April 16, 2009
Meeting Tomorrow’s Challenges
For the 21
What are some career titles we may see in
local government in the future?
Ownership vs Options
Location vs Options
Short term vs long term
• Weak signals are seeds of change that exist
today and they can tell about big trends in the
• Weak signals are something odd or strange
What are some weak signals that we are
currently seeing related to government?
But Even More is Required……….
• Government must understand that a constantly
changing future requires collaboration with
public, private and non-profit organizations to
create a culture that supports continuous
• With this is mind, government needs to combine
building capacities for new ways of thinking as
well as act as a facilitator of creating networks of
individuals and groups capable of adapting to an
increasingly complex economy and society.
1/8 Second Away
what are we
• What are examples of changes to which we
• What about our culture or organization
encourages change (what should we keep
• What barriers get in the way of quickly
respond to change?
• Which barriers could/should we remove?
Cause us to
Job Losses 15.7%
How we understand the world
As difficult as it is, we need to question and
challenge time-honored principles, concepts and
methods to include how we do economic
development, how we educate, how we
govern, how we lead, even how we think.
How we relate to each other
Radical individualism, seeking power over
others, and winning at all costs is counterproductive
in an interconnected world where building deeper
collaboration will determine how we succeed as we
move from a relative simple world of one-best
answers only to a more complex world where there
are many effective ways of meeting interconnected
challenges such as climate changes, peak
production of oil, and increased population. We will
need to find ways to help each other succeed.
How we think
• The Industrial Age created the need for linear
thinkers who understood cause and effect in a
reality already defined.
• The Connected Age requires non-linear
thinkers able to see connections among
diverse factors and ideas for innovation as
well as to support the ability to adapt to
emerging issues never before experienced.
How we educate and learn
• In a world requiring constant innovation, all ages will need
to learn as much as possible, as deeply as possible, in as
many areas of society as possible.
• Specialists and specialized generalists will need to work in
• Content of knowledge will be as important as ever.
• However with the explosion of knowledge, knowing where
to find information, how to ask an appropriate question
and how to connect disparate ideas will be the three
foundational principles of the way we learn.
• Technology will help us imagine the impact of that which is
a weak signal for the future and those just emerging.
How we lead
• There will be a need for two types of leadership:
1. traditional leaders able to set goals and objectives
and deal with known resources, both for projects as
well as in crisis situation…
2. transformational leaders (master capacity builders)
able to help seed new ways of thinking in others as
well as build capacities for transformation in
organizations and communities.
• The skills of a TL are totally different from those
of a traditional leader.
How we govern
• As we move deeper into the twenty-first
century, we will recognize that
– the structure of our democracy is too constricted to
adapt quickly to changing conditions, and
– the knowledge of an entire community will need to be
accessed and utilized.
– The weak signal of mobile communications provides
the basis for a new platform to work with the public.
– Elected officials and staff will become facilitators of
building networks of interested citizens around
emerging issues as well as making immediate
decisions as has been traditionally necessary.
How we find deeper meaning and
• Our values are already shifting from identify and
meaning based on material goods, power and
achievement to the creative solutions of complex
issues that require deeper
relationships, creativity, and collaboration.
• This is evidenced in the values of the Millennials
(under 30) who see no color, are concerned about
the environment, and don’t buy into the 24/7
lifestyle of their baby boomer parents.
How we promote and maintain health
We will slowly move from intervention to
prevention because of shifting emphasis to DNA
analysis, building data bases, nutrition, and
building community networks.
TIME Magazine’s 2008 Invention of the Year………..
Get the latest on your DNA with $399 and a tube of saliva
How we relate to the planet and to Nature
The costs and capacities (or increasingly the
lack of them) of the natural economy that is
connected to the Industrial and Knowledge
Economy will be included as the way to
understand how our overall economy needs to
How we understand and work within
a global economy
• Everything is connected in a global economy. Not just
the past trend and emerging blowback of
outsourcing, but the emergence of global innovation
networks and new ideas initiated and developed by
diverse people and organizations from different parts
of the globe. The new focus on “instant manufacturing”
is one example of this.
• With this in mind, Americans need to learn that their
truths are just opinions, and need to become more
adept at being open to new ideas and new principles
that are part of other cultures.
The Language of Community
• Emphasize that there can not be true
transformation if existing language is used. The
language of today’s businesses were non-existent
twenty years ago: outsourcing, the web, global
innovation networks, nanotechnology, etc.
• Actually, instead of someone saying “using
language that I can understand, they should be
asking, “what new words, phrases and ideas do I
need to learn so I can be competitive and viable in
the next 5-10 years.”
Content -> Tools -> Dialogue -> Control
People Add Value
Strategic Planning Vs
Think about a Future’s Institute
A Future’s Institute” would focus on thinking about
the future to help
1. prepare a workforce that is more entrepreneurial and
2. learning how to identify emerging trends, weak signals
and new ideas that will impact how communities and
business adapt to constant change,
3. developing a new kind of leadership comfortable with
the uncertainty and ambiguity of a society that is
rethinking how to grow, educate, govern and learn by
utilizing technologies never before available or seen.
Develop Capacity Builders
Six most important skills:
1. the ability to think systemically,
2. the ability to see connections among diverse
factors and ideas,
3. the ability to spot trends and weak signals,
4. the ability to ask appropriate questions,
5. the ability to understand and utilize a diversity
of parallel processes, and
6. the ability to build capacities for transformation
in organizations and communities.
Created with information from:
• Catawba County Chamber of Commerce, Future
Economy Council March 3, 2009.
• Rick Smyre’s Communities of the Future
• Did You Know?
• 23 and me https://www.23andme.com/
• Dewey Harris’ Department Head
presentation, April 6, 2009.
April 16, 2009
Meeting Tomorrow’s Challenges