Mal Fletcher: Leadership Editorial en-gb Mal Fletcher Leadership Editorial by Mal Fletcher - Leadership & Innovation Consultant Wed, 29 Jun 2022 16:17:14 GMT Wed, 29 Jun 2022 16:17:14 GMT 20 Mal Fletcher The Future of the Leader -33-Mal-Fletcher-The-Future-of-the-Leader.aspx Leadership shapes cultures, which shape human choices, which more than technology or events, shape the future.

Whether the next decade is a glorious new chapter in the human saga, or a disaster will depend largely on the quality of leadership people are offered – globally, nationally and locally.

In the past decade, we have entered potentially the most exciting – and risky – period in our history, the IT-Bio-Nano era, of which today’s digital revolution is just a foretaste. In this epoch, we will increasingly automate and robotize industry, agricultural processes and even human biology.

The IT-Bio-Nano age presents societies with huge challenges and wonderful opportunities. For communities, the next decade will be a time of increasingly rapid change in which a plethora of new options in medicine, genetics, bio-technology, education, communication and more will stretch our ability to make informed choices.

The next decade will present the biggest opportunities for innovation in human history.

Rapidly expanding technologies are already transforming, for example, the realm of medicine.

Medical advances over the past ten years have led us to the point where we currently add 0.2 years to life expectancy every year. By 2025, medical researchers expect to be able to add one year to life expectancy every year.

At present, the most obvious area of rapid technological change is that of communications and media technologies.

The advent of the digital media age has brought with it not just new gadgets and means of sharing information; it has brought an entirely new way of thinking.

Digital-think knows that large data does not require large space. My entire health records can now be stored on a miniscule RFID tag, a device smaller than a grain of sand. Power and influence are no longer based on what you know, but how well you can innovate with what you know.

The key to leadership is not the information you have at hand, but your ability to analyze it quickly and accurately – and cheaply.

If Moore’s law holds true and the computing power of the now ubiquitous silicon chip continues to double every 18 months to two years, by 2025 chips will be ten thousand times more powerful than they are today. (Some technologists now believe Moore’s law is changing, as computer power doubles every eleven months.)

This is without the burgeoning developments in nanotechnology, which allows us to build machines from the atomic level up. Or bio-mechanical science, which lets us to replace metallic-based chips with those built from organic materials like those found in our brains.

In futurism, we speak about ‘singularity’, the point at which machines reach such a level of sophistication that we, their makers, can no longer either predict of understand their full capabilities.

Some expect that point to be reach in or near 2030; for many people in society generally, the moment has already arrived!

 We’ve seen amazing progress in computing in the last three decades, yet many technologists estimate that we’ll eventually see computer power increase by a factor 108 or 1012 on what it is today. If we throw in the emerging science of quantum computing, some say we could see computing power grow by a factor of 1044 within just 20 years.

We’ve just begun to compute.

Meanwhile, we’re entering the age of the Cloud. This is the third phase of the Internet revolution and IT and allows a global layer of communications and information built on top of the existing, often overloaded, web.

Within the next decade, most software and data-storage will move into the Cloud.

Venture capitalists are already advising start-ups not to waste time and money with business plans that feature in-house servers and IT staff.  Why not let your software and data run on mega-PCs owned by Google and IBM? Their engineers get paid more than yours ever will; and they’re paid to deliver a largely trouble-free service.

The Cloud will provide the platform for the ‘Internet of Things’. Shortly, we will be surrounded by billions of sensor-driven tools which are all connected to the Cloud. Everything from your garden sprinkler system, to the lights in your bedroom and even your clothes will be hooked up to net via micro-sensors.

Already, entire agricultural systems are hooked up to internet, allowing automatic control of heat, humidity, fertilizer levels and so on.

Many foresee the evolution of a global sensor grid, or ‘global mind’, where everything is networked.

Meanwhile, another, much quieter revolution is taking place in the world of virtual reality (VR) and robotics. Today we have tele-marketing – in 2009, 212 million Americans did all or part of their shopping online.

