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Future thinking and change making as an organizational futurist

25 November, 2020

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This podcast was originally aired on 25 November, 2020

Harvey Kraft

Future thinking and change making as an organizational futurist

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As part of our Thought Leaders Voice podcast series, we are thrilled to be in a conversation with Harvey Kraft: on ‘Future thinking and change making as an organizational futurist.’

In the Thought Leaders Voice podcast series, we explore the world of how independent thought leaders bring their ideas to scale within the business world and share powerful, thought provoking insights with our listeners.

In the Thought Leaders Voice podcast series, we explore the world of how independent thought leaders bring their ideas to scale within the business world and share powerful, thought provoking insights with our listeners.

Our objective from this podcast series remains to educate senior level marketers & thought leaders to help them solve some of the most quizzing marketing questions propping up right now.

Join the conversation to access actionable advice shared in an incredibly insightful way.

Harvey Kraft is a writer, artist, historian (spiritual archeologist) and futurist, strategist, storyteller and thought leader, and the multiple award-winning author of the epic history "The Buddha from Babylon" available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble. He strongly believes that the lessons of history are inexorably linked with the potentials of our future because both arise from mind.

He also is a founder of the group Digitalism dedicated to the application of high-minded values as a framework for guiding the march of technological innovations for the benefit of humanity.

Key Takeaway

  • Are historians' ideal futurists? Would it be right to say that history is future studies in reverse and HOW DO YOU see what is to COME?
  • How historians can be relevant in today’s policy debates, and how historical methods and skills can be applied to analyze probable futures and help create preferred outcomes.
  • What do you recommend for startups and small businesses then, as opposed to large companies, to thrive in this rapidly changing TECHNOLOGICAL environment?
  • There is a skeptic outlook and a pessimistic approach towards global future. How much of this pessimism about the global future can be attributed to SYSTEMIC STRUCTURES, such as the 24-hour news cycle, bad news traveling fast over the Internet and a general media and DIGITAL MARKETING overload.
  • Three categories are proposed for how we can think about spending our time on futures work within the organization:
    • Process work -approaches and tools for interacting with futures work.
    • Content work- generating knowledge and insights about the future.
    • Culture/mindset change- influencing mental models, aka changing minds, regarding the future.
    What would be your strategy for allocating time for these processes?
  • What frameworks out of the strategic, creative and a general educational role would you recommend undertaking as an organizational futurist? Would you recommend laying emphasis on strategic planning, scenarios, forecasting or a fresh thinking approach with new ideas and a host of creative thinking tools.

Full Transcript of Podcast with Harvey Kraft

Andrew:               Hello everyone. My name is Andrew Newbie and I'm hosting a series of iResearch Services Podcasts over the coming weeks. These are intended to educate senior level marketers and thought leaders as to how to address some of the more challenging and exciting issues facing them currently. Our topic today is future thinking and change making as an organizational futurist. With that, I'd like to welcome today's guest expert Harvey Kraft. Harvey is author of the Buddha From Babylon, a book 25 years in the making, which explores the real-life story of the historical Buddha Siddhartha Gautama. Harvey is also co-founder of the company, Digital Freedom, a marketing and creative visionary, and a historian and futurist and a spiritual archeologist of which more later, how he is also the founder of the LI Group Digitalism dedicated to the application of high-minded values as a framework for guiding the march of technological innovations for the benefit of humanity. Harvey Kraft, Harvey, welcome, and thank you for sharing your insights with our listeners

Harvey:                It's an honor Andrew to be here with you today. Thank you for inviting me.

Andrew:               Thank you and reciprocated. So just to start off, can you give our listeners if you'd be so kind of an idea of your central message or messages because you have many. In short as I understand we're in a sort of period where we have a zeitgeists moving us from an oppressive workplace environment where our potential is not fully realized to a place where we can find liberation as people and as workers, and that liberation is in your opinion technology. So your message is essentially optimistic, but it has a distinct kicker for marketers.

Harvey:                Okay. This gives me an opportunity as a lead in to explain that my career has been more than one road at a time. For one thing I've been in the marketing business specifically from the areas of marketing design to being a chief marketing officer started out my career in my twenties at American express for several years, a very top level marketing organization there and I went on to explore various technological changes that we've had over the last few years, and in the process as you mentioned I was also simultaneously in historical research. One of the issues that had always was important for me to understand is that ancient times seems to have had a tremendous emphasis on visionary thought on wisdom and on understanding a greater picture or more profound view of humanity, and I was very interested in how these two ideas of history and the future intersect, and if so, what is the impact that, that has on what is transpiring right now? So at this moment, I've spent a great deal of time, not only looking at what's going on in the present moment, but seeing and identifying and forecasting what we are about to go through not only as a marketing industry, but as a world in its entirety, everything that we are taking for granted right now in many respects that is falling apart before our eyes, which is indicative of a systematic collapse for various reasons. Some of which are due to power plays and some of which are due because we are evolving. So I think at this point the message that I want to get across to the audiences that we need to more fully appreciate and understand where we're heading and why and to become much more alert of the changes that are now taking place below the radar in order to understand the kind of business environment and consumer relationship environment that is now on the verge of happening

