Sean Pillot de Chenecey chats with Ian Khan, CNN featured technology futurist and best-selling author.

Included in the chat:

  • How do we rise to a challenge like Covid-19?
  • Managing change
  • Lessons in resilience
  • The importance of storytelling
  • The new benchmarks since the pandemic
  • Books that inspire Ian: “Who moved my cheese?” and “The Alchemist”
  • Ian’s books
  • Trust, automation and experiences
  • The future of conferences

Episode #125

The future of conferences

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (00:04): Hello this podcast is care of Speakers Associates, the global speaker bureau representing a select group of the world’s finest thinkers and thought leaders founded in 1999. Today Speakers Associates operate out of nine offices across seven countries covering the UK, Europe and Middle East. I’m Sean Pillot De Chenecey author of The Post-Truth Business and Influencers & Revolutionaries. In this series, I interview a range of fascinating individuals, proudly represented by the bureau. These change agents and industry experts give an update on their specialised areas of knowledge, and also on their motivations and viewpoints regarding the future of business. Today, I’m really pleased to be joined by Ian Khan, Ian’s a CNN featured technology futurist, Director of the highly acclaimed documentary blockchain city and bestselling author of “7 Axioms of Value Creation”. He believes that the future is driven by convergence on one hand, the convergence of AI, blockchain, and the IOT and on the other, the convergence of trust, automation and experiences regarding his speeches, he delivers impactful sessions on helping people understand the colossal changes that the world tomorrow will undergo and why unlocking human potential should be the first goal on any gccs agenda.

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (01:36): So, Ian welcome.

Ian Khan (01:37): Thanks for having me Sean. It’s a real pleasure to be on the podcast.

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (01:42): Well, thank you. Well, Ian, let’s go straight into . You’ve got such a fascinating biography that there’s, an enormous amount to talk about, but I think obviously the moment, you know, the big thing that is naturally impacting all of us and no matter where these Speakers Associates listeners are listening to this podcast, be it either in Asia, Europe, the US, Africa, etc. Then I think this issue around obviously the COVID 19, the coronavirus has just impacted everyone. If we can look at this from a, through, say three business prism, where do you see this, this now? And where is this taking us?

Ian Khan (02:23): Sean, COVID 19 is is I think one of the biggest challenges and, and kind of healthcare tsunamis that we’ve ever seen. And we’ve had outbreaks of different diseases in smaller pockets, SARS, MERS, Ebola, they’ve all been happening, but nothing of this scale has happened in the world for many, many, many years. And we hear a lot about the Spanish flu, which was a hundred years ago. I have no idea what life was back then because we weren’t there a hundred years ago. And so when we make comparisons of the Spanish flu, I, I really don’t engage with that. I really want to see the world change as a result of what is happening right now. And the actions we take during COVID 19. Now, things like this have always happened, whether it’s been a volcano, it’s been a tsunami, an actual tsunami or any other natural, or a natural disaster. Things have happened like this, but the question is how will humanity rise beyond what has been presented to us? And that is what I’m interested in.

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (03:32): And that is see about how humanity actually sort of rises to this challenge and where it takes us. I mean, naturally these are very early days in this, but I mean, have you seen any evidence of actually how humanity is rising to this challenge? You know, any things that either organizations or companies or brands or indeed communities are doing that are actually

Ian Khan (03:55): Absolutely illustrating

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (03:56): What you think this might be going?

Ian Khan (03:58): Absolutely. So as soon as we I personally had to adjust myself to this, to this new transitionary phase that we’re passing through. And I refuse to accept it as the new normal, it’s just a transitionary phase that we’re passing to. There’s one thing that I wanted to do is bring people together and I’ll give you I’ll tell you about different industries and what they’re doing. So I, I really wanted to do something different. And I’ve kicked off a live series where I’m inviting industry leaders on a live stream panel every Wednesday. And I’m talking to all these experts about how they see industry transform, what are the best practices they’re putting into place? What is the impact of, of COVID 19 on business? And so the insights that are coming out of those conversations with these leaders and people who are actually working on things is incredible.

