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In this episode of The Speaker Show, Sean Pillot de Chenecey interviews the leading global futurist Rohit Talwar.
Rohit advises international business and governments on how to thrive into the future. He is the CEO of the Fast Future consultancy; leaders in research, advice and coaching on future scenarios and opportunities for innovation.
His work focuses on human enhancement, disruptive innovation, emerging technology and the emerging economies. He has delivered over 1500 keynote speeches and executive workshops in 70+ countries on six continents.
Rohit is also the co-author of Designing Your Future, lead editor for The Future of Business and editor of Technology vs. Humanity, and is working on two forthcoming books.
In this deeply interesting episode, we discuss Rohit’s viewpoints about his research and publications including:
- The Future of Business
- Navigating Deep Disruption
- Ensuring AI serves humanity
- Aftershocks and Opportunities
- Scenarios for the Next 50 Years
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (00:11): Hello, this podcast is care of Speakers Associates, the global speaker bureau representing a select group of the business 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, which are being followed by The New Abnormal. 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 specialist areas of knowledge, and also on their motivations and viewpoints regarding the future of business.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (01:10): So today I’m really pleased to be joined by an incredibly interesting individual Rohit Talwar, a leading global futurist and founder of Fast Future Research. He advises international businesses and governments around the world on how to thrive into the future. The CEO of the Fast Future Consultancy, who had leaders in research advice and coaching on future scenarios and opportunities for innovation. His work focuses on human enhancement, disruptive innovation, emerging technology, and the emerging economies. He’s a global futurist award-winning and thought-provoking speaker, strategic advisor, author, entrepreneur, and CEO. Rohit’s private objective is to support clients in exploring and shaping the emerging future, putting people at the center of the agenda. So Rohit, hi and how are you?
Rohit Talwar (02:05): I’m very well. Thanks. And thank you for having me on the show.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (02:09): Not at all. We’ve been really, really looking forward to it. So Rohit, we were talking earlier on about, I mean, how does wanna even begin to explain, the extraordinary stroke of polling sort of issues that have confronted everyone around the world this year, but just to start somewhere from this, I know a few months ago, Speakers Associates ran The Recovery Summit, which I think certainly has been either, the number one or certainly one of the top sort of, numbers of events run throughout the year to make sense of where we are and where we are all going from an organizational and individual and business perspective. And I know the talks that you gave there went down extremely well. So perhaps just starting there from the point of view of The Recovery Summit, yeah, just talk through what you were talking about there from the point of view of your presentation on Aftershocks and Opportunities.
Rohit Talwar (03:06): Well, thank you. Yes. And I was very fortunate that I think mine was the highest rated talk out of the 70 or so over the five days of the event. And that was I think because of the subject matter. So I was really trying to help people think about what might be coming next and how do we navigate it. So I looked at some different scenarios of how things might play out, looking at the, the critical drivers, which I, the evolution, the panic of pandemic and the nature of the economic recovery. So we from potentially a prolonged pandemic and a very slow economic recovery through to much faster progress on both. Then we looked at, well, what are some of the big shifts that were already taking place and that have been accelerated by the pandemic and finally looked at what can we do as individuals and organizations and governments to respond? How do we change the way we lead, the way we manage and the way we learn in order to help us navigate what seems to be a rapidly changing reality.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (04:17): Yep. Yep. And then in terms of some of the specific issues that you spoke about within that overall subject area, I mean, perhaps, a good way of looking at this is again, via the fantastic, the future of business book that you put out a while ago in terms of, you know, critical insights into a rapidly changing world. Now, I mean, looking at that as you sort of, went through the book via your own research and interviewing people around the world. I know you had, you sort of divided it into, you know, chapters around, you know, visions of the future, tomorrow’s global order, the emerging societal landscape, et cetera. So perhaps it’d be, I think I’m sure it would be fascinating for the listeners. Just if you could take us through the sorts of things that you found out, in order to put the book together and the lessons that there are therefore for organizations and brands, so starting with sort of visions of the future, and then going into tomorrow’s global order, what sort of, issues and subjects where you, finding out about there?
Rohit Talwar (05:21): Well, I’m gonna buying that book with one that we’ve just done called Aftershocks and Opportunities.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (05:27): Yeah.
