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Futurist Keynote, Reading: Adapt or Die, Cherwell


The pace of change, and disruption, is accelerating. In this presentation I show just how fast, and how crazy, the world’s business environment is getting, it’s impact on every sector, and what you can do to future proof yourself.


Firstly, I’d like to thank Sarah and Ian for inviting me to be the keynote for this year’s Cherwell European Conference alongside none other than Sir Ranulph Finnes, the world’s “greatest living explorer.”


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Appropriately the title of this year’s event was “Adapt or Die,” something that both Sir Ranulph and I are both, arguably, overly familiar with, but from very different perspectives. While the closest to I’ve been to living in Sir Ranulph’s world is rowing across the Atlantic, 3,500 miles from Gomera to Antigua, both he and I have a common appreciation of just what it takes to successfully navigate and survive dangerous environments – whether it’s the raging forties of the Atlantic, scaling the heights of Everest or navigating and surviving tomorrow’s increasingly complex and dynamic business world.


Watch the keynote, and what the future holds for your industry

At the start of my keynote I highlighted that in today’s world organisations that fail to adapt won’t just suddenly die, they’ll more likely slowly fade away and then die in relative obscurity, then I used my friend and I’s Atlantic rowing challenge back in 2009 as an analogy to highlight that adapting to a challenging environment isn’t just a matter of following dumb logic, or an idly constructed generic strategy, it has to be done with a full appreciation and deep understanding of the environment you’re heading into, and furthermore it has to be done with intelligence.

To illustrate the point I used a number of examples. For example, if you take the challenge and the dangers of our Trans-Atlantic voyage at face value, where our goal, put flatly, was to travel between Point A to Point B as quickly and as safely as possible, then logically our vehicle of choice should have been a tank, after all they’re pretty darn indestructible, and as for food, well, if you’re like us and like fresh organic chicken then you’re going to be hard pressed to one up free range chickens as an idea.


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However, while on the face of it both of these ideas seem perfectly plausible when those individual objectives are measured against our challenge, and the environment we were going to find ourselves in all of a sudden they don’t just look misguided, they look downright ridiculous. Tanks sink, so you need a boat, and free range chickens need space – something that’s in very short supply on an Atlantic rowing boat.

The point of all this is, of course, is that whether it’s exploration, or business, you need to have a firm understanding of the environment and conditions you’re going to face, and you need the right tools, and the right mindset, for the job.

In the business world, where the pace of change is accelerating, and where the environment is becoming increasingly alien and complex to navigate and understand having the right tools and the right mindset has never been more important, and that was the focus of my keynote.

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