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40 Futurists: Your Child’s Success in Tomorrow’s World of Work (1)

Future of Work Expert Round-Upv2

One question I hear frequently from parents is, “How can I help prepare my child for their future work?”

So I contacted colleagues around the world–in Australia, Canada, Jamaica, Singapore, the U.K., and New Zealand–as well as here in the U.S. Because who better to offer advice to a young person about tomorrow’s world of work than a futurist? (If you’re not sure what we do, former Intel Chief Futurist Brian David Johnson offers this answer in his LinkedIn Summary. And here’s a sketchnote I created – contact us if you’d like a PDF.)

Strategic Futurist Sketchnote

The responses of these 40 Futurists fell roughly into three categories, so I grouped them according to the Attitude, Skills, and Contribution needed for future work. This post discusses aspects of “attitude.” There’s a link to the second one at the end.

I hope you will be encouraged and inspired by the following ideas and perspectives. At the very least, your middle schooler, high schooler or college student will be exposed to people who make their living as futurists–a career choice they probably weren’t aware of. Check out the links embedded in these experts’ brief bios to learn more.

Just as important, you’ll see that we talk about “futures,” not a single future. Think about why that is, and post a comment with your understanding so we can continue the conversation.

First, Jeff Bezos

To illustrate the value of projecting the mind forward in time, let me begin by sharing some advice from Jeff Bezos, interviewed by the Academy of Achievement (note what he says at 1:17 mins in):



It’s unusual to offer a “foreword” in a blog post, as you would in a book. But when Sohail Inayatullah wrote his contribution and suggested I edit it down, I just couldn’t. A taster comes next. The full story illustrates what can happen when you have the courage, confidence and passion to take the road less traveled.

Sohail Inayatullah, UNESCO Chair in Futures Studies

Sohail Inayatullah, UNESCO Chair in Futures Studies

Sohail Inayatullah

In addition to being Chair in Futures Studies for UNESCO (United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization), Sohail is professor at Tamkang University in Taiwan; an associate at the Melbourne Business School, the University of Melbourne; adjunct professor at the University of the Sunshine Coast, and co-director of

“Some say to me, ‘But I don’t know my passion.’ That then becomes the key: experiment and explore until you find what you  love. To come to that it’s important to discern your used future. Ask yourself: What are you doing that does not align with who you are; that does not fit where you wish to go, but you keep on doing it? It could be a habit, a way of thinking, a worldview. Something you’ve been told is the right way to do things. Once this is ascertained, you can replace the used future with a genuine future…a future one wishes for.”

Read Sohail’s full story here.


Brian David Johnson, FuturistBrian David Johnson – “Be curious.”

Before taking up his current position as Futurist-in-Residence at Arizona State University’s Center for Science and the Imagination, Brian was Chief Futurist at Intel. 

First: Be human.  It’s the one things the machines won’t be able to do.  Second: Be Curious.  Be curious about everything.  Be curious about new technology.  Be curious about new people and cultures.  Even if you don’t like something or someone, be curious about it—find out why.  We are about to enter an age of sentient machines and with these two skills you’ll be just fine.

Sentient machines? With these two skills your child will be just fine. @BDJFuturist Click To Tweet

John Mahaffie

John Mahaffie – “Keep learning…”

John is a futurist who, since 1987, has served organizations wanting to understand change and find their pathways forward. As a speaker, consultant, and writer he draws his insights from a full-time exploration of the future.

Here he shares advice offered to his son Charlie, a college freshman:


As you leave for college, you already have a dream of the exciting work you want to do. So dive in deep. Do all the things that help you reach that dream. But make sure you also keep learning how to learn. We  only have a sketchy knowledge of the future: your future world. To make it the best it can be, you need to be getting ready now for…well, just about anything! Stay sharp, stay open, keep learning, and it’ll be great.


Julie Friedman Steele – “…and unlearning.”

Julie Friedman Steele, WFS

Julie is Board Chair and Interim Executive Director of the World Future Society

“Your generation is entering an economy that is more turbulent and fast-changing than ever before. Barring a major disruption, this norm will continue well into your adult life. As important as it is to be a life-long learner—constantly acquiring new skills—it’s perhaps even more important to be a life-long un-learner. The more we learn and the older we get, we tend to solidify a worldview and become stuck in it. To succeed in a constantly changing world, be always open to new paradigms and ready to unlearn everything you think you know about the world.”

Advice to self (& child): To succeed in a constantly changing world, be ready to unlearn everything you think you know. @WorldFutureSoc Click To Tweet

Frank W. Spencer IV – “Create your future.”

Frank is founder and principal of Kedge, a global foresight, innovation and strategic design firm. He’s also Frank Spencerlead instructor at The Futures School, a foresight training program held in over 20 countries around the world.

As the developer and lead instructor of The Futures Institute at Duke University’s Talent Identification Program in 2010 and 2011, I had the privilege of working with a large group of high school students who were excited about using foresight to shape their future careers. The popularity and success of the course stemmed from the fact that we taught the students how to pursue work that is passion-oriented, aspirational and transformational. In other words, we taught them how to create the future, both individually and collaboratively. My ongoing advice for today’s students is to leverage a futures-empowered mindset to create new opportunities in an exponentially changing world.