Rohit Talwar (05:27): Where in both cases, we ask people from around the world to submit their chapters about what might be happening and what might happen next. And I think when you combine the two, you see some very interesting core themes. One is around the growing importance of sustainability, of inclusivity and focusing on our mental health. And those have really risen to the sort of top of the agenda. Now, we were talking just before we started about how one of the biggest issues for organizations today is not that their markets are disappearing, it’s that their staff are overwhelmed, working home, working on video conferencing platforms, maybe doing even more work than when they were in the office and the pressure to get more stuff done before they next crisis is actually increasing workload in many organizations. So, one is about how do we do things in a more sustainable and inclusive way?
Rohit Talwar (06:25): The second big shift is a change in our focus around strategy. So we used to talk about a one year strategy, a three year strategy, and maybe a four to 10 year strategy. Now that’s timeframes have changed. So increasingly we are thinking about just the next three months, what I’m gonna do to stay viable and resilient in terms of what’s coming next. So right now, many countries are in some form of second wave lockdown. If you’re in the US, you’re struggling with the rapid increase of numbers that doesn’t seem like it’s gonna abate anytime soon. And so we trying to deal with, with this very odd dynamic that’s there in the marketplace. And so really strategy is all about how short term strategy is all about how we navigate that. Then there’s that kind of four to 12 month piece, which is, well, how might the rules of the game in our sector change and how do we start to adapt to that?
Rohit Talwar (07:20): And maybe even lead some of it through product and process innovation. And finally, the last timeframe has become even bigger because it’s sort of one to 10 years, and that’s trying to understand how technology, how scientific advances, how new thinking, how new behaviors in markets could lead to the reinvention of sectors. And that’s where we really need to think about, or what’s our vision for the future? What capabilities do we need? And then if we have those insights into what might be changing on the longer term basis, we can develop some scenarios for our marketplace and then come out of those to say, well, okay, what do we need to be doing in the next 12 months to make sure that we’re developing our people and our capabilities to be able to respond to anything that might happen and avoid the risk of being shocked again, by activities or events at the margin, because I think we’re gonna see a lot of those kinds of shocks, whether they’re environmental, whether they’re to do with the accelerating impact of technology on jobs, whether they’re in terms of the acceleration of government legislation around all sorts of things from intellectual property to banning new cars going onto the road that are driven by carbon based fuels, we’re seeing all this happening and that those are gonna create a series of shocks.
Rohit Talwar (08:42): So the more prepared we are, the better able we are to anticipate what’s coming, respond to it and even shape the agenda.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (08:51): Yep. Yep.
Rohit Talwar (08:52): And then I guess one other big shift, I think that is there is moving from being organizations that use technology to really becoming data and digital centric organizations, and that’s about developing our digital literacy so we can make good choices and make very effective use of the technologies we deliver and maybe even deliver a lot less, I think in the past, we’ve had this emphasis on spending on technology, but a lot of it hasn’t delivered and that wasting a lot. So now we need to get a lot better. And the only way we can do that is improve our digital literacy. So those are some of the big shifts that we were seeing then, but they’ve been accelerated. And those who really brought out in the new book in particular.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (09:37): Yeah. OK. And in terms of the new book Aftershock and Opportunities, have you taken a similar approach? Cause I see, I certainly know that for the previous one, The Future of Business, I mean, you interviewed an extraordinary array of people from around the world. So yes, have you taken the same approach?
Rohit Talwar (09:55): Yeah, we solicited contributions from around the world. So we put out a call for proposals, we received 115.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (10:02): Wow.
Rohit Talwar (10:02): We were for about 40.
Rohit Talwar (10:05): Yeah. And we made the commitment to publish on June 1st. So it kinda, you know, it sort of troubled our workload, but the good thing is we had about 60 really interest and solid chapters that we wanted to publish. So we put about 25 of them in the first book that was published on June the first and then the rest, which might have needed a little bit more work to get them into the right sort of standard of presentation, or some that we just thought would fit better with the second book there are coming out of the end of June. So the end of January,
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (10:40): Right. Okay.