Andrew:               Underpinning this, and you've spoken on a call we had prior to this about a tsunami alert coming to marketers. So underlying this is if I read you correctly, which I may not be, is that we as global citizens are imagining a new or another system of existence as citizens and as consumers that we want to be less target focusing this on the marketing function, but leaders in our own right, self-Actualizing people. Could you perhaps elaborate on that at least whether I've got what you've said sort of summarized correctly?

Harvey:                Well, I think it's pretty obvious that the reason businesses shaped the way it is today is one very simple word, which is the internet. Now the question is, what kind of internet do we have and how does the systemic structure of the internet that we have today decide winners and losers? So the internet itself, when it first began sometime in the end of the previous millennia which is not that long ago began as a, sort of a place of freedom where people can express themselves and connect with each other in ways that they never did before, but as time went on, of course, we've had the creation of what we now call tech giants, amazing that these tech giants have only existed for 15 years. Yet you would think the way that we talk about them, they've been around forever and that they will be around forever, but from an historical standpoint, this is typical of empires, right? Empire has actually happened very fast. Okay. They just invade somebody else's empire or somebody else's territory, and they added to their territory and they just devour and then go off until they basically control large territories. It always seems like, how are we going to deal with that? Somehow the reason why it doesn't work in the long run is because of cracks in the system. So biggest crack in the system that exists today is this notion that the consumer is the classic a sucker born every minute. Of course, a more sophisticated corporation understands that engagement there's a responsibility and good citizenship and giving people what they want and interacting with them in the right way is good, but at the end of the day, the marketer is the one that has the possession of the data and that particular data people have shared without necessarily understanding what that means in regards to their leverage in that particular relationship. So as we move now, from what we would call web 2.0, which is eight page based text-based internet, we're not going to be moving into web 3.0, which is the spatial web, which is a whole other dimension instead of HTTP, which is texts. It's going to be HSDP, which is space. So now your domain is no longer a flat page on the internet. Your domain now becomes a space in the digital web, well, that's a huge change. What are you going to do in that space that actually adds value in such a way that the consumers or your prospects or your value chain is able to interact with you more efficiently and so on. So we'll address that, I guess, in the rest of the conversation, but at least that's the point of a systemic view that when a system becomes unwieldy to an extent and goes out of balance, then nature comes up with a better system, which is what we call evolution. Okay.

Harvey:                A dramatic change in system is basically was my point and what that system we're going from a flat system to a spatial system and all the ramifications of that at this point, it's a change in system, meaning that just like any system, if it begins to no longer serve its audience in a constructive way, somebody going to come up like nature does with new systems and we're going to evolve. So this is our next let's call it a leap in evolution is what we're about to face, and I'll explain what I mean in a moment about why this is something on that level. What do I mean by leap in evolution, because people always want to know ahead of time what they're involving into.

Andrew:               It'd be nice to know, sometimes not.

Harvey:                We certainly can come up with ideas in our heads of what we don't want, but very few people actually are willing to sort of buy into let's just say an optimistic scenario, as you said, because especially analysts are always looking for the part that is going to take everything down.

Harvey:                What is it that we're looking at that will not work?

Andrew:               Yeah. We're looking for the black swan, aren't we? Not the white swan.

Harvey:                Right.

Andrew:               So, so you're developing this evolutionary zeitgeists and relating that to XR, VR, AR what would you say? It's an evolution of our consciousness as human beings be careful not to get too abstract, but try and relate this to, you know, startups, small businesses I suppose that sort of large companies and how they can ride this wave, technological wave, sort of what do you, firstly, just elaborate on the evolution of what, and what that means for startups and small businesses, not just from a marketing angle, but strategically, if you could elaborate on that.