Ian Khan (04:49): Now, just yesterday, I had a panel of experts on from the technology industry and companies that are OEMs to companies that that are resellers and suppliers, everybody’s working hard on changing what they do to the best of their capability, adjust to this new you know, to the impact of COVID 19. And there’s different aspects of business that COVID 19 has impacted. It has of course, impacted business as usual. So business is not as usual companies are closed, doors have shut down. Employees have been laid off, supply chains are broken. So everybody’s going through a massive amount of change. And at the end of the day, it all comes down to how do we manage change? This is, this is an MBA in real life for all of us. Mm-Hmm, not just for leaders.

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (05:39): Yeah. That’s fascinating that, that whole thing about the MBA in real life and think people, you know, a lot of people like yourself are talking about this. I mean, sounds appalling to put it in this context, but in a coldly, you know, business context, that issue of, you know, we’re living with this right now, these are early days. Obviously we, we understand. And that is be fascinating to look back in five years time when for instance, you’ll be still be talking about this in the media and perhaps talking about it to people like, you know, that generation’s MBA students going well, isn’t it fascinating looking back from whenever, you know, 20, 25, 20, 26, what we did, how we adapted to it and you know, who were the people that really dealt with it in a proactive way and who did it very, very badly.

Ian Khan (06:26): Yes. And the lessons that will come out of this are purely on lessons on resilience. They’ll be tons of books. That’ll be written about the doctors who are working on the front lines, the people, the the mail delivery, people and people who are going above and beyond their mission right now to serve others, to be there for others. And also just to, just to be resilient and, you know, build that resilience to fight back to claim what is ours. And I think those stories will always resonate. And right now we’re, we’re creating history. We’re creating history for future generations who, as you rightly said, are going to look back and say, Hey, how did those people survive? And what did they do?

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (07:06): I think it’s really interesting how certainly, I mean, obviously I’m over here in London. There’s a lot of talk in the, in marketing circles about, on the communication front that brands effectively should stop communicating now. And they should just concentrate on doing concentrate on being useful rather than telling stories.

Ian Khan (07:27): I, I hate to disagree with that to, to a little extent because people understand stories and I think we need to change the way we narrate stories. We need to rebuild those narratives and, and put them into context of what’s happening right now. If storytelling stops, then there will no longer be any inspiration or motivation for people to take action. If storytelling stops, then we will never know what people did and how they did it. Absolutely action. There’s no replacement of action, but I think action has to be also told to everybody else that, Hey, this is how you can be amazing. This is what you can do to others. So I think everything has been leveled plain. The, the COVID 19 is a big leveler of different things and, and we are creating new benchmarks off of around everything.

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (08:22): How interesting. I think it’s fascinating just that, that your talk of things being leveled and, and what a sort of revolutionary thought that is that, you know, six months ago, we’d had a conversation like this. If we’d see any actions being taken, go by governments around the world, as we’ve been, as we’re seeing now, it would’ve been thought to have been almost, you know, sort of Luned across to have we even suggested it. And yet the, the amount of change does seem to be completely in almost incomprehensible.

Ian Khan (08:51): Absolutely. And Sean, one of the things that we as humans have always seen is, is change. And, and if you recognize that change is always happening, change is a constant. And I see this every time I go on stage, it’s the first thing that I say is, Hey, change is a constant and it’ll always happen. It’s the first thing that pops up on my documentary film on the screen is change is a constant. We must recognize that change happens every single day, although we might not see it. And it might come to us in the form of an avalanche in the form of COVID 19 as a disruptor. But, but it’s not that it has just happened one day. It has things and circumstances have gone towards COVID 19 being where it is right now, but people who always thrive on the fact that change is a constant, are the ones who survive these things who, who help others during these times of crisis, who expand, who build, who inspire others. And so we’ve gotta be able to live with that idea that changes a constant and go to work with, with that idea every single day.