Rohit Talwar (10:40): Wehave authors from, I can’t remember exactly, but it’s about 35 to 40 countries on five different continents this time. And the ideas of fascinating ranging from the future of sectors like insurance, to what the geopolitical landscape might look like through to radical scenarios of what the future of agriculture might be in places like Egypt. And how you move to greater participation of women in the economy and the growth of new types of businesses that are sharing knowledge between practitioners and academics and just fascinating stuff. And I’ve read each chapter probably three or four times now, and I’m never bored by them. The other one I think is really interesting is a couple of different perspectives, on Africa and the Caribbean and how you change the dialogue about what their possibilities are and how you set them on a path to economic and social vibrancy.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (11:44): And actually on that, those exact points. And you sort of referred to them slightly already, but when you were both researching the book, putting it together, going through the other sort of contributors, contributions, et cetera, and the subjects and issues they’re writing about, from the point of view of subject matter. So in terms of sort of sectors, and then in terms of territories in terms of countries, can I ask, were there any there that really stood out to you as being, sort of anomalies as surprising you as just how vibrant and interesting or dynamic they were?
Rohit Talwar (12:25): Yes. So the interesting thing is when you put out a call for chapter or chapters or chapter proposals, you have no idea what’s gonna to come back.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (12:33): Sure.
Rohit Talwar (12:33): We provided guidance in the call for proposals around the range of topics that we were interested in, but they were very broad. And so the way we tend to do it is get the chapters back and then work out what’s the right structure to present that information.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (12:48): Yeah.
Rohit Talwar (12:48): And this time round, I think in this, in particular, the one that’s out in, in January, some of the things that really fascinated us were those regional perspectives. So looking at the future of countries like Greece, looking at the perspective on the Carribean, on Africa and then ideas coming from Egypt, ideas coming from the Middle East. And they really offered a different set of insights than those, which we might have coming from the west where we think about how relatively liberal democracies operate.
Rohit Talwar (13:32): And they start to offer a different perspective on the social challenges, access to technology, the availability of funding and the way political systems work. So they provided a really interesting micro set of insights into these things. And then how you make change happen to enable these positive stories of the future. And so they are fascinating as individual stories, but also when you pull them together, they provide a very inspiring set of views as to how we change the course of the future and how we move from talking about these countries and their issues as big problems to thinking about how you, how you create solutions that actually create jobs, build a more sustainable economy and create social vibrancy.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (14:27): Okay. Rohit really, really fascinating. Just one of the things I’ll be really interested to ask you about is the issue of trends and how they have changed over this year. And what I mean by that is if one looks back to, let’s say, the Autum of, you know, 2019, there’s been quite a lot of coverage in the leading media, when they’re looking at the world of trend forecasting and scenario planning and research, et cetera. Whereby they’ve said, you know what, you know, lots of the trends that were forecasted have, either speeded up massively as a result of what’s been happening this year while others have, you know, have actually been knocked back and others have just sort of like, just emerged as expected. Can I just on that, just in terms of, your previous writings and consulting, et cetera, any trends that have really stood out to you in terms of those that have speeded up as opposed to the ones that have faded away that you’d expected to be bigger?
Rohit Talwar (15:31): Yeah. So there’s a few. So firstly, we were expecting a mild recession this year, just for a number of factors that were out there around debt, around the slowdown in certain markets. And, job losses coming from companies cutting their cost base. Now that’s obviously been accelerated. The second thing that we were talking about a lot was how the shape of industries and the nature of work would be changing this year. As people started to adopt automation and really start to get their teeth into artificial intelligence, that’s actually been accelerated by the pandemic. And we’ve seen developments that would’ve been five years away happening within a few months.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (16:13): Yeah.
Rohit Talwar (16:13): A second one that we were talking about, oh, sorry. A third one we were already talking about was the change in retail. And we were expecting some acceleration of the shift from physical retail to online, but certainly nothing like what we’ve actually seen where we’ve seen the expected growth that was gonna take 10 years or the people were forecasting would take 10 years.
Rohit Talwar (16:38): And that happened in about the first 90 days of the pandemic. So that was something that accelerated. We’d also been talking about, as firms adapted to a recession, we might see that impact there demand for property, but again, nothing like what we’ve seen and a much bigger take up of home working than we were certainly expecting. One of the things that has played out and people, were quite surprised that we were talking about this. We were talking about more and more production coming to the local market. And already that was a trend that was happening. The OECD had identified that from 2013 to 2019 average corporate supply chains had shortened by about 50 kilometers a year. Pandemic just accelerated that where companies couldn’t supply markets, weren’t open to the them because of bands on shipping and air travel.