We also have tele-politics and tele-economics. The future, though, is tele-everything.

Already a British company has pioneered a fully haptic virtual reality technology, which calls into play all five of the human senses to create an environment where you can physically inhabit a room with another person who is not in reality present.

This will lead to VR Vacations (‘Beam me up Scott’) and VR  Travel. Truly virtual business meetings, featuring the full characteristics of touch, sight, sound and touch are just five to seven years away. (No more worrying about airline strikes.)

Virtual education is well on the way, tailor-made for a digital and digitized generation of students who see screens as authority windows.

Education will see a new revolution as a more ‘discovery’ mode of learning comes to the fore. Learning will become, as will film and other forms of entertainment media, an online-game-like experience.

All of this technology, of course, raises some important questions. For one, will we increasingly favour cyber over real? Will we find it easier to develop friendship remotely, via Facebook, than face-to-face over the garden fence?

What will this mean to our ability to read facial expressions, to emote and empathise up-close-and-personal?

As we invite technologies increasingly into our bodies, will we lost the line between what is essentially human and what is machine? Will that even matter? (I for one believe it will.)

As we engineer aspects of the human genetic makeup, will we reach a time when modified human DNA sequences are patented and sold to the highest bidder?

What will we do with the resulting class of ‘have-nots’, who lack the genetic advantages of their betters?

As we increasingly toy with the means, the gadgets and tools we devise, will we lose sight of the ends? Or will we, in the words of the French philosopher Jacques Ellul, inhabit a world where we build ‘faster and faster machines to take us nowhere.’?

These are all vital questions, and the natural corollary of our love affair not just with technology, but with speed of change.

Within a decade, every government body and more than a few major companies will have, near the top of their structures, a team of ethicists and philosophers, who will frantically attempt to navigate the morality of our use of technologies.

What impact will the changes in technology have on social cohesion?

Already, nations like the UK and Germany as seeing the emergence of a new form of post-industrial urban isolation. In fulfilment of Toffler’s 1970’s prediction, a great many quite well educated people are already feeling alone in the bustling crow.

Our future is daunting, but it’s also exciting, because it is not fundamentally shaped by technologies or events – not even wildcard events.

The future is shaped by human reactions, human choices. What people need most in looking at future is not knowledge but hope.

This is why the leadership question is so vital to our understanding of and approach to the future!

In an age of exponential change on multiple fronts, new demands will be placed upon leaders of all stripes. They will sometimes feel that they inhabit the eye of an increasing disorientating storm.

Yet, they will find exhilarating, fresh opportunities to shape cultures that allow a proactive response.

In business, professional associations, not-for-profits, community organizations and civic authorities, leadership will require new social sensitivities, more interactive management systems and a sharper ability to add innovation to information.

Leaders are essentially cultural architects. Cultures define what is normal, acceptable and viable in terms of values and behaviour within a group. Those values shape both emotion and choice.

Recent social research projects have shown again how much human choice is impacted by group cultures.

Leaders guide the formation of cultures, which empower people to make innovative choices, which, in turn, shape the future.

Leaders also add value to change, transforming it into something that adds tangible benefit for the individual, family or community.

And leaders provide these fixed compass markers amidst the tsunami of new developments, possibilities and options.

In the face of exponential change, technologically and socially, people will increasingly seek out and take their cues from leadership reference points.

Whatever their particular enterprise, every leader can proactively shape the future by providing a culture of confidence; a culture in which people feel inspired to innovate, even under great pressure, or in the face of great uncertainty.

As the first true futurist, Alvin Toffler, noted: ‘Our moral responsibility is not to stop future, but to shape it… to channel our destiny in humane directions and to ease the trauma of transition.’

That, in a nutshell, is what leadership is and will increasingly be about.

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Published: Fri, 22 Jun 2012
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Fri, 22 Jun 2012 08:23:53 GMT