades have brought incredible change to the workplace. The creation of Google alone has radically transformed how people search for, access, and process information. Communications technology has completely shifted the way we work. New kinds of jobs are being created daily. So, too, has the advent of the Smartphone changed our lives – have you seen someone on a train recently that isn’t glued to their phone? Technology is set to continue to transform lives, and simultaneously, employees are starting to not only want, but expect, the very best and the very latest in workplace technology. This expectation, in fact, was key in the development of our innovative mLearning platform here at Teazl.

There may be no more offices

Although telecommuting is not new, it has yet to really put a dint in the standard 9-5 office job. However, all this will change, and soon. The rise of freelance and contract workers, coupled with increasingly sophisticated technology, will enable more employees to work effectively from home, coming into the office on odd days, for meetings only, or not at all. Organisations will support this type of work, if they don’t already, due to the myriad of cost savings that will be made possible from having fewer or no facilities. If office-based organisations end up having no buildings, CBDs could technically be dismantled – and although this seems far-fetched, it may become a reality sooner than you think.

What do you think the world of work will look like in 10 years? How about in 100 years? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section.

This article was first published here and is republished with the kind permission of the author.