Rohit Talwar (17:38): So that’s led to a lot of countries saying, well, we need to manufacture locally. And it’s led to a lot of firms saying, actually we need to gradually shift out of manufacturing globally towards a model where we license the IP to people in local markets. We help them build the factories, but we are doing less of the manufacturing ourselves. And we’re getting more and more into building brand engagement and building customer engagement and more of the digital side of things. And that has been accelerated again by the pandemic. I think it would’ve been very hard to predict the scale of job losses that were happening. Certainly, I don’t think anyone was talking about that.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (18:21): Yeah.
Rohit Talwar (18:21): And again, whilst the number of people in the futures field were talking about the needs to scale up the experimentation with universal basic incomes of guaranteed basic incomes, no one was expected what happened, you know, expecting what happened.
Rohit Talwar (18:39): So for example, the US has given a check to every citizen, not a very big one, but it’s still a payout and the UK and it’s peak on the furlough scheme had over 9 million people effectively on a guaranteed basic income. So that’s been fascinating to see, and now that’s opened up the conversation about, what would be the right model going forward as this industry structures change as new ones emerge and all ones decline and new skills are required, how do we fund that transition from you being a bus driver to being a technician in a synthetic biology company or from being a lawyer to whatever role you might play in an autonomous vehicle company. Or from being a retail worker to going to be, a customer advisor in one of these new products coming through. So how do we help you with that transition?
Rohit Talwar (19:39): What’s, you know, how long do we pay guaranteed basic incomes for what kind of education model do we need? All of that’s come through. And another interesting one where again, some of us have been talking about this for a while, was the shared use of public facilities. And that’s really been accelerated as local authority and local government budgets come under pressure. They’re discovering that it makes no sense to have school buildings that are empty. The majority of the time kids are there from 8 till maybe 4:00 pm. So there’s a huge amount of time and weekends when they’re empty and then to have magistrates courts, which are not used very much of the time to have police stations, which are largely administrative sensors now to have doctor surgeries. And can we pull all these things into one building where we are making use of it 24 7 and the impact on public funding of the pandemic has led to people looking for much more radical solutions around this kind of thing.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (20:40): Very interesting. Very interesting, indeed. And then what about just to, perhaps to just go, back quite in fact, a very long way. So it’s always fascinating to find out, how people like yourselves got to where you are now. So go on, perhaps just give us a, again, a sort of a potted history of your background, and how that career path led to where you are today.
Rohit Talwar (21:07): I think I’ve probably romanticized this over time, but if I
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (21:11): Feel free,
Rohit Talwar (21:12): I think if I look back then, I was a kinda child of the sixties and, and I was fascinated by the moon landings. They were just, you know, like mind blowing for me and then programs like tomorrow as world that showed us also lots of cool stuff that might be coming. And I just got very interested in the future and what it might hold. And I came from a family which didn’t have very much money. We didn’t get a lot of new stuff very often, but if we got a new TV or you know, a new music center as they were called at the time, this was a real cause for celebration. And I was just really interested in the new and the different. And then I went into electronics, computer science university, went into artificial research, intelligence research. And that was in the early eighties. And I’ve always just been fascinated. Then I moved into management consulting, and I was constantly asking questions about why people were doing what they were doing and was their view of the future that led to it.
Rohit Talwar (22:11): And I realized that some people just assumed that the future would be like the past, some were making predictions. And then there was this tiny group doing this stuff called foresight and scenario planning, shell being the most widely sighted example.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (22:26): Yeah.
Rohit Talwar (22:26): I got hooked on that and I discovered that I could learn about it. I could speak about it to audiences and build a career out of it. And so that’s really sort of occupied me for the last 20 years or so. And I’ve loved being in this space. I’ve loved the people I’ve met and the organizations I’ve met. Seeing the kind of change that’s going on in the world. And the kind of conversations you get invited into as a futurist, which you might not in any other role because people are interested in your perspective and want to tell you what they’re doing. And, you’re given a license to thrill, I think as a futurist, which some other professions are.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (23:11): Yeah. Yeah. And in terms of that, by the way, the license to thrill, when you look back over, so you’ve been doing this for a number of years, I know is an incredibly sort of successful level, any, are there any sort of particular projects or tasks that really stand out to you, that you can talk about that aren’t confidential, that you think, wow, that was you know, or they were really, really standout case histories.