Harvey:                I've decided with a few co-founders to create a company called digital fandom and as the name connotes, we're in a digital world, and we're concerned about the audience and the audience experience. So this is just one of many, many, many smaller companies who have an idea based on the whole notion of immersive technology and where we're going with that and you'll find companies that are already playing quite a role in the healthcare field medical field, in the training areas, in the manufacturing facilities, in architecture, building digital twins of buildings, all of that is part of a single spatial movement. So you mentioned XR, VR, AR those are, let's just call it the the artwork or the content part of an environment. So if somebody owns a warehouse, for example, they can have a digital twin of that warehouse online, and that digital twin has digital twins of every single product in the warehouse. So the management of the warehouse is being taken care of in a digital framework. So if the digital warehouse gets an order and decides to send out the order, the duplication of it, that management happens in the physical warehouse. So there is this integration of a digital facilitation. Now, what we don't really talk about and very few people talk about is yet is how is this going to impact marketing? In marketing, we need an audience and whether it's B to B or B to C, but the other part of it is we're used to having messages we're used to using those messages to influence and to persuade and to follow various channels, because these are the systemic rules of the current internet. Okay. So when we talk about digital marketing, you know, nobody's going out to try to reinvent digital marketing, okay. It is what it is. Now, the problems that exist with digital marketing are many, and so certain companies with financial advantages or size advantages can thrive in that kind of environment beause they could throw a lot of money at it and make it work for them. Also small companies do well if they are able to find their particular niche audience, but the new web is somewhat different because just like generations, gen Z, the new type of consumer wants an experience. In other words, they're not looking to be bombarded by a brand message over and over and over and over again. Okay. What they want is an experience of some sort and if they are enjoying that experience, then they will look at the brand in a positive way. That's a very, very different set of circumstances from what is going on and has been going on for a while.

Andrew:               So it's not just about faster, faster, faster in terms of sales cycle and marketing it's how can I, as a consumer go exploring and in the process, find something I want and how can I, as a marketer, get myself to be present during that prospect, let's call it prospect. During that prospects experience.

Harvey:                Yeah, I think that's the case and now the issue is how do we apply that principle across the board? What happens when I physically come into a store and how can I integrate the spacial technology with what is on the floor? How can I make my experience such that I can find what I don't even know I'm looking for, but that I would like, or how can I find what is somewhere in the shelf that, and I can't find anybody in the store to help me so faster usually means I'm not wasting time on actions that are fruitless. That's the new, faster is the the efficiency of the communications in terms of what that particular individual is looking for in real time at a particular moment like Google Zeemote. What happens to Zeemote? Is that just the target for a particular time when the brand wants to be in front of the audience or is it something that in the hands of the audience, I know I'm ready to do such and such, and this is what I want to do, but maybe I'm not informed enough so I need to look at a quick message, or maybe I need to make an appointment, or maybe I need to have a conversation in some way with with someone in the live situation. So all of those things come in and then now begin to integrate with all the new technologies like AI and IOT, and this is really where it gets exciting. Okay, because while you know th fiction genre looks at AI as a potential for a dystopian world in actuality, it is going to be one of the most helpful tools in the history of human toolmaking, because it'll help people cut through the clutter in terms of navigating the world in a way that fits them individually. This is where, I mean, what does marketing do now if the consumer has the where with all and the power to be able to explore, but also keep all their data in a blockchain ledger environment to themselves in other words, they can't be necessarily identified and targeted. The whole push is such that the now needs to be concerned about the consumer experience in order to have visibility. That's very big, big, big, big change, and also becomes part of the whole IOT process and edge computing comes in and distributing computing comes in and so what I'm talking about is we literally have dozens of major innovations that any one of them is on a world global change level and now you're creating a synergy of all of that. All happening simultaneously to create a completely new interactive experience. Marketing cannot stay where it is under those circumstances, because all the rules change, the cookies are finished. No more cookies folks.

