An Eye Towards the Future

An Eye Towards the Future

Today it was my distinct pleasure to attend a 90 minute session with futurist Jack Uldrich at EBITDA Partner’s. I was inspired enough with what I heard I wanted to write it down and I want to share with you some of the comments that I thought were particularly useful. Jack Uldrich has a host of short videos in his presentation and is truly entertaining as well as interesting. His background in strategic planning clearly shows. I cannot do true justice to his commentary, but here are some points for you to consider. Again these are my notes and I may not have all of Jack Uldrich’s points listed here quite right, but my goal is share what I learned. I felt it was better to be mostly right and share.

We need to look at the world more critically today.

Knowledge is good, but questions are better.

Einstein was asked if he had one hour to live, what would he do? Einstein indicated he would take 55 minutes to make sure he was answering the right question.

The value of questioning is going up.

The value of answering is going down with misinformation, spun information, disinformation and too much information.

How might you or your industry change in the next year? The next five years?

How is your business changing?

Who are your competitors?

Who are entirely new competitors? He brought up the first hamburger from a 3D printer and homes being built with 3D printers in China as examples to consider.

Amazon has a goal to provide you “anything you want on earth” going forward.

How will your customers change their behavior?

We know the present. We know the past. We don’t know the future. What don’t I know?

Don’t underestimate exponential growth. He had a host of examples on this and all I can say is think about the number 1 and double it to 2, 4, 8 etc. What does one look like at 10 iterations? The answer is 1,024. How about 2 to the 50th? That is 1.1258999e+15. In terms of where we are with data over the last fifty years we are at the 2 to the 40th and will likely be at 2 to the 50th within 10 years or so. Think about that. What data will be available to analyze customers? Will amazon anticipate your needs before you have them? This made me think of the story when Target was offering pregnant women maternity items before the women acknowledged this to others.

What does feeling worse feel like?

When we fail we say “I was wrong.”

However, do we say I am in the process of being wrong? We are often wrong. We need to question our assumptions about the future and expand our horizons relative to asking questions. We need to ask more questions.

Did you know we peak at asking questions at about age 4?

We need to keep an open mind.

Volaire stated, “Doubt is not a pleasant condition, but certainty is absurd.” How many things do you think you are certain about?

Instead of addressing the question when someone says, “You know what ticks me off?” Why not respond with “What inspires you?” That should cause a change in reflection. We need to ask better questions.

Look at social, local mobile technology in light of Uber or AirBnB. Keep this in mind in terms of exponential growth. He showed us how for example AirBNB in Paris has grown from a few hundred people sharing their homes overnight in Paris about 8 years ago to over 500,000 last year. What does this mean about hotels in Paris?

Instead of asking “How intelligent are you?” isn’t a better question “How are you intelligent?”

Seth Gordon stated “Change almost never fails because it's too early. It almost always fails because it's too late.”

He brought up the 5 why’s questioning technique.. I had not heard of it. When you ask a question the process requests that you ask why five times. An interesting idea. When I researched it I found it led to six sigma. Who knew?

He encouraged us to think wrong and ask absurd questions. That is often when innovation takes place.

Determining what questions to ask takes more energy than answering questions. It is hard work.

Leaders need to ask good questions.

We all need to develop a comprehensive questionnaire about the future.

Did you know Lewis and Clark developed a comprehensive questionnaire with Thomas Jefferson before starting to explore the unknown western half of the U.S.? By doing so they asked all sorts of questions to be better prepared. Do you need to do this too? They compromised a list of hundreds of questions.

A good question to ask your team is “how might we?’ Think about that question. How? I am soliciting your ideas. Might gives room for all kinds of answers? We assumes we are in this together. Isn’t that what good leaders do?

How might we experiment with technology?

How might we learn from someone else?

How might we think about the unthinkable?

How might we help customers identify problems before they knew they had a problem?

Instead of meeting metrics, how can we not only reduce but prevent the metric?

Do you regularly ask your team?

A good question to ask before your firm dies, is what can we do today to prevent our firm from dying five years from now? Blockbuster, Loehmanns, Metro Godwyn Mayer, and Hollywood Video all wished they had done this.

This takes humility and action.

We have to ask better questions more often.

Instead of asking our children and grand children “What did you learn today?’ we should ask “What questions did you ask today?”

Our questions create thought.

Instead of asking “What ideas do you have?” expecting a fully dissected idea, we could ask “What fragment of an idea might you have?” This infers we are looking for even a little spark and not a fully worked idea.

This provided some food for thought for me and I thought it might for you in light of what you do. If you have a chance to hear Jack Uldrich, I recommend it. This is but a fraction of what he gave me to think about today.

About the author

Mike Gregory is a professional speaker, an author, and a mediator. You may contact Mike directly at and at (651) 633-5311. Mike has written 12 books (and co-authored two others) including his latest book, The Collaboration Effect: Overcoming Your Conflicts, and The Servant Manager, Business Valuations and the IRS, and Peaceful Resolutions that you may find helpful. [Michael Gregory, ASA, CVA, MBA, Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court]