Rohit Talwar (23:39): Wow. So much. So I think the ones we really had a lot of fun doing at the time were a project around what were the ideas that could shape the future of Europe for the European Union. And that was fascinating. Cause it was drawing on ideas from citizens around the world, contributing to the project. We did one more recently around the future of the air transport sector. And it was really about the future of the world and what might shape the next 30 years. And that was fascinating ’cause it ranged from economic models through to challenges around environment and sustainability. And again, we were giving very free reign by the client to go deep and then pull out for them what the implications were for them as a player in the air transport industry. And then we had a really fun project that was published at the start of this year, which was taking a set of technologies.
Rohit Talwar (24:46): I’m really pulling them together to say, well, how might they change our world? And again, we had free choices to which areas we chose, but we looked at how these might all come together and over the next five years, how might they impact food? And the way we eat, how might they impact the way we spend our spare, how we date, how we stay connected to our families, how we communicate work entertainment. So, I mean, one of my favorite one ideas that we put out there was that imagine you are at a festival when normally if you go to a festival or a big public, concert, or even a football match, it’s a real pain trying to get out of the crowd to get the food you want and get it back to where you are standing and it’s gone cold by the time you get there or you miss the activity.
Rohit Talwar (25:36): If you choose to eat it before you come back to your seat. So we talked about the idea that with drone technology, now you can order from your app and using drone technology in 5g location. We can find you wherever you are in the crowd and literally deliver to you in your place, in the crowd. So you never have to move unless you need to go to the bathroom. So we kinda going into people’s lives and how they might change and how the technology could enable some of this. And it was so well received and we had so many interesting conversations with people and 10 months on people are still asking us to make presentations about that work.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (26:16): Yeah. Fantastic. And so in terms of things that inspire you, what’s going on there because I mean, obviously you are spending your entire time or a huge amount of time inspiring others. So yeah. So where do you go for your own personal, dose of inspiration?
Rohit Talwar (26:36): So the two areas that are inspiring me in terms of, if you like activity, one is the people working on these really grand planet scale initiatives. So the things about how do we truly tackle climate change? Where there are these big geoengineering projects to say? Can we put mirrors into space to reflect the sun rays? Or can we, we increase the reflectivity of the oceans? Can we increase the reflectivity of grass and trees? Can we increase the way that clouds reflect the sun or the way we absorb and carbon into the earth, into the oceans, into plants?
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (27:22): Yep.
Rohit Talwar (27:22): Incredible stuff going on, but really that’s on a very grand scale. We’ll take billions of dollars to deliver those solutions, but we’ll have a dramatic impact. And the other is at the other end of the spectrum, the sort of MicroVentures and the social ventures that are demonstrating, how we can create a more sustainable, more circular economy that creates jobs that does no harm. So, one I love to talk about, is a company called Elvis and Cresa, and basically started by two venture catalysts. They watched what was going on on rubbish tips for about three weeks. They discovered that the UK fire service was throwing away about 70 tons of unrepairable fire hose every year and paying about 410 pounds per ton to dispose of it. They discovered that those hoses were made of the same material as very highend handbags. And so they’ve got a deal through to 2035 to take those hoses for free, turn them into the handbags and then give 50% of their profits back to the service charity.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (28:27): Wow.
Rohit Talwar (28:27): And it’s incredible. Whenever I talk about it, I have people telling me they bought handbags or whatever from there, but the number of people who’ve tried to invest in them because they’ve got so excited by the idea. And now big brands like Burberry approaching them and saying, well, look, we’ve got all these leather up cuts and all sorts of brands. And can you help us do more in the circular economy by taking our waste and turning it into something? So those are really inspiring because those social ventures, those ventures that are coming through that are really trying to make a big impact on sustainability are really encouraging because they can be scaled up. They can be rolled out globally and they offer us a path to that transition to net zero, you know, net zero, net zero waste and net zero energy usage. And without that, we are not going to achieve our targets on CO2 reduction. And I think as humans, we really geared up for what happens if we don’t.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (29:27): Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. And then what about reading? I know you obviously, you’d write a lot to yourself and you’re editing obviously a lot, but in terms of, books from elsewhere, anything that you’d be recommending to the listeners?