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (10:01): Absolutely fascinating by the way, just going, going back in terms of your own personal story, by the way, Ian. So, I mean, obviously now you’re very high profile, but how did you get started, you know was there a lucky break or was there an inspiring individual or, or, or what, so, you know, tell us, tell us through your story, take us through it.

Ian Khan (10:20): So, Sean, I, I was born in one of the world’s most beautiful places. And unfortunately when I was growing up, it was, it also became the world’s most militarized zone. That’s cashmere for you and for your listeners, it’s, it’s a, you know, tiny piece in, in, in the middle of you know, the Himalayas. What happened when I was growing up is I was put onto in, into, in unimaginable era of change for our city and our, our, our country and our nation political change, political unrest, armed conflict life just completely took a U-turn overnight. And growing up to those times, taught me a lot. It is essentially what we’re going through right now in COVID 19, where we can’t leave our home. You cannot communicate with others. You don’t have com you know, you don’t have internet.

Ian Khan (11:14): All of these things happened to me 25, 30 years ago. And so I’ve seen this before for, for, for many, many years. And hence my, my ability to see beyond COVID 19 is, Hey, there is there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Those lessons during growing up and my teenage years have built an enormous amount of resilience into me. It gave me the capability of shutting my eyes and looking beyond my immediate circumstances. And that’s a quality that we need to develop. That’s what we need to do in order to be more more resilient. I ended up delivering a TEDx talk on that, and that was the first time I spoke for TEDx. And that was my beginning, my journey of building courage, building resilience, looking beyond circumstances, and really thinking about what could be 5, 10, 15, 20 years from then, which I continue to do.

Ian Khan (12:10): And I’ve done this for about two, two decades now. And that was the starting point of me getting to think in a different way. And I think we have to shift how we think in order to actually action things so that our life becomes different. We have to start thinking differently. You can’t think of one thing and do something else. It just doesn’t work that way. The mind, the body and our actions all have to line up. And it’s a process in which we should engage throughout my career. I mean, I’ve, I’ve had I, I haven’t had a mentor, but I’ve been an average reader. I, I read a lot. And I, I don’t read any fiction, but I read a lot of nonfiction, a lot of business leadership books. And that really those have been my, my, my mentors for throughout my life. And the, the amount of knowledge books add to, to our lives is, is incredible. And I highly recommend to everybody that I speak with read a book, read one or two books, always be reading something or the other, and because that, it just changes our life so much.

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (13:16): And in terms of those books, are there any, any titles in particular that you found, you know, particularly inspiring over the last couple of years, that, that you would recommend to the, to the podcast listeners, ones that you think really stand out and have, you know, real meaning behind them?

Ian Khan (13:34): You know, it’s, it’s, it is a funny thing you say that because one of my earliest and most favorite books of all times is is a very tiny little book called who moved my cheese by by an author named Spencer Johnson. Yeah. Yeah. You can read who moved my cheese in 15 minutes, but the lessons within are exactly what we are going through right now in life. And it’s all about change management. If you embrace that book, and if your listeners embrace that book, their lives will never be the same for the rest of their lives. And that’s one book that I recommend. So it’s who moved my cheese. I read a lot. So right now I have, I have immersed myself into very technical information. I’m researching blockchain, I’m doing a lot of reading. I’m doing a core, I’m doing multiple courses through cor Andex on blockchain, purely because I want to immerse myself into the knowledge that’s out there. But if you look at the, some, some books that are the Alchemist, as an example, and it’s one of those books that just stands out that you must read because it’s, it adds so much value to your life. So the Alchemist is one I would recommend right away. It’s all about change. Who moved. My cheese is something everybody should read at least once a year.

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (14:52): And how about you, Ian? Have you but in terms of what’s coming up for you, are you writing again? Are you any, anything on the horizon we should be looking forward to?

