Applied Futurism in 2019
2018 was a big year for me, so I took an extended break over Christmas and New Year to refresh and recharge. Now I’m ready to kick off what promises to be another exciting year. No views or insights in this post, just a few things to be aware of if you’re interested in applied futurism and what I do.
Here are a few things you can expect to see – or that you may have seen already.
Tom Cheesewright vs Book of the Future
When I started this business, I didn’t honestly know what it was going to be. But I knew that I wanted it to be a company built around ideas and processes – something with a product – rather than just an extension of my personal brand. Hence for the first five years I presented myself as a founder of an applied futurism ‘practice’, with the expectation that through either employees, or more likely franchisees, I would build something that I could grow and perhaps ultimately, sell.
One of the great things about having a good team around me is that they will tell me when I have got things wrong. In late 2018, thanks particularly to Penny Haslam, and the Nothing But Epic team, I accepted this was the wrong approach.
Book of the Future was a cute name for the blog I started back in 2006, but it didn’t really mean anything to anyone. It was my name people saw on stage and on telly, so it made much more sense from a marketing perspective to amplify that brand. It also means we can condense all the various websites I was operating down into one – now here at tomcheesewright.com.
I will still be looking to grow the business through the franchise model, teaching and licensing my toolkit to others. But I have now accepted that my brand is stronger than the business I was trying to build (something that is hard to swallow for someone with rather British instincts about showing off*).
Finally, an actual book
The timing of the switch to a personal brand is rather ironic: just as I stop branding my business as ‘Book of the Future’, I have finally finished my first book. High Frequency Change will be published in June 2019 by LID Publishing. It’s with the editor now and so far, so good. Watch this space for news about launches and availability (it will be in shops as well as online and digital). For those that are really keen, we’ll have a pre-order page up soon.
High Frequency Change collects a lot of my thinking about the way the world has and changed, and continues to change, with an emphasis on explaining the sense that many people have that things happen faster now. I try to qualify this idea, addressing the flaws in the classic accelerationist arguments (‘everything happens faster now’) and the frequent critiques of this theory (‘change has always happened fast’). More importantly, I try to help people and organisations respond to this sense of acceleration with practical tools and ideas to help them to be more agile and resilient in facing change.
Expect to hear more about this throughout the first half of 2019.
More courses in Applied Futurism
In 2018, I started offering a one-day course in Applied Futurism to people in leadership, management, strategic and marketing roles. It’s an evolution of the course I was teaching through the University of Salford but with a greater emphasis on simple, highly-usable components that you can apply in day-to-day business. The first course was very popular, so this year we will be running it four times, with dates to be announced in London and Birmingham, as well as Manchester.
Here’s some feedback from the first course:
“The workshop was really useful. I enjoyed the day immensely and picked up some great tips and techniques to help me apply futurism in both my own role and across the business. The discussions and examples around the slide deck were invaluable and I’ve already started analysis work that I hope will help get our business using new technologies in better ways to provide us with a competitive edge.”
If you’re interested in attending the course, drop a mail to Rachel at firstname.lastname@example.org and she will give you the details.
2018 was a year of travel for me. I spent time working in Paris, Barcelona, Toronto, Prague, Budapest, Amsterdam and more. Already this year I know I will be returning to Boston and Barcelona and have enquiries from all sorts of places across Europe and the US.
What has been absolutely fascinating is how well ideas that were developed from a very UK/US-centric perspective have translated. There are clear cultural differences to account for, and I have work to do to expand my range of reference points so that they work for a wider audience. But fundamentally the principles of applied futurism that I have developed over the last few years resonate very well with most people.
Where there are clear differences in where high frequency change has struck already and where it is still to come in different industries across the world. I’ll be writing about this soon, based on some observations from time spent in Germany.
How will 2019 be different for you?
2019 is likely to be a year of great disruption, not only because of Brexit on the horizon and the run-in to the next US presidential election. Some of you will already have been facing this year for nearly a week, but it’s still early and there’s still time to take a step back and do some thinking. I’d urge you to focus first not on the coming events themselves, but your tools and processes for thinking about them. How do you collect information from internal and external sources about coming events? How do you build a coherent picture of what that means for you? How do you develop and enact a response? How is this communicated across the organisation and to partners and customers?
Establishing good processes for dealing with change events is vital in an age of high frequency change, starting with the process for how you see them early. Do it now, under the guise of your Brexit preparations, and build yourself a toolkit for future resilience, not just a one-off response.
*Yes, I know, I do enjoy the sound of my own voice and I’m not exactly shy. But more American-style self-promotion still makes me wince at times.