R.K. McLay – “Prove yourself wrong”

R.K.McLaypicR.K. is CEO of an experimental web app called PredictionPlanet® and the author of the young adult fiction series, The Rahtrum Chronicles. He is also a consultant specializing in business transformation.

“All of our modern conveniences and medical and technological advances are the result of a successful epistemic technique called science. Science strives to discover what is true. It is innately self-correcting (i.e., seeks to disprove its own theories) and filters out human biases.

“Learn the fundamentals of scientifically-established knowledge and what they say about us and our universe: physics – Core Theory, biology, chemistry, geology, psychology, cosmology.

“Practice thinking scientifically and skeptically; develop a reliable “bullshit detector.” Whatever your eventual profession and future may entail, this will help you become versatile, curious and formidable, as an analyst, planner, strategist and problem solver.”

Phil McKinney – “Go do it. Create.”

Phil is an award winning innovator whose technologies and products are currently used by 100’s of Phil McKinneymillions of consumers and businesses worldwide. The teams he has built were named by FastCompany and BusinessWeek as being one of the “50 Most Innovative.” He hosts the nationally syndicated talk radio show Killer Innovations, and is author of Beyond The Obvious, where he shares his experience and methodology to create game-changing innovations.

The opposite of bravery is not cowardice. The opposite of bravery is conformity. As a society we reward conformity. Conformity to the past is comfortable but it is not the path to success in the emerging creative economy. Be brave and create things that no one else has done. Don’t be in the 75% of the population who say that are NOT living up to their creative potential.

Take risks and don’t let fear of failure hold you back. Go do it. Create.

Success will come to those who discover, exercise and use their creative thinking skills and abilities. If you do this, you will be prepared to succeed, if not lead, in the coming creative economy.

How to prepare your child to succeed & lead in the coming creative economy. @PhilMcKinney #futurework Click To Tweet

Dana Klisanin – “Hold high standards.”

Dana KlisaninDana is Founder and CEO at Evolutionary Guidance Media R&D, Inc., a New York-based research and design firm. An award-winning psychologist and futures scholar, she designs avenues to bring about sustainable futures and consults with individuals and companies about leveraging the benefits of mindfulness.

“There’s always going to be someone else who has similar skills. To stand out in tomorrow’s world of work, hone your character strengths and virtues. Stand out by holding yourself to high standards. Be grateful for the work that comes your way. Don’t let feelings of entitlement get in your way. Express excitement about the job and go the extra mile – do more work, do it before it’s asked of you, do it with a smile. Take a course in mindfulness. By staying in the present moment you will capture more of what’s going on around you and be better prepared to take action on behalf of yourself and others.”

Larry Quick – “Change ahead of change.”

Larry QuickLarry is CEO of Resilient Futures in Melbourne, Australia. This think tank comprises a network of researchers, analysts, strategists and coaches who develop, teach and advise on strategic frameworks purposely designed to address disruptive change and foster resilience in organisations and communities. He’s also co-author of Disrupted: Strategy for Exponential Change.

Always remember, you have an innate capability within you to generate a resilient future, for yourself and others. Inside you is a knowledge that is ready to deal with anything that comes your way. Whether that be what appears as an overwhelming challenge, or the normal rough and tumble of daily life. You have the ability to take a headwind and make it a tailwind, for good. This knowledge doesn’t come freely. It requires you to be willing to change ahead of change. To understand that staying still when the world is moving around you is an option that is more costly than your opportunity to change ahead of inevitable change. In doing so you will have the right to create the future, rather than be created by it.

Verne Wheelwright – “Think strategically”

Verne Wheelwright, PhDVerne is founder of the Personal Futures Network, and author of It’s YOUR Future…Make It a Good One.

1. Think very seriously about what you want your life to be like ten and twenty years from now.

2. Decide what you will have to do, and how you will do it (strategies).

3. Make a plan to execute each of those strategies, including when each strategy must be accomplished.

4. Follow your plan!!!!!

Frank Feather – “Explore being an entrepreneur.”Frank Feather

Frank is a digi-transform strategist, author, and keynote speaker. He gives his two teenage daughters this same advice.

Only the future matters; always look ahead. The nature of work will constantly evolve. Be alert to career threats and opportunities. Especially track technology and digitization. The Info-Digital Revolution impacts every sector globally, making many companies less relevant or obsolete, while creating brand new ones. For sure, digitally competitive skills are required. On a personal level, imagine the kind of life you would like in 10 years time and the type of “work” you would prefer to do. Consider being a freelance entrepreneur rather than working for an organization.

Maree Conway – “Be open-minded.”

Maree Conway Maree ConwayMaree is a Strategic Foresight Practitioner and Researcher at Thinking Futures in Melbourne, Australia.

“Look ahead with an open mind. Watch for change that will keep rearing its head, making you adapt how you work. If you don’t, you’ll stay trapped in the present and miss the future until it’s too late. In this process of grappling with constant change, stay connected. Keep the human in your work and your technology use–they’re equally important to your work and future careers.”

Ira S. Wolfe – “Seek different perspectives.”

Ira is President of Success Performance Solutions. Download his white paper about today’s VUCA world: Ira WolfeWhen the Shift Hits Your Plan.

Embrace change. Get comfortable with it because it’s going to be a bumpy but exciting ride going forward. Ask lots of questions, especially from people who may not agree with you.  Listen carefully for interesting answers you didn’t