Ian Khan (15:02): There definitely is. I just released a book called aftershock. A friend of mine, John shorter actually got together the world’s top 50 futurists, and all of us contributed to future shock talking about what Alvin Toffler said in in sorry, the book is called aftershock. And so it’s 50 years after Alvin Toffler wrote the best seller future shock. Where is the world at what exactly is happening in the world? So I’ve contributed to that book. And it’s been really incredible to, to speak to people who who’ve written other content within there. So I’m actively promoting that right now. I’m also writing my next book called the future readiness score. And it’s, it’s really a a business methodology. I’m condensing all my knowledge and learning and, and strategies from the last 20 years and putting it into something called a future readiness score that organizations can use. I’m I currently teach that as a workshop but now it’s coming to the market as a book from a mainstream publisher. And so it, the it’s, it’s in progress and I’m hoping it’s out there in in the next six to eight months.

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (16:14): Okay. And by the way, is there anything that you can tell us about that at the moment, or are you wanting to keep it under wraps until it actually hits the hits the shelves

Ian Khan (16:21): Digital? Absolutely not. I can definitely talk about it. So the future readiness score is a, is a KPI based methodology of helping understand where an organization stands currently. We don’t have any metrics available for future readiness. We have future readiness as an idea, but there’s no metrics around it. So the future readiness score is all about how can organizations capture today in terms of future readiness. And we assess this into eight different categories of impact engagement, collaboration, technology people, and so on. And based on a survey and, and an exercise, a few exercises that attendees do we initially capture what is called the initial future readiness score. Then the next steps literally are recommendations on improving that score providing processes to executives and leaders that they can team members that can, they can implement within their organizations and measuring that score continuously year on year and improving that.

Ian Khan (17:24): And so that really is a summary of the future readiness score. The book itself is full of stories and narratives where companies have gone above and beyond their call of duty, how they’ve worked on certain aspects of their business, whether it’s in HR practices or change the way they communicate and how they’ve improved, what they do and become amazing organizations. So the book is full of stories and narratives. It’s full of inspiration. It’s also has the methodology that companies can can apply to be amazing, very relevant to manage change and very relevant to measure where you are and where you’re headed. And like just like a ship, if you don’t know where you’re headed, Sean you might end up anywhere in the ocean.

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (18:09): exactly. Can I also ask you about one of the points that thinks fascinating that the, I, you talk a lot about, and that is convergence, and in particular, that issue about the convergence of trust automation and experiences, could you just perhaps just let the listeners know again or have a, have an insight into your thinking in those areas?

Ian Khan (18:29): So we, we always you know, talk about the future and, and sometimes it’s, it’s diff difficult to kind of put it in a box and, and understand it, or, or to categorize it or to contextualize it. For me, the future is multiple different things. When you talk about technology and future, for me, it’s about the internet of things blockchain and artificial intelligence working hand in hand, because I believe those three technologies connect everything together. And that’s what everything will touch in the future, whether it’s our roads, our homes, our cars digital identity, whatever it is similarly as an idea we have to think beyond just technology. It’s for me, it’s the convergence of trust automation and experiences, because I believe these three things are pivotal for anybody who wants to succeed in the future trust.

Ian Khan (19:27): We all need trust to to the transactions we do to, to the communication we do to things we communicate, we, what we believe products have to have a trust behind them. Consumers have to trust brands. So trust is an inevitable reality. And if you really wanna succeed in business, you’ve gotta start creating trust with your, with your stakeholders. Automation plays a big part in where in the process of understanding so much of that because of technology, because of not doing things that are boring and that’s what AI does is automate things so that we can do other things. And so automation is going to be a big part of things in the future, whether it’s automating grocery buying or it’s automating communication. And so trust and automation, and then the third one is experiences. If people do not experience things and they don’t have good experiences with things, they will never like them. They will never adapt to them. And they, those things will never be successful. So anybody who wants to succeed in the future as an organization, as a creator of anything, has to focus on trust automation and experiences in my opinion, and that’s, that’s kind of the, the magic formula for success.