Rohit Talwar (29:41): Well, to be honest, I don’t read many futures books anymore. I tend to read the summaries of them because, a lot of the content we’re aware of and the ideas. Every now and then I’ll read one that really has a kind of radical idea and in it. And I, but what I’d read a lot of people’s blogs, the newsletters coming out of interesting science institutes out of interesting aggregators of information, a lot of stuff that’s posted on LinkedIn. I watch a lot of videos from organizations like Futurism Jeddah, The World Economic Forum, Interesting Engineering that are sharing these ideas about the future, these ideas about innovation, these ideas about how you can deliver high impact social change. So I’m consuming that all the time. And then with our books, we have this constant flow of insight coming from our authors and new ideas.
Rohit Talwar (30:39): So it helped me stay very fresh and, you know, I do spend several hours a day just reading stuff, coming through, reading articles and diving down the rabbit hole to sort of follow through. So right now, doing a lot of reading around just the vaccines and the treatments for coronavirus, how they work, how they’ve been developed. So fascinated by how AI has been used to accelerate the development time scales from eight to 12 years for a vaccine to eight months, by allowing them to test millions and millions of compounds and putting them into simulations to see how they might impact different types of people and to view of pick out then the compounds with the highest probability of success and the lowest risk of side effects. And that’s just been incredible. And so to see just how far and how fast some of this is moving is mind blowing.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (31:37): Yeah. Yeah. And can I ask, and in terms of that specific point you’re making there about AI, I mean, one of your previous books I think has probably one of the greatest titles of all time Beyond Genuine Stupidity. So, just take us through that because the books sound fantastic.
Rohit Talwar (31:54): So at the time I wrote that a couple years ago, we found that despite the headline being artificial intelligence, it was being counted by a lot of genuine stupidity, which was either the overblow claims being made about what it would do in the short term or the kind of denial of its possible impacts and the reluctance of people to really even start to understand it and experiment with it. So it was a play on, you know, artificial intelligence and it’s genuine stupidity.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (32:25): Yeah.
Rohit Talwar (32:25): And we looked at all sorts of things from how the technology was evolving to what are the different stages of its potential development. Its applications in a range of sectors and aspects of human activity, and then how we deal with some of the consequences. So the economic and social consequences, and really laying out a kind of agenda for how we deal dealt with the sort of disruption that might be brought about by these things. Again, looking at things like revamping the training system to create lifelong and life wide learning, bringing in temporary sort of guaranteed income schemes to help people join the transition, changing the nature of jobs in the workplace, changing the way we think about corporate responsibility around jobs. So a whole range of things designed really to frame that debate about what happens next.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (33:23): Okay. And then let ask you something else. I was looking at, doing some research about you and looking obviously your side and I find it very interesting, the, not so much even like, sort of, from the point of view, point of view, this question, not so much about what, what you do, but why you do it. And so the information you talk about when you talk about your ethos and the point of view, core values around humanity and creativity and experimentation, transparency and collaboration, perhaps let’s talk about that because I think your approach to business is very, very interesting and very inspiring.
Rohit Talwar (34:00): Yeah. And I think again, I might romanticize this a little bit, but, if I look back over the journey, I think first of all just like a kid in a sweet shop. I was just so excited by all these tools and techniques you could explore, use to explore the future, the ideas, the kind of game changing posibilities on the agenda. And then, went from the sort of excitement about exploration to putting more structure around it, to say, well, okay, how do we turn these into things that we can do for clients that add value to them and make money for us? So a more commercial focus on how do you package our excitement into something that adds value. And then in the last 10 years, I think I’ve become more and more aware, partly as a father, partly as a citizen, and partly as a concerned observer, the importance of using that insight to help make positive change.
Rohit Talwar (35:02): So how do we make sure that technology doesn’t replace humans, but it’s harness to serve them? How do we make sure that we really are managing the planet as a valuable resource that sustains us rather than something simply to be exploited? How do we create governance systems and civil society infrastructure that really gives people a voice that allows all voices to be heard and allows us to experiment with different forms of democracy so that you’re not just voting once every four or five years, but you’re having more of a say on a continuous basis. So I can see all these challenges and then underlying them, the things covered by the sustainable development goals of eradicating poverty, universal access to education, eliminating discrimination, full access to a opportunity for women and minorities and people with disabilities. And really there’s a whole range of things where it just feels like we can make a massive difference.
