The Future Is Now…No Now

I recently spoke at The Learning Forum’s gathering called, The Future of Innovation and The Work of Innovation, held at Convene’s newest conference center in lower Manhattan . Key takeaway: The future is here. It used to be that the future was very far off, say fifty years down the road. Now, we invent the future every day and advancements are much quicker than ever.

I can’t think of a better organizer for this topic than my colleague, Brian Hackett. He brings executives together on key topics like analytics, innovation and learning, to discuss challenges and wins, directly with one another. His forum is effective because there’s nobody trying to sell anything, only meaningful dialog that adds value to what you’re doing.  As well, members join for a year or more at a time and meet three times per year, so when you attend a forum, you can continue conversations and check in on progress. This kind of format attracts those executives who make good peers. This means they are not only willing, but prepared to share their expertise to help others. As well, they truly want to engage, ask questions and gain insights from the rest of the group, as it relates to their current and future goals.

At the latest session, one participant commented that he has stronger relationships with peers at The Learning Forum than with his peers at his company. I’m not sure whether things are bad at his workplace or just exceptional at The Learning Forum, but it’s interesting to note.

Food for thought from the conference:

  • Intrinsic versus extrinsic motivation in the future.

It has already been proven by neuroscientists that intrinsic motivation leads to better performance than extrinsic motivation.  This explains why there is a current shift toward culture as a key component of success. Traditional means of attracting employees with pay and incentives continue to be questioned as emphasis on culture, values and purpose continue to rise as top motivators of performance. This supports the brandful approach of employing people because of their genuine interest in the products and services, which expands the criteria for selecting and retaining employees. Having employees participate in the evolving brand is the highest form of intrinsic motivation, as they are creators of the success.

  • Employees versus contractors

Some discussion focused on the trend to hire more contractors and temporary workers as opposed to employees. What does this mean for the future workforce? How will this impact productivity and engagement? The ability to quickly integrate workers in and out of the organization seamlessly, regardless of their status will be critical.  As well, a strong brand (internally and externally) will be an important component of this process.

As a side note, I met with an executive at American Express this week who commented that LinkedIn’s talent brand index was unhelpful as it calculates the strength of your brand based on activity from your employees on LinkedIn. With 50,000 recruiters who are not employed by American Express, the index is not helpful.

  • Paying employees to learn versus hiring expertise externally

It’s not as easy as before to hire externally. Someone with a top track record at another company doesn’t necessarily spell success at your organization. As well, there’s not a lot of great talent pool out there as new skills are constantly needed. I learned from the Dell innovation team, in attendance, that it may be easier than you think to build the talent yourself. But it clearly takes a visionary and eye for potential talent within the organization. I was intrigued to learn that Dell pulled a team from across the organization (highly intelligent folks) and paid them to learn for the first number of months. That’s the investment part, however most companies pay as much to headhunters. Dell’s innovation team struck me as being on the forefront of innovation and they had only been in existence for four years.  Great example for anyone interested in doing the same.

  • Creativity and Value has no boundaries

Who could imagine that a global company like Lowe’s would hire a start-up science fiction innovation company to help plan their future? Kudos to Ari Popper, Founder of SciFutures, who spoke at the conference about his incredible approach to envisioning the future and creating it.  There are no boundaries to what might interest today’s CEOs as they are all challenged to maintain an edge on the competition. Watch the news to see the fruits of his work.

Finally, I can’t end this post without mentioning my colleague Andrew Tow, who shared some of his wine from The Withers Winery at the evening reception. For someone like me who cannot hold alcohol very well, I was able to enjoy his low alcohol-high flavor wine thoroughly. Now that I’m done with this, I think I’ll have a little more.

Send me your thoughts about the future of innovation and the work of innovation. Don’t forget to check out some other blog posts from The Brandful Workforce. Purchase the book.