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (20:42): Okay. And so, in terms of that magic formula, when, when you are giving your speeches, or when you are running your your workshops, or indeed when you’re doing your broadcasting, et cetera are there any, again, companies or organizations or brands that are matching up to, you know, what you are saying is exactly what they should be doing. So is, is anyone ever ING this from, from your point of view, and when you’re giving talks, do you point to certain companies that are doing this and say, right, here’s a best practice example of a company that’s getting this absolutely right. Or indeed here’s an organization that is, the opposite, getting it terribly wrong.

Ian Khan (21:21): Many examples. And I think everybody’s doing some part of it, not everybody’s doing all of it. So going back to the future readiness score, nobody has a perfect score on the future readiness scorecard. And that’s the reality we are living in right now. It’s very difficult to do everything perfectly because every company has some, the things and some places that they need to improve on. Take a look at some of the world’s largest companies. If you look at Google as an example, a really great successful company but they’ve, they’ve had challenges in some areas, whether it’s supporting free speech or, or, or one of these things controlling information, there’s definitely something they need to work on. There’s smaller companies. I mean, we, we talk about apple all the time that how successful apple is and how amazing they are, but they’re also getting a little bit of of fire on their practices in manufacturing, in China.

Ian Khan (22:19): So not a perfect score there. When you pass companies through this crucible off the future readiness score, not everybody comes out as a winner. Everybody, there are things that we find, Hey, you absolutely must improve on this thing. And it’s really difficult to, to be 100% on everything. Smaller companies sometimes are more agile and more nimble. And I see some of them doing well smaller, newer startups are, are trying to change how they work with people. They have better HR policies. And so it really depends. And, and no, I, I haven’t found an ideal and perfect company, but many of them score really high on the future readiness index and have a great score. But there’s, there’s tons of examples that are coming up in the book.

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (23:05): I think also really interesting coming back to, again, looking at this sort of coldly business, sort of, you know, bottom line perspective, you mentioned about startups there and how, you know, we, we associate them with being more agile and being great at HR, but there’s been a lot of talk over the last, even let’s say week about startups, suddenly having huge problems with funding because all the fundings being withdrawn, again, due to the COVID coronavirus,

Ian Khan (23:33): I think investors need to see beyond beyond COVID 19 and investors who totally believe in the products and solutions and the startups and the companies that they’ve invested in the people that they’ve invested in, they’re not pulling out, but definitely that’s not a majority you, we have seen contraction in terms of investments for new startups going out, but, but those who’ve already raised funding. They should continue to push forward. I think startups should continue chasing providers and, and banks and companies who are providing them funding and VCs and to push their message. We’re also going through a temporary phase where there’s a little bit of retraction because of COVID 19, but I don’t expect that to last for a long time. It’s just, it’s just market reaction. It’s a knee jerk reaction and it’s, it’s perfectly understood

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (24:27): And then what about as we begin to get towards the end of this, cause I’m fully aware that we’ve taken a decent chunk of your time and your charging around all of your broadcasting. It’s when we look at things, when we look at things like the, the world of speeches, the world of events, I mean, naturally I think goes without saying that it seems to be that virtually every event, certainly in the short term has been canceled. The world of conferences naturally through things like social distancing have been completely stopped. So when we’re outta this, do you have any thoughts on where the world of conferences and events is gonna go, you know, how is that gonna be impacted and changed by all of this?

Ian Khan (25:08): I think we have to, we have to think beyond just conferences, being places where people meet. If you look at conferences as opportunities where people collaborate and people exchange ideas, then conferences are changing the way they’re being delivered. Many companies and providers and, and conferences and exhibitors are looking at online platforms. And so we’re going through this this phase where we didn’t ask for it, but we’re being pushed to innovate. And hence there’s a huge boom in online platforms and zoom everybody’s trying to do online conferences. I think we’re just trying to figure out where we are headed and what we should be doing as a conference industry. There’s definitely impact because of COVID 19. And there’s no, right now it’s a con the world of conferences is very dark. No, no hope until things don’t come back to normal. And until we all can’t be back to where we were my suggestion really is to speakers and, and experts is to start pivoting and thinking about how can you help clients? And it’s not just conferences, but can you run workshops? Can you do strategy sessions virtually? Can you do something online? Because it’s always it’s as a value creator. That’s what you do. You don’t speak at conferences, but you add value to the lives of people who attend. And so find how can you do that in in the current era?

