Richard Worzel - Futurist - Speaker - Consultant
Keynote & Workshop Topics
Keynote & Workshop Topics

Hunting Black Swans: How to Expect the Unexpected (and the Spanish Inquisition!)

If the last 20 years have taught us anything, it is that the future will catch us by surprise, from the Ebola epidemic, to the earthquake and tsunami that knocked out a third of Japan's electric generating capacity, to the financial panic and Great Recession of 2008, to the terrorist attacks of 9/11.

Such events are popularly called ‘Black Swans’, meaning an event that was not expected, but which carries dramatic consequences when it occurs. Yet, it is possible to expect the unexpected.

Richard Worzel is today's leading futurist, and in this workshop helps you anticipate the shape of tomorrow's world, identify the forces at work that are carving it out, and then focus specifically on identifying things that might happen that you're not currently thinking about. The futurist techniques he introduces can be used over and over, and constitute not just the subject matter for a day's exercises or a weekend retreat, but a new way of thinking and preparing for tomorrow's world, with all of its surprises.

How to Think About the Future

The biggest problem most people have in thinking about the future is that it is too big, too broad, and too poorly defined. It’s like drinking the ocean; there’s just too much to take in. As a result, we tend to oversimplify how we think and plan for the future. Indeed, we talk about The Future as if there is just one future that’s possible. Moreover, the future is inherently unpredictable, which means that whatever we predict will be wrong to at least some degree.

In this pair of complementary workshops, we will approach the question of how to think practically about the future without being able to predict it. This will include introducing the concepts of scenario planning, the Desired Future, Backcasting, and environmental scanning as tools that can help you break the future into smaller, more manageable parts, and lead you to the creation of specific plans for a range of possible tomorrows. Participants will walk away with a broader understanding of how to cope with the future, as well as a handbook they can take away that will help them put these concepts to work for themselves

Workshop 1:

Scenario Planning: A Strategic Approach to Preparing for the Future

This is a top-down approach to preparing for the future, where participants learn how to created structured alternative futures that are relevant to their businesses that then allow them to prepare contingency plans for the uncertainties ahead. Once these futures and plans have been created, they can then move to the creation of a Desired Future, which is the future that they really want to have happen, as opposed to the random future that would otherwise emerge. Once a Desired Future has been defined, we will move into Backcasting, which is a way of walking backwards from the Desired Future to the present that creates a step-by-step plan to move from today to the future they want to create. This workshop covers a lot of ground, and while we can introduce the concepts, and start all of the processes involved, participants will have to complete the work once they are back home. They will take with them a handbook on the subject of scenario planning.

Workshop 2:

Inventing the Future: A Structured Approach to Innovation

This is a bottom-up, grass-roots approach to the future, where participants focus down to the intimate aspects of daily routine as a way of coming up with fresh ideas on how to improve their businesses. This is a structured form of brainstorming that aims to produce dozens of new ideas for small improvements, and then selecting the most interesting, attractive, and rewarding of these ideas for further development. By focusing down in this way, participants can learn how to create a recurring, continuous stream of new ideas. And by producing a steady flow of small improvements, participants can overcome the two greatest barriers to innovation: fear of failure, and lack of good ideas. At the same time, occasionally this process will turn up a radical new idea that can lead to a quantum leap forward, or into a completely new area of business.

Not Good Enough: The Future of Business Analytics

It’s tempting to face a screen-full of real-time business statistics, complete with graphs, dials, and summaries, and believe that you’ve got a handle on what’s happening with your data stream. And it’s true that without good analytics, contemporary businesses, most notably those that work in cyberspace, retail sales, and credit risk, couldn’t function effectively against sophisticated competition without analytics. Yet, as Richard Worzel, today’s leading futurist, points out, all of this reflects today’s marketplace, not tomorrow's. In this overview of the future of business analytics, he discusses:

• Why statistical analysis will be relegated to a poor relation among analytical tools;

• How astonishing advances in technology are changing both what can be done, and how it can be done most effectively;

• How new tools are emerging that will produce a fundamental change in the interaction between the human looking at a screen, and the analysis going on behind it;

• The Achilles’ heel of analytics, and suggestions on how to deal with it effectively; and

• The critical element that does now, and probably always will, determine how business analytics can be used most effectively.

The field is changing with astonishing rapidity, yet knowing how it will change is not clear. To help participants deal with these unknowns, Richard will leave conferees with a toolkit designed to capture the uncertainties ahead, and turn them to your advantage.

Leadership and Risk Management: The Future of Risk Management in an Uncertain Market

The events of the past few years have tested the abilities of corporate leaders to exercise strategic foresight, and adequately prepare for a world where greater uncertainties will be the norm. How, then, can leaders prepare for what’s to come, especially in a fast-changing field like agricultural products and services? Richard Worzel is a Chartered Financial Analyst, a strategic planner, and one of today’s leading futurists in the field of agriculture. In this presentation, he will explore some of the critical challenges ahead, and offer suggestions on how to cope. In particular, he will deal with:

• A futurist’s view of risk management is much broader than that of the traditional risk management literature, because it includes a broader range of potential risks. Accordingly, what are the three principal kinds of risks, and how do organizations classically respond to them? (Hint: not as well as they should.)