Rohit Talwar (36:07): And so now my focus is much more around that kind of stuff. I still do things that are commercial, but increasingly in, in everything I talk about, I’m bringing more and more of those things to the table and trying to get more and more engagement around those issues. And what we’re finding now is clients are actually asking for more and more of that. And, so it’s just, it’s been an evolution for me. And right now, I think, yes, we have some grand challenges, not least around what’s the future of democracy. If we look at what’s going on in the US.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (36:49): Sure.
Rohit Talwar (36:49): The number of countries that are following it, what does the next version of democracy look like? How do we navigate at that? When you have a situation in the US where huge number of people voted for Trump, and there’s a huge number of people who are his supporters, who simply refuse to accept that by all the assurances, somehow the democratic process didn’t work because it didn’t return their candidate. And that creates challenges. It creates challenges for how you govern a country that’s so deeply divided? How you deal with some of your biggest, most intractable social issues when the Senate isn’t from the same party as the future president and is almost saying no to anything. And how do you get an agenda and how do you make real change when you have a country that’s so deeply divided and that’s reflected in the arms of government?
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (37:50): Yeah, yeah, absolutely extraordinary. And I said also mean there. I know you mentioned earlier on about, in terms of areas of inspiration for you and those you link up with like obviously, the World Economic Forum in and from one of the great sort of, terms of the year, the great reset that obviously is also the title of the 2021 World Economic Forum. I know, that when Klaus Schwab and Thierry Malleret, put out their book about this, just a couple of months ago, and I think you refer to this at The Recovery Summit, you know, they talked about, you know, COVID 19 has torn up the script about, you know, how we govern countries live with others and take part in the global economy. Just phenomenal stuff. So just tell me in terms of what’s coming up for you. I know you mentioned earlier on that, that the next book will be coming out at the end of January, from the point of view of Aftershock and Opportunities. So is that taking up, are you absolutely flat out on that now? I mean, imagine you are, is it’s, you know, on you short time away, or is it anything else you’re up to, in addition to that?
Rohit Talwar (38:56): Well, we’re in that sort of pregnant stage on a book where it’s going through the copy editing and the type setting and all those things. So there’s not much we can do while that’s all happening. And then we get into the marketing. So that becomes, much more active. We have another book coming out, probably on the 1st of March More Future Day, which is again, a multi contributor book looking at scenarios for the next 50 years. So hopefully by that time, we’ll start to have seen vaccines rolling out and just a higher level of optimism on the planet and, that, so that’s a good time to bring out something that’s really offering ideas on the bigger picture future. Obviously, I chunk of my time is taken up, doing presentations to clients, helping them think about what’s next. How do you, Futureproof your workforce?
Rohit Talwar (39:50): How do you navigate the kind of uncertainty and turbulence that’s like likely to come in the coming years? How do you transition from current markets, the new ones, how do you deal with the impact of disruption? So there’s a range of those coming up and some really interesting ones, plus a whole bunch that were canceled and postponed from this year. And this is that they’ll try and reinstate them all in the first half of next year. So we’re fully expecting the agenda to be very busy. There’s a number of research projects for different clients that were secured, but it went on hold and others where the proposals were put in by partners, where we are included and where the decisions have been delayed, but we’re expecting those decisions to be made either the end of this year or next year. So for quite the agenda, we very crowded next year. We also, have our own webinar series that’s starting in January, where we are looking at the future of different things like exponential technologies, healthcare, transport, and we’ve done them in the past and they’ve been really well attended. So putting together promoting those will also be a big chunk of our time. So it’s likely to be a very busy next six months, I think, but I’d rather that than, be sat at home watching reruns of Jerry Springer.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (41:14): We are. Okay. Well, look, as you begin to finish off and it’s been absolutely fascinating talking with you, so thanks very much. I mean, it’s, yeah, it’ll be possible to sort of, perhaps summarize everything we’ve spoken about because you’ve just crossed so many interesting areas and sectors and all the rest of it, but in terms of at least, coming up with some key takeaway points or insights for the listeners, yeah. What do you, sort of, add now as a, sort of as a leave behind for the global Speakers Associates audience?
Rohit Talwar (41:44): So I think the first thing is to be prepared for a range of possible scenarios. So even though there’s great excitement about the vaccine, we need to think about a few different ones. So one is one where if you like, we don’t really eradicate the pandemic for three or four years because we don’t get the vaccine rolled out across the planet until then. And we have a prolonged economic downturn where we’re in and out of recession for three or four years. The second scenario would be kind of the one we’re in now where we end up with localized lockdowns and maybe, and not getting the pandemic fully eradicated until the end of 2022, early 2023 and countries coming in and outta recession as they have partial lockdowns or localized restrictions. Some countries doing really well out of it. We’ve already seen China basically bounced back, but others really struggling.
