This is the next blog in the continuing series of interviews with top-echelon and renowned professionals. In this blog, I interview Rohit Talwar: Award-winning Global Top 10 Futurist, Strategic Thinker, Entrepreneur — Rohit shares his extensive insights into future trends and how to leverage them
Rohit Talwar is an award winning futurist speaker, entrepreneur, specialist advisor and strategic change agent and the founder of the research and consultancy organization Fast Future. He was profiled as one of the top ten global future thinkers by the UK’s Independent newspaper. He spends his time traveling the world, researching the ideas that will shape the future and meeting the people and organizations behind them. Rohit has spoken to audiences of leaders around the world. His book Designing Your Future was published in August 2008 (http://tinyurl.com/5trt4x). His next book FutureTweet 2012 will be published in the spring of 2010. His study for the UK government on future directions in science and technology and the implications for ‘The shape of jobs‘ to come was published in January 2010.
He is currently in high demand for his inspirational speeches on Global Trends, Innovation, Winning in a Downturn and Future Focused Leadership. He has consulted with leading corporations, associations and government agencies globally on scenario planning, development of future strategy, and driving innovation and change.
He also has a particular interest in the evolution of China, India, their emerging economies and the future of associations, travel, tourism, meetings and events. Rohit partnered with ASAE & The Center on the Association of the Future research program – the first output of which was the book Designing Your Future. He has also led a major study on the Future of Travel and Tourism in the Middle East and on the mega-real estate developments across the region. Rohit has also completed major global studies on the Future of China’s Economy – The Path to 2020 – and is working on scenarios for 2030 and the implications for global migration.
Rohit has spoken and consulted on 6 continents and in over 40 countries including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mauritius, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Panama, The Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, UK, USA and Zimbabwe.
In government he has worked with the US Department of Defense, the Singapore National Horizon Scanning Centre, the Saudi Government, The Finnish Foresight Programme and in the UK – the Civil Contingencies Secretariat, Defense Science and Technology Laboratories (DSTL), Home Office, Environment Agency, Foreign Office, Health Modernisation Agency, Ministry of Defense and Office of Science and Technology and the Departments for Constitutional Affairs, Trade and Industry and Environment Food and Rural Affairs.
His clients include 3M, ABN Amro, Aerovista, Alliance and Leicester, The BBC, BT, British Aerospace, Bayer, Berwin Leighton Paisner, Chloride, Citibank, DeutscheBank, Diamond Trading Corporation (De Beers), DHL, EADS, Electrolux, Ernst & Young, GE, HBOS, Hyundai, IBM, ING, Intel, Intercontinental Hotels, KPMG, Linklaters, Marks and Spencer, Morgan Stanley, Nakheel, Nokia, Nomura, Novartis, Ocean Spray, Orange, Panasonic, Pepsi, Pfizer, Playtex, PwC, Qatar Airways, Royal Bank of Scotland, Samsung, Saudi Supreme Commission for Tourism, Shell, Siemens, Siraj Capital, Thames Water, Travelport, Wragge and Co. and Yellow Pages and governments in the US, UK, Finland, Dubai, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Singapore.
Rohit’s association and events industry clients include: Academy for Chief Executives, ASAE & The Center, Arabian Travel Market, Association Management Company Institute, British Business Group Dubai, California Workforce Association, CEO Club, Chief Executives Network, Confex, Corporate Responsibility Group, EIBTM, Entrepreneur’s Organization, The European Food Service Network, Green Meetings Industry Council, ICCA, IMEX, Institute of Chartered Accountants Scotland, Institute of Directors, International Bridge Tunnel and Turnpike Association, International Special Events Society, Meeting Planners International, The Middle East Duty Free Association, National Association of Broadcasters, Pacific Asia Travel Association, PCMA, Securities and Investment Institute, Travel Agents Association of India, and the World Student and Youth Travel Confederation.
Rohit has previously worked in research and consulting roles for GKN, BT, Andersen Consulting and BMS Bossard.
MBA – London Business School – 1992
BA (Hons) 2:1 Electronics and Computer Science – University of Keele 1984
For more background on Rohit’s Key Projects: rohit_talwar_projects.html
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
You have an unusual job title – can you tell us a little about how you came to be a futurist and what your role involves?
“….I’ve always been very interested in economic developments and how economic power is shifting around the world and how the balance between developed and developing economies changes….I realized that there was an opportunity to help people think about what forces, in fact, were shaping the future and I discovered this whole field called futures research, foresight and the profession of being a futurist….”
Can you share some of the most important issues and challenges you’ve addressed over your lifetime and the essential lessons you wish to pass on from these experiences?
“….One is around childhood….The goal is to have a really positive conversation about the future we want to create for children and young people….The second one we are working on is in Nigeria, in the Niger Delta, one of the hardest hit areas in Bayelsa State. The state governor there says, “If you look out of my window it is completely acceptable to say that there is no future for these people. 70% of my people are unemployed, most earn less than a dollar a day, and if the past is anything to go by, they have no future prospects.” His view is – why don’t we give ourselves permission to believe that some other future might be possible for them….So we’ve been working with them on it….”