• How do you assess risk, and how do you respond to it? Here again a futurist’s toolkit is different from that used by classic risk managers.

• Perhaps the greatest risk to an organization is to lose the key people, especially at critical junctures. Yet, today’s society and culture encourages flitting from job to job, even as many talented people can’t find jobs. Why has this strange anomaly emerged, and what can corporate leaders do to increase the likelihood of recruiting, retraining, and retaining the right people in their organizations?

• What’s ahead for the American and global economies, and how will they affect the demand and supply of agricultural products? What are the outlooks for inflation and renewed recession? And what nasty surprises could yet be lurking, buried in the urgent, but less important events that dominate the headlines?

• How is the rising demand for food playing off against the rising levels of competition from ag powerhouses like Brazil? And what will wild cards, like the availability of water and the effects of climate change do to ag and the world markets for ag products?

• Technology offers risks both positive and negative, yet risk managers often overlook the importance of positive risks. And technology will wreak twice as many changes on organizations and society over the next 10 years than over the past 10, especially in ag industries, where applications of technology have repeatedly been game changers.

Leadership in a rapidly mutating marketplace is critical to organization success, yet risk management is often an after-thought in corporate planning, and often approached in a linear and simplistic fashion, when a more textured and broader approach is both more revealing, and produces more options and uncovers more opportunities. To enable participants to further explore these aspects of risk management, Richard also supplies conferees, free of charge, an electronic copy of the handbook he has developed for his consulting clients, Risk Management and Scenario Planning: How to Avoid Problems and Spot Opportunities. Corporate leaders will walk away both with a better understanding of what they are facing, and with new tools for improving the bottom line in the face of greater uncertainty.

Risk Management & Scenario Planning: How to Avoid Problems & Spot Opportunities

Target audience: Senior executives, organizational planners, managers

The purpose of this workshop is to define what risks your organization might face over the next several years, and to develop contingency plans to prepare for these risks. Included in this process is the identification of positive risks – opportunities – as well as a futurist’s approach to risk management. The end result is a substantially improved appreciation for both the problems and opportunities ahead, and plans to deal with them in order to take best advantage of the changes to come.

Scenario Planning & Product Innovation

This is a two-step process. First, your group will look into the future from the perspective of your clients’ point of view, and identify what issues, problems, and possibilities they have ahead of them. Next, you will look at how your clients’ needs will change – and hence, how you can prepare your products or services to be of maximum attractiveness to them once they arrive at this future. In effect, the purpose is to place yourself in your clients’ future path, and be waiting for them when they arrive.

Unboxed Thinking: Concepts for Innovation

Target audience: Senior executives, organizational planners, managers, sales & marketing executives and professionals

Changes are happening so fast, and the consequences of being left behind are so extreme, that companies believe - correctly - that thinking outside the box is the only way to thrive. Yet most people believe that creativity is only open to the creative few, an artistic elite. The reality is that everyone is creative to a greater or lesser extent, but few ever learn how to exercise their creativity, and fewer practice it on a regular basis, so that they get flabby results when they try.

There are specific techniques, just as there are in art, that can help those who are not practiced in innovating, and can help the already creative individual become even more so. In this workshop, futurist and strategic planner Richard Worzel will introduce you to creative techniques tailored to the needs of organizations and businesses today, and show you how you can create new ideas, new products, and new results. These techniques will include scenario planning focused on product development, and developing an opportunity matrix to identify new needs and ideas. You will leave this workshop not only with new ideas you can use immediately in your business, but with a toolbox of techniques that you can use over and over again. Included in the takeaways for both the full-day and the half-day sessions will be electronic versions of two handbooks on two completely different sets of innovation techniques for each participant.

Getting Greedy When Others Are Fearful: Linking Innovation, Sustainability, and Profits

Dark times are when the best players make the biggest gains. Everyone else is lying low, resources are hard to come by, and consumers are an endangered species. Richard Worzel, one of today's leading futurists, sees real opportunities in today's situation, and this presentation offers retailers insights on:
  • Why today's 'new' marketing tools – such as Facebook and Twitter – are only the beginning of personal marketing on a mass basis;

  • Why getting into your customer's head is now more necessary and more possible than ever before;

  • Why sustainability – today's environmental issue – will not disappear the way scarcity of resources – the issue of the 70s – did following the previous oil price break in 1980-81, and therefore why working on sustainability now, even in hard times, is critical to future survival and success; and finally

  • Why innovation is not popular, and why you need to create a new culture of innovation, starting from the bottom.
In addressing these issues, especially the issues of sustainability and innovation, Richard will provide two sets of tools. The first, called the Opportunity Matrix, offers a means of producing a steady stream of new ideas for incremental innovation. The second, the handbook on Risk Management and Scenario Planning that Richard developed for his consulting clients, is a take-away toolbox that can help you put yourself in your customers' future mindspace in order to be there, waiting, when she arrives.

