Insights · July 16th, 2022
Life is so serious.
It’s 2022 and we’re out of the back of the Covid-19 pandemic – well, some say that. The planet is warming up and reports show that 2050 temperatures are hitting THIS YEAR.
I turn 50 this year so personal reflection is in full effect.
I’ve lived a good life. An interesting life. A life defined by taking risks, working hard and searching for the truth in how we are today and what we might be tomorrow. I’ve worked for consultancies, advertising agencies and tech companies. The fit was sometimes great and often challenging. My thinking was never within accepted lines and I strived to push boundaries and be honest – to a fault.
This approach lost me jobs and had me removed from projects by leadership that didn;t want to do the hard work of fast transformation, rather they’d eek out projects and programs liberating clients of budgets with the promise that with patience impactful change will come.
Today, I find myself with a successful business running both nikolasbadminton.com and futurist.com – that I acquired in 2021. We have a think tank, creative collaborators and many consulting and speaking engagements. Life is good. But, it’s been a rough couple of years where hard work has caused an attrition of bold creativity and edge in the world we do. Bought a house, had a son with my partner, and worked on important projects with global companies. Yes, I have taken chances. I have not pushed the limits of thinking as much as I would have liked.
So, this Summer there will be a reset.
An opportunity to refocus and to inject more fun, energy and edge into the work myself and the team does. It’s time to take chances in the work we do and let that define who works with us going forward.
This past week I worked with a large consultancy to explore possibilities in Web3 and ‘the metaverse’. They have great hope for these areas – as so many people do. That’s great – these are areas of intense speculative thinking. My keynote discussed the fact that every significant tech advancement started by being dismissed:
- Engelbart’s personal computer presented in the ‘Mother of all demos’ in 1968
- Wearable computing in the 1980’s
- Cellular tech in the 1980’s
- Virtual Reality (VR) in the 1990s
- Internet in the 1990s
- Open source platforms in the 1990s
- Artificial Intelligence in the 1990s
- Internet of Things in the 2000s
I even made a little video that I chose not to use – maybe I felt it was too esoteric to have many of these folks and William Gibson trying to jolt some feelings of dread and anticipation?
And now we see that crypto, Web3 and metaversal ecosystems (please don’t say ‘The Metaverse’ – STOP IT) are being thrown asunder. And, for good reason – a lot of it is paper thin ideas devoid of use cases. This is also something in common with the tech I mention at the beginning. Some useful elements will likely find their way thru. We just need to relax and wait for hyperbole to die down and some integration into the tech architecture for useful elements.
We should not ignore these facts. We have to double down and think critically and advise people how to consider new tech.
I’m not 100% sure what I presented was exactly what the client wanted. It was critical. Useful. Questioning. It may have derailed and refocused discussions (I hope). I feel that this is important.
Challenging our collective poverty of imagination
Imagination will not be ignited by looking at industries and those within. It will be ignited by looking outside of the lines.
I am presenting a view of the possible futures of retail for a client next week. I’m going to push buttons. Yes, tech will play a part in consumer engagement. It also will be deeply rooted in corporate surveillance and I will talk about warnings and what if we eschew that ‘exponential tech’ for a more human experience.
I’ll ask super-important executive folks to suspend belief, embrace futures design work and step out of their comfort zone. A friend of mine was in Las Vegas a few weeks ago and they visited Meow Wolf’s OMEGA MART – and it’s an important lesson in thinking differently.
The design and products within are not to be consumed in terms of buy-and-use but to be considered as a commentary of our safe and banal lives. It’s perfect immersive and speculative fiction. A bastion of good futures work.
I see a lot of work I am doing as building blocks for something bigger. A shift in thinking. A call to wake up from the slow walk on the treadmill of accepted progress.
Taking chances and being a clown
I’m sat here writing this post at 5:35am watching the fabulous ‘Tinker. Tailor. Soldier. Spy.’ They call their organization (Mi6) ‘the circus’ and I think that’s how we should all think of the places we work. There are the ringleaders – we need them – the acts, and the clowns. Clowns are not the fools. They are the people that teach us to take chances and to consider new situations with lightness and humour. Futurists can be seen as clowns somewhat. We are not the normal folk, and we will never be. We will more more edgy and say the things you can’t. And, we will encourage people to laugh at the collapse we navigate.
We are looking for clients that want to step out of their comfort zone, to risks and to clown around. People with edge and bravery.
We are looking for leaders that want to inject futures design as a discipline into their companies so that they can open minds and shift people’s mindsets from what is to what if…
We are looking for those people that know something has to change in our failing industrial complex.
Reach out and let’s chat. I promise you, it’ll be worth it.
By the way – have a great 2022 Summer. Don’t forget the sunscreen, you’re going to need it.