You talk about 10 global patterns of change that are shaping the future – can you tell us about them – what are the implications and what should we do to leverage your predictions?
“….The first is the demographic shift (the most important shift of all)….The second is the economic shift….The third pattern of change is a new level of geo-political complexity – a big shift where power sits on the planet and in how we deal with issues….The fourth area is that organizations themselves are going into a whole new era of how they design themselves. We are increasingly in a global world where we are just starting to learn how we truly manage on a global basis….Another set of challenges is understanding how our consumers and how our society has changed….The next area is the rate of evolution of science and technology….Another pattern of change is this whole expansion of communications technology….The next area is what needs to happen with talent, education and training in our world….Another area is the generational impact in an aging society….The next patterns of change are that attitudes are changing all over the world….The final big patterns of change are around natural resource challenges….”
What other key trends and emerging issues should we focus on for the next few years?
“…One is that there is a big power shift going on….The emerging economies have much more say….The second is that there has been a big shift in the way critical resources are being competed for….The third big trend is that there has been a big outflow of investments from developed economies to developing economies particularly during the downturn….A fourth critical trend is the embracing of social media….Another trend is on the political front and the social front; as I travel around the globe one of the things I see is a very uneven distribution of hope….The final trend is the notion of hyper-competition where in every sector we are seeing a downward pressure on pricing….”
Rohit comments on the youth demographics worldwide.
You have recently completed a study looking at science and technology developments over the next 20 years and the new jobs that could emerge as a result – can you tell us about the most interesting developments and jobs coming out of your research?
“….The nano-bio-info convergence….Developments that are coming in agriculture. We know that food demand is growing at twice the rate of production so we are going to need some very radical techniques for how we grow food and how we farm….An example is the notion of vertical farming….”
What are your top predictions for European Union (EU), North America (NA), Asia (particularly China)?
“….The challenges for China going forward….infrastructure….the environmental footprint….How it moves it forward with all fronts together is a very difficult one. I think what it’s showing is that it is entering a new era and none of us really knows what the rules of the game are and China is one of the leaders in creating those rules….A lot of countries in the EU see a big value in the EU in terms of creating foreign policy, in terms of saving them money at the national level….The real challenges now to the EU are what are the right models going forward….In the US there are some encouraging noises coming about the reform of the banking system because we’ve all understood that it’s very hard to grow a full economy without confidence….We must not forget that it is still the biggest economy in the world and everyone is hugely dependent on the US in many ways….”
Can your share your insights about the Future of China’s Economy – The Path to 2020?
“….We did this study a couple of years ago where we asked people around the globe to give us their views about China’s economy and their own plans for China. What was very clear from everyone who we surveyed (the vast majority) was that they were very clear that they were expecting China to be the world’s biggest economy by 2030. Some of the most interesting things that came out were differences between the aspirations of businesses and the expectations of people coming from Asia versus Europe….We also saw some interesting things in terms of people expecting China to exert significantly more influence in key areas such as setting of product standards, expecting to see more Chinese leaders in global business that weren’t run by Chinese businesses – but also to see more takeover businesses in other economies by Chinese corporations and bringing in a very different style of Chinese management…..”
Looking at the top companies for market capitalization there are several Chinese companies in the top ten which were not there ten years ago and three of the top four banks are based out of China. What are the implications of all this?
“….I think it is a real challenge for us. We really don’t understand China at all. Most of the analyses I’ve seen about China and Chinese policy starts with the position of either being very pro-China or anti-China or treating China as though it were another country in Europe or a city in the US, and not really understanding that there is a very different culture there, a very different political motivation, a very different history….”
What projects do you have in terms of that whole region?
“….We try to take projects that are cross regions, going by industry. What we are doing at the moment is looking at the whole future of the convention industry which cuts across every country on the globe. We are looking at the issues of how these industries grow….That is the kind of work that we tend to do – advisory work for other people looking to get into China, where we use our knowledge on the ground and people we know on the ground to give us the inside insights; to advise others who are trying to break into the Chinese market or to operate there….”
What are the key findings of the research you did for the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on scenarios for 2030 and the implications for global migration?
“….The study was looking at about fifty different countries that are heavy producers of migrants to OECD countries. We looked at a number of different scenarios on how the global economy could play out over time….The challenge now is in domestic economies where there is a strong need for migrants; how do you deal with the policy issues how do you deal with the social integration issues. Most of the research over the years has demonstrated that migration also drives innovation (brings new ideas and skills)….”
What top lessons and tips can your share from the projects you have worked on?
“….Change your assumptions….Think the unthinkable….Have the conversations about the big undiscussibles….Industry timelines for the future….Be explicit about assumptions, and think about a range of possible futures….”
If you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask, and then what would be your answers?
“….’How should we be educating our children to prepare them for the future?’….’How can we avoid a future economic meltdown of the scale we have just witnessed or worse?’….’How can we deal with big global governance challenges in the age of the internet?’….’Given the failure of the COP-15 climate change summit – what should we do next?’….’We have lived with an assumption that economic growth is essential – can this continue?’….”
Rohit shares his views on the IFIP IP3 program on professionalizing the IT profession. [http://www.IPThree.org].