Innovate or Evaporate! How to Innovate Your Way Out of Tomorrow’s Tough Times

The world has changed from two years ago - or even six months ago. We are experiencing events and circumstances for which we have no precedents and no guides, and this means that the old, tried and true methods for keeping sales up and operations safe are no longer as effective. Instead, think about ways to re-invent your organization to take advantage of today's novel situation. This presentation by Richard Worzel, a strategic planner, and one of today's leading futurists, outlines how to do this by:

• Assessing the differences from what we had before compared with the way things are now. What's different, and what do you need to do about it?

• Identify the stumbling blocks that make it hard for your organization to change and innovate. Innovation is neither easy nor comfortable, but in today's environment, it's the difference between survival and disaster.

• Use proven techniques to come up with novel ways of doing business, and test them out for their effectiveness.

• Overcome the inertia of past successes with new possibilities, and assessing their potential before committing to a course of action.

Richard will help you put your organization on the road to change geared to today's problems, and help you bring your group safely into the next decade.

Managing Innovation

No less a figure than Peter Drucker has said that the only real asset an organization has today is the collective brains of its people. The implications of this are severe: the successful leadership and management of innovation is now the most important strategic weapon any company can wield in the marketplace.

Leading innovation is the ultimate challenge for CEOs for by definition, no road map is possible. Drawing on the in-depth research from his best-selling book, Who Owns Tomorrow?, strategic planner and professional futurist Richard Worzel assesses this challenge in a hard-headed, yet surprising and entertaining keynote presentation that covers the key elements required for innovation leadership, including:
  • The battle for talent - recruiting, training, and retaining key people;
  • The dangers of the technology gap - jumping across too early is expensive, falling behind is fatal;
  • Micro-managing is hazardous to your wealth, yet hands-off management can lead to loss of accountability;
  • Flexibility as a tactical weapon, arising from the exploitation of technology, training, and effective delegation; and
  • Awareness of the major factors shaping the competitive marketplace of tomorrow, including the coming demographic upheavals, changes in society's values, and the rising threats of weakening governments.

Creating an Innovation Organization: The Deliberate Act of Devising New Business (Workshop)

Innovation has become a corporate religion, in part because there is so much happening in so many areas that organizations must now innovate to survive. Yet our own natural biases often defeat innovation before it begins, resulting in organizations where people know how to look good, but don't actually innovate. In this workshop, futurist and strategic planner Richard Worzel identifies the forces that oppose innovation, provides strategies to create an environment that encourages it, and then offers specific techniques that will allow you to arrive at new ideas, new directions, and practical new products and services. These techniques will allow you to focus on the future needs and wants of your clients and their clients, to broaden your thinking beyond the confines of your present thinking, and to develop the outlines of a game plan to bring your ideas into commercial reality. This workshop will provide you with take-aways you can use immediately in your business, as well as a tool kit of techniques that you can use over and over again. Innovation is a skill that can be learned - and this workshop teaches it explicitly.

Accountable Innovation: Creating an Innovative Organization that Maintains Accountability

Any organization that wants to entrench innovation as an important part of its culture accepts that innovators sometimes fail. But if you allow your people to try things and occasionally fail, how do you maintain accountability? What, in short, constitutes 'responsible failure' and how does it differ from any other kind of failure? In this keynote presentation, futurist and strategic planner Richard Worzel talks about the keys to innovation, and how they can be successfully balanced against the needs for individual accountability and responsibility. This creative tension actually produces higher levels of innovation, rather than stifling creativity.

Innovation Thinking (Workshop)

Innovation has become the Holy Grail of business today, and with good reason. Changes are happening so fast, and the consequences of being left behind are so extreme, that companies believe - correctly - that innovation is the only way to thrive and survive. Yet most people believe that creativity is only open to the artistic. Like art, everyone is creative to a greater or lesser extent, but few ever learn how to exercise their creativity, and fewer practice it on a regular basis, so that they get flabby results when they do try.

There are specific techniques, just as there are in art, that can help those who are not practiced in innovating, and can help the already creative individual become even more innovative. In this workshop, futurist and strategic planner Richard Worzel will walk you through the techniques of innovating, and show you how you can create new ideas, new products, and new results. These techniques will include immediately practical techniques, such as those focused on product innovation, and developing an opportunity matrix to identify new needs and ideas. You will leave this workshop not only with new ideas you can use immediately in your business, but with a toolbox of techniques that you can use over and over again.

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