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.
The Brexit Effect—Deal With It
PMI EMEA Congress 2017
Categories: PMI EMEA Congress 2017
by Cyndee Miller
PMI brought back its 21st century spin on the salon at this year’s EMEA congress. This time around, the panel talked turbulence and uncertainty—political shifts, workforce demands and the risks of global conflicts.
So, yeah, really not all that different from the stuff they covered in the grand salons of the 17th and 18th century France and Italy. Plus ça change and all that …
These days, we’ve got Brexit, U.S. President Trump and a whole cast of other political characters shaking up the status quo.
It’s hard to escape the feeling of uncertainty.
For pharma giant AstraZeneca, the shifting landscape spurred a move to niche medicines and away from the blockbuster drugs they built their name on.
Managing that kind of change—especially in such a large company—requires a strong communication plan to ensure buy-in across the enterprise. “There is an important element in big complex organizations that you have a common goal and a common understanding of why you need to change,” said salonnier Maria Hedwall, PMP, of AstraZeneca.
“It takes quite some time to cascade change announcements throughout the organization, by the time it gets to the bottom of the organization, management is ready to change again,” she said.
In times of great change, all organizations must be prepared to respond—and respond quickly. For Clare Savage of Deutsche Bank, that has meant raising the profile of project managers.
“Project managers are right in the thick of it but they are very seldom the decision makers,” said Ms. Savage. So she’s created a framework that allows project professionals to stick their neck out, take charge of an effort and make the necessary assumptions as part of the decision-making process—without having to worry that said neck would get chopped off if things don’t work out as expected. The blame game, in essence, is over.
She’s also putting a priority on answering the “why” question. “One of the things we’ve been doing with the more junior project personnel is [ensuring] they understand the true value of the why of the project they are delivering,” says Ms. Savage.
In such a chaotic environment, the company cultures that get it right are the ones that encourage innovation, said Gabor George Burt. “Once people are freed up to be creative they can deal with change.
Moderated by PMI’s Murat Bicak, the salon pulled back the curtain on how companies are dealing with Brexit and the onslaught of other changes. It was a good discussion, although for what it’s worth, I think we need fancier clothes and maybe a nice aria or two if we’re going to have a proper salon.
What’s happening at your organizations? How are you dealing with Brexit and all the other shifts?