Rohit Talwar (42:41): And then the third scenario is the most optimistic one where we would hope that by the, the end of 2022, we have literally vaccinated everyone who wants it on the planet, the economy has bounced back. There’s the, and that’s been driven a real investment in green, new technologies and investment in retraining people for the industries of the future and a real encouragement of business to invest. So it’s a capacity driven investment that lays the foundations for the future. The simplest, you know, scenarios. Secondly, I think with all the shifts that I talked to that earlier, I think for businesses, there’s that need for a real focus on how the business of business itself might change how the purpose of business will be questioned, how it’s social responsibility will be emphasized, how we need to think about what we’re trying to do in the markets we’re in what our strategies and business models are and how, what kind of organizational model we need as technology does more and more of the work.
Rohit Talwar (43:44): And then finally, and perhaps most importantly for the individual, it’s really about how do we take personal responsibility for our own learning and growth? How do we make sure that we are learning about how the world is changing, acquiring new skills, encouraging those around us, to do the same, and really broadening our horizons and opening our ideas to the kind of change happening in the world and, and making sure that the door to the future for us is very firmly open and that we are looking through it to, to how we navigate what comes next.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (44:20): Okay. Well, deeply inspiring. Okay. That it sort of last question and I’m sure there’s absolutely no one out there that, isn’t overly aware of you, Rohit, but just in case, someone is so, just to be utterly clear about where the listeners can track you down via both obviously your site and social media, et cetera.
Rohit Talwar (44:39): Yeah. So, the website is fastfuture.com. My email is email@example.com. And then if you just type in my name, you’ll find me on Facebook, on LinkedIn and Twitter. There is another Rohit Talwar on Twitter in particular. But you’ll see from the post that we talk about very different things. I think he talks a lot about entertainment and it Bollywood stars and stuff, and I really have no insights there to offer. So you’ll see my stuff future his stuff’s more about Bollywood. And yeah. So, but yeah, that I’m quite present on those things and pretty easy to find.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (45:25): Fantastic. And then Rohit also, we mustn’t finish without you telling us about the fantastic anecdote that involves you being on the sort of Interpol most wanted list.
Rohit Talwar (45:37): So, very short version of the story, had our passport stolen in Barcelona. I think in 2005, my passport ended up in the hands of a Brazilian drug dealer known as The Penguin. I think it was 2008. His house was raided. He got away, but they discovered piles of money, piles of cocaine and some documents. One of which was my passport with his photographing in both of our absence, I guess I was sentenced to prison in Brazil. I, and, but I didn’t know about this. I only found out about it when they eventually put it on the Interpol system at the beginning of 2015, I think it was. And, I didn’t really find out about it till I got to Dubai, was detained in the airport, discovered I’d been arrested, transferred to a police station where I then spent the night. Spoke to Interpol who eventually let me go because they realized it wasn’t me, but that was again after detaining me for another night.
Rohit Talwar (46:46): But in my hotel this time, and then spent several months trying to clear my name eventually.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (46:52): Wow.
Rohit Talwar (46:52): The Brazilian, my local MP really took it on for me, which was great. I hadn’t realized that that was a role she could play. And, eventually the federal attache for the police, the Brazilian police in London took on the case, argued it out with the judge in Brazil, proved to her that I was somewhere else when he was being raided, somewhere else in the world and showed her all this information about me, copies of all my passports since the very first one that I’d retained.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (47:23): Yeah. Yeah.
Rohit Talwar (47:23): She got me off. But it was a pretty harrowing period of time and it cost me a huge amount of money in terms of lost gigs and, yeah, lost conferences as well.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (47:36): Oh, why? Well, as stories goes, that one is, right up there, but, crapes, but I mean, well, what can one say after an absolutely, fascinating and, very entertaining chat, all I can say is to the, global futurist and founder of Fast Future Research Rohit Talwar, who advises international businesses and governments around the world on how to thrive into the future. Thank you very much, indeed.
Rohit Talwar (48:04): My pleasure. Thank you.
Sean Pillot de Chenecey (48:17): Thank you for listening to The Speakers 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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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.