Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Just Ignore the Trends—and Run to the Noise

By Cyndee Miller

Real talk: I was deeply skeptical going into the closing session of congress starring so-called futurologist and trendspotter Magnus Lindkvist. I mean, come on, his bio heralds him as “the best import from Sweden since ABBA and meatballs.” That’s a pretty high bar for me—“Dancing Queen” is pretty perfect.

Yet, at some point—probably when he managed to link Swedish grindcore to talent management—he pulled me in.

This whole business of trendspotting is wildly treacherous, but Mr. Lindkvist has a healthy (and spectacularly humorous) perspective on it. The “darlings of last year” were artificial intelligence, machine learning and job-stealing robots, but turns out we’re really bad at predicting human behavior, he said.

Indeed, he actually advised the standing-room-only crowd to avoid trends: Look elsewhere. Read what other people are reading. Travel where other people don’t travel. Hire people that other companies aren’t hiring.

Don’t think for one second, however, this guy doesn’t follow what’s going on in business. Take that innovation thing. He said most company’s strategy relies on R&D … rip off and duplicate. And that leads to a lack of diversity—where everything new starts to look the same. Once the iPhone hit, for example, slowly but surely every telecom company starting morphing their product into some version of Apple’s.

Mr. Lindvist suggests seeking out a different kind of innovation—where something impossible becomes possible, where something magical becomes practical.

Uh, yeah, that doesn’t sound hard at all.

But in life, Mr. Lindvist contends, we can do one of two things: compete or create. “Competition is the theft of big ideas. Creation is a liberation movement.”

And creation is what actually shapes the future, although it might mean a little workout.

“I think the future is an activity,” he said. “It’s something we do, you and I. The future is always there—underneath dead ideas, underneath old ideas.”

Go ahead and experiment. “Human beings have one way of learning—trial and error.” And if your experiment fails, so what? “Failure is the sign of trying,” he said. Don’t shame failure, recycle it.

And, be patient, my friends. The best ideas are often rejected the first time. Get ready to be misunderstood for a long time.

Now the pessimist in me is cringing just a bit as I type this, but Mr. Lindkvist says optimism, as cheesy as it might seem, is the true secret sauce. “Companies and projects run on optimism, actively injected optimism,” he said. “That is the only important, vital ingredient. The only bad thing is doing the same thing all the time.”

All of this might be a bit much for some of the more risk-averse project and program managers out there. So I’ll leave you with the same parting words Mr. Lindkvist gave to the congress audience: Run toward the noise. Seek out the spaces, markets and technologies battling it out for dominance—and search for the new and the different and the better.

Now here’s my trendspotting tip: Break out your calendars and block out 7-9 May 2018 in next year’s EMEA congress in Berlin, Germany.

Ciao for now, baby—because this trendspotter sees a Gucci bag in her future.

Posted by Cyndee Miller on: May 04, 2017 05:06 AM | Permalink | Comments (11)
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