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (26:32): Very interesting. Okay. Just last couple of questions. And just, just going back a bit in terms of, you know, all the things that you’ve done, I know you’ve speak at events or, or have spoken events all over the, and if they’ve written from, you know, bestselling books, et cetera, and, and all the rest of it, and, you know, all of your consulting activity, is there, you know, is there one particular thing that if you had to say, that’s what I’m proudest about? You know, in terms of my, my achievements, this is the real high point. So yeah. Is there something there that you really would point to and say, that’s what I am really, really pleased about?

Ian Khan (27:07): I think it’s it’s the, it’s the amount of people that, that I’ve been able to reach? I mean, I think in my speaking career, as a consultant author I probably have reached over 5 million people to different means whether it’s my speaking, it’s my books, it’s my podcast, it’s my film. And that gives me a lot of pleasure and satisfaction and, and hope that I have been able to touch the lives of, you know, 5 million people in my lifetime. What they’ve done with that information is secondary. But the pure fact that, Hey, I, I managed to reach so many people is definitely something that that keeps me pushing. I think there’s still a lot to do still of lots of organizations and, and that, that need to be held millions of people across the world who are sitting on untapped potential and their potential needs to be untapped and unlocked. And that’s what I look forward to is tomorrow is the future is how do we come together and become a better world and become better society by helping each other unlock our potential. So there’s still things to do that I’m looking forward to.

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (28:19): Okay. So last question and that’s this, so let’s say, you know, let, let’s, you know, take a figure out of the air in six months times, let’s say when this is, hopefully, you know, when the virus has hopefully been defeated and, and things have moved on you know as spectacularly, interesting client is putting together an absolute dynamic event, and they’re looking around for someone to headline it, just give us the, the, the really hard sell on yourself. Exactly. You know, what’s the ideal event for you. And what would you be speaking about that you think is gonna be absolutely compelling for that audience at, at the perfect event?

Ian Khan (28:52): I think it would have, it would definitely have to be an audience that wants to learn about change that wants to learn about how to deal with change, how to surpass your, your limitations and how to go beyond what life gives you. And and, and to, and to really, really succeed. My lessons in resilience are, are real life lessons. And, you know, I’ve, I’ve faced death in the face many, many times in my life, whether it, it was in my country, or it was an accident where I really was literally very close to dying. There are lessons in my life that I will share with my audiences in the hopes of showing them tomorrow hope and their own potential of creating change and, and sharing stories of how it can be done. Any audience after COVID 19 is going to be hungry to know how to accelerate their journey of awesomeness, because I think COVID 19 is giving everybody an opportunity to know themselves better. So conferences are going to be busier after COVID 19. Speakers will be busier after COVID 19, and it’s, it’s, it’s something we all should get ready for. And I’m just looking forward to serving any audience that’s hungry to learn more.

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (30:09): Fantastic. Well, look, that sounds superb Ian, thank you so much for your time. So we could have happily talked for a lot longer, but time is against us. So Ian Khan, CNN featured technology, futurist, highly acclaimed director, bestselling author, leading speaker. Thank you.

Ian Khan (30:27): Thank you so much, Sean. And thank you Speaker Associates.

Sean Pillot De Chenecey (30:32): Thank you for listening to The Speaker Show podcast. Please leave a rating on iTunes. We’d really appreciate it. And also it’d be great. If you could subscribe to the podcast itself, you’ll find it also on Google podcasts, SoundCloud, or your favorite podcast app. Thank you.

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Podcast host

Sean Pillot de Chenecey speaker

Sean Pillot de Chenecey

Foresight strategist, author and podcast host Sean Pillot de Chenecey is an inspirational speaker, who’s also consulted for some of the world’s biggest brands.

Sean has a very deep level of knowledge regarding the genuine issues impacting brands from a cultural, social and business perspective.

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