Into the future

The other day I listened to Richard Watson’s presentation of  – he’s the Futurologist who wrote Future Files.

First of all, I like a bloke who will make up words to suit the occasion (see some of them below). I also like a guy who will poke fun about his own profession and who, when asked what is the future of industrial relations, answered authentically “I have no idea on that one”.

He had a few other interesting things to say:

  • “No one can predict individual events. What a futurologist does is look at broad trends.”
  • “The future is already here it is just unevenly distributed (there are people in Japan who are writing whole books on a mobile phone interface).”
  • “Generation Y will be back in charge in 12 months after this blip is over.”
  • “Generation I are connected, networked and collaborative – (they have been doing their homework online together – what is cheating anyway or copyright for that matter? And they do not read linearly or spell).”
  • “The planet will be back on the agenda later this year – saving the planet is also saving money.”

There are four key trends coming from the mixture of social activism versus social passivism, and market pessimism versus market optimism:
1. Enoughism (reduced importance on possession, increased importance on shared experiences).
2. Moreism (consumerism gone mad accumulation of material goods eg Dubai) .
3. Personal fortress (ultimate privacy).
4. Smart Planet (science and technology will solve the problems of the world).

Watson then put his talent to work to look at the key trends for the HR community.


1. Growth outsourcing.
2. Relocating people everywhere.
3. Re-localisation.
4. One billion new customers, competitors and collaborators as China moves into the mainstream of not being just producers, but also consumers.


1. Aging workforce.
2. Declining birth-rates.
3. Skills Shortage.
4. Rising singles.
5. Generation Y impact.
6. Generation I impact.
7. Asian immigration (and reverse migration).
8. Retirement age much later if at all.


1. Pace change rising.
2. Increasing automation.
3. Smart machines.
4. IT enabling distance working.
5. Growth of virtual worlds.
6. Rise in robotics (smart ones – with no empathy).
7. Impact of genetics.
8. Web 3.0.


1. Demand for natural resources is rising – people are more aware of the sustainability issue.
2. Procurement taking on strategic significance – buy local.
3. Tightening regulations.
4. Rising transparency.

Someone once said that we would have an easier life with all these labour saving machines that we now have… However Watson’s view of the future of work doesn’t look that easy to me:
1. Faster.
2. More global.
3. More polarised.
4. More promiscuity (people will job hop more).
5. More stressful.
6. More specialist.
7. More machines.
8. More part-time.
9. More local.
10. More collaborative.
11. More transparent.
12. More human.
13. More ethical.
14. More feminine (less command and control).
15. More mobile.
16. More creative.

A few other interesting ideas

  • Innovation is driven by diversity.
  • Flexibility for employers is essential for the future of engaged staff.
  • Retirement, ie ending work, is a notion that will cease, people will be in some sort of paid work longer.
  • Physical spaces will become more important for people to go as the virtual world takes over. (Libraries are a safe neutral space.)
  • Thinking spaces are very important.

To finish off, Watson presented his Extinction Chart of what he thinks could end as we know it, in the next 50 years. Of course letter writing was on the list – so was Paris Hilton, spelling and coins. The whole point of the session was to get us thinking – and that it did.


Naomi is the 2008 National Telstra Women’s Business Award winner for Innovation. Naomi was also a finalist for the Australian HR Awards and a finalist for the BRW Most Admired Business Owner Award in 2008. Also in 2008 RedBalloon achieved a 97% Hewitt employee engagement score. One of Australia’s outstanding female entrepreneurs, Naomi regularly entertains as a professional speaker inspiring middle to high-level leaders on employer branding, engagement and reward and recognition. Naomi writes a blog and has written a book sharing the lessons from her first five years.

To read more Naomi Simson blogs, click here .


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