Andrew:               So just stepping back a bit and sort of you know, we referenced your book about the real Buddah with reference either to the lessons one can draw specifically from that book, or just generally from the historical method. So Paul Kennedy wrote his book about, you know, the rise and fall of civilizations very much about mega sort of trend levels, but how can historians be relevant to today's sort of business debates and how would historian slash futurists skills be applied to analyze what's happening now, specifically in the realm of the spatial internet world? That's a great question. First of all, the Buddha, his lifetime at least middle of his lifetime is sometime around 500 BCE. Okay. So we're talking about approximately 500 years for Western minds before Jesus Christ. That also means that he was not only a spiritual visionary, but he was also a philosopher and involved in the early sciences of his time and much of that takes place in Babylon. So we have some connection there between the Buddha knowing what's going on in the world and his connection with magi in Babylon and they were the first ones to develop algebra. They also were the first ones to map the heavens and create a Zodiac map and so there were some pretty sophisticated folks back then. This era called the axial age also includes Greek philosophers and particularly the pre-socratic philosophers who were very much concerned about what are the elements and the forces to constitute existence? Now at the same time, we've got the legacy of empires, the Assyrian empire that lasted some 1200 years. We couldn't possibly conceive of that. You know, the Babylonian empire, the Persian empire that follows that the Greek Hellenistic empire that follows that and then the Roman empire that follows that and so we have the development of alternative worlds developed by visionaries in response to a world that is dominated. So the Buddha is offering his audience a process with which to liberate consciousness. So in other words the consciousness is not going to be liberated by virtue of fighting against an empire, that's basically going to kill your family without any remorse. Okay. The value of liberation and takes place in your own mind. So if you keep just that lesson in mind, we are right now in that same juncture that we were at that time back then and that means that in order to truly transform the world, we have an opportunity with the new technology to liberate minds and usually we say, well, if people are educated, then their minds are liberated as opposed to staying ignorant. That fact is not always the case because education can also be a form of domination and indoctrination and persuasion and, you know, you could even see in science there are disagreements among scientists, but usually historically the accepted science is the science accepted by a committee or of higher ups rather than it's [inaudible 26:15] it takes the the new discoveries sometime before they can be discovered, but even then is now changing to an extent we have a lot of issues right now about the, what are we talking about when we've been talking about science of virus or all viruses the same how can we treat one virus differently from another virus in terms of our reaction to it? Why is the world doing what we're doing right now? Is it really us, or is it some kind of a dominant mechanism that is managing the society and if so, why? You know, why are dominant forces always afraid of liberation? Okay, and sometimes of course, we have revolutions based on liberation, and it turns out that the liberated becomes the next dictator. So liberation doesn't always work either, but the technology is not an individual now, what we're about to enter is a technology that's able to liberate minds from the youngest. Think about a kid who's maybe seven or eight years old, who can now take a course on fixing cars, and as would be some with tremendous talent, some kids going to be able to fix your car at seven years of age, because that information is available. So the awareness factor, the access to basically create, use imagination, do new things, find new ways to do things. All of that now becomes democratized and it is the only way that business can survive in that type of environment, because domination, it doesn't work is to become part of the build-out process and that's, I think what I'm trying to convey here that is so close to our visionary history is that, that visionary history let's say the Buddha going into the forest once he got there and started teaching a few people that movement grew, you know, as hundreds of thousands came in order to learn how to be liberated and they went into the forest because the forest was safe outside the forest, you had empires, and you had all kinds of social structures that demanded behavior be in a certain way. So in a way, the technology that we're looking at right now is going to be the variable that we called the forest. Okay, we're all going into the forest next, and so it's a different situation from being in an urban environment. How are you going to deal with people and what they're looking for in the forest, as opposed to in the city.

Harvey:                Buddha went to the forest, he failed to achieve his enlightenment, but...

Andrew:               Initially. Yeah.

Harvey:                By analogy, the forest is where we find liberation and liberation is technology at the risk of sounding cult-like and diffusive.

Harvey:                We're using metaphor, and so this is what the ancient language is all about and why people tend to not understand what is in these ancient documents, because they can't make the leap of a story containing wisdom metaphors, and different, like Sanskrit has, you know, various levels of understanding depending on the the audience's capacity to to see what's there. So that kind of challenge is remarkable because it's the same kind of challenge we're about to face. All right, it's going to be up to an individual to take this language that we're now creating, the technological language and all the tools that come with it and to see what they individually can do to further their awareness, their discernment, their ability to to create value, and this is the case for marketers as well. You know, that's the point now, marketers are not sitting in a different seat from the consumer. The marketers now have to become champions of the consumer's ability to develop themselves. So if you have a product or a service, it's not really how many times can you repeat your message in order to persuade the consumer? It's how many ways can I engage the consumer in such a situation that the consumer then becomes a champion of the product in some way, maybe contribute to the product itself, you know, with 3D printing you know, they take a basic type of program and they could turn it into something personal that then maybe they could give to other people that they know, and this kind of share-ability, of course, it's a nightmare for people who think about control because you have to be able to let go a certain amount of control, but you have too much control as it is, and too much control stifles. If you have your IPs in place, and you're willing to share with your audience the ability for that audience to develop experiences around product and allow the product to be flexible within those experiences and that goes along with the messaging there we're talking about a dynamic leap, of course, most people think, oh, I'm just talking about some kind of a far future. I'm talking about this decade folks. Now it's on the verge of going on right now.

Andrew:               So, developing new tools, new capabilities, reflecting this desire of we, the global audience to be no longer targets, but leaders so that we have to get [inaudible] not just persuaded.

Harvey:                Yeah. It's just like teen formation as a natural outcome instead of a top down. So instead of saying, okay, I have a particular goal, I need a team that would then execute that goal. Now it's like, okay, let's put a team together and find out what we can do next and that team will look into various ways of expressing that goal. So, it's not instead of being a top down situation, it really is a kind of a new policy based on the explorations and finding new potentials. There are many company companies and individuals that are listening to this that'd probably say, oh, I'm already doing this, and yes, it is the case. It's just not coordinated through a connected web. Okay. So individually you're going to have individual companies some more enlightened if I may use that word than others, and they are understanding of what's really important in terms of the feedback relationships with customers. Now add to that one off type of approach to a shared three dimensional internet. Just amazing what we're about to step into

Andrew:               Harvey Kraft. Thank you so much for your time and insights. It's been a pleasure to talk to you.

Harvey:                Thank you, Andrew. Appreciate it.

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