Bob Treadway‘s work as a futurist, speaker, consultant, and strategy advisor began when clients asked him to develop forecasts to present in advance of his strategic planning consultation and facilitation. Those clients in a wide cross-section of industries listened to his counsel that they could not just “invent the future”; they needed to anticipate, prepare, strategize and act on the factors that they could not control.
26 years later, his work continues. But it has broadened and deepened into a futurist practice that extends to multiple countries, several continents, dozens of industries, and several hundred client organizations.
Clients like Berkshire Hathaway, Motorola, the Federal Reserve, Gillette, ExxonMobil, American Express, Syngenta, the National Corn Growers Association, US Gypsum, and the National League of Cities retain Bob to help them develop long-range thinking, forecast the environments of tomorrow, form robust strategy, and take action on what’s ahead.
His broad perspective comes through working with hundreds of clients in a broad range of industries and fields including telecommunications, technology, manufacturing, agriculture, healthcare, energy, financial services, distribution, retail, economic development, executive education, professional services, and government in North and South America and Europe.
Bob possesses a unique ability to integrate forecasts for effective strategy development. Most of his practice is executive sessions with directors and top management in think tank, brainstorming, future visioning, decision-making, and strategic planning projects.
He’s called on to make forecasting presentations for a wide range of organizations and industries but participants often comment on the take-away, hands-on instruction that allows them to become better forecasters on their own. As one executive put it recently, “Your workshop, in just one short hour, helped the audience with HOW to think about their own businesses in the future.”
He has been a guest lecturer and faculty for executive education sessions at the University of California Berkeley, Loyola, Illinois State, Oregon State and Kansas State Universities. His 16-year tenure on the faculty of the Institute for Management Studies educated thousands of Fortune 500 managers. He is a member of the Association of Professional Futurists, a charter member of the Society for the Advancement of Consulting, and was awarded the National Speakers Association’s highest earned designation as a Certified Speaking Professional.
Before moving into the fields of futuring, forecasting, speaking and consulting, Bob was an executive and principal in the broadcasting industry. His background includes career segments as an engineer, college professor, software marketing executive, business broker, and advertising agency principal. He was educated in Europe and the U.S. in engineering, liberal arts, broadcasting, future studies, and communications.
To listen to the interview, click on this MP3 file link
Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic
In your keynote at the 2012 ISACA World Congress, your economic insights generated much interest. What are the key trends that will impact technology professionals?
“….Some of the more developed areas of the world are slipping back into a recession when we look at the European Union and here in North America, but on the other hand, other areas of the world including Asia are still doing quite well….Obviously the economy’s impact on the corporate and government sectors are going to impact technical professionals and executives, but there’s both a negative and positive aspect to the impacts….”
What kind of impact do you see this having on the political climate, for example in the US where you have an election coming up?
“….The US situation is complex….It’s one of those things that’s unpredictable to a large extent and that’s why you have to abide by this theory of forecasting, which is to look at a broad range of possibilities, to look at the salient probabilities and prepare for it….”
You discussed some of the key trends, what are other notable trends that we should be aware of?
“….We’ve come to a new, very disturbing level of threats to business continuity, essential infrastructure, the intelligence and wisdom that’s embedded in the enterprise — that’s definitely a trend….We’re seeing a true divisiveness of governance in the United States and I think we are also seeing it in the deeply stressed areas of Europe….Another trend is who are going to be the next 3 billion internet users? Internet use is going to double in the next decade and a lot of that is going to come from places where we’ve not seen participation before….Another technology trend is the penetration of artificial intelligence into the everyday use by consumers….One last trend in this area I would say is innovation….”
From your perspective, what were the five key takeaways from the World Congress?
“….One, the user is in control….Second, the cloud has risks and rewards and it’s with us to stay….Third, the technology professional is really a business professional with deep expertise….Fourth is the big breach is just a matter of time….Fifth, governance really recognizes the importance of information security….”
Why did you enjoy the innovation workshop and what did you learn?
“….I thought the session (in an hour) was a perfect model of how to get across great information. I love hands-on sessions….”
I found your discussion about the Economic Cycle Research Institute (ECRI) intriguing. What are the five top information resources you recommend and why?
“….I’m a big believer that the best way to look at forecasts is to look at those that are a number of different viewpoints brought together or a number of different factors brought together and essentially averaged or homogenized. I think that’s the most accurate way to come to some kind of conclusion. They (ECRI), over the last 50 years, have been the most accurate at forecasting business cycles — the downturn or upturn of the economy. They’re one of many information sources that I use….”
What are the top key disruptive forces and why?
“….Natural disasters….Bad actors, they can be individuals, nations, governments, they can be loose affiliations but bad actors….Human behavior….Unenlightened regulation….The lack of a forgetting curve within an organization, within an enterprise….”
What do you see as the top opportunities and why?
“….Global prosperity…. Sustainability…. Innovation….Efficiency…..”
What are the major areas of controversy (it doesn’t have to be technology) and why?
“….Is technology good, is it bad, is it neutral?….Should an enterprise be responsible for the well-being of its employees and customers?….Another area of controversy is a governments ability to limit citizen’s access to information and knowledge….How should an organization whether it’s a for-profit corporation or a not-for-profit, a co-operative, a government agency, deal with alternative viewpoints or opposition?….”
What are your goals for 2012 and in the next two years in your work with TrendTalk?
“….I’m going to work at this same sort of pace for at least another 2 years and then I’m going to try to travel a bit less and create a little more time for myself in areas beyond business….I don’t think that I’ll ever really retire….”
Are there any lessons that you want to share from your very long history of success that will resonate with our audience?
“….No matter what stage in your career you are, whether you are at entry-level or whether you’ve been at it for a long period of time, I highly recommend finding something you love to do and get better at it….Another point is that denial is not strategy….I’d also say a general recommendation to executives is to stay flexible and forward looking….”
What are your thoughts on computing as a recognized profession with demonstrated professional development, adherence to a code of ethics, and recognized non-licensing based credentials?
[See www.ipthree.org and the Global Industry Council, http://www.ipthree.org/about-ip3/global-advisory-council]
“….In any field of endeavor I think that the potential for developing a discipline, ethics and credentialing, some sort of recognized set of standards is a worthy goal, but I think that it’s extremely difficult. Computing is a very broad term and to take that and arm it with a set of credentials is going to be difficult. I think that with the continuing integration what I think will continue happening with computing is that it almost disappears into the organization….”
Bob, from your extensive speaking, travels, and work, please share some stories (amusing, surprising, unexpected, amazing).
“….Those are the kinds of stories I would tell you that I think are examples of why foresight is so important….”
Bob, if you were conducting this interview, what questions would you ask and then what would be your answers?
“….What are the most common questions that you get asked by audiences as a futurist?….[The questions I get asked most often are: What should I buy in the stock market?….What should my child study in college?….What about the haves and have not of the world?….What is the single best practice which would set me apart from my colleagues if I were an information technology executive?]….”
Music by Sunny Smith Productions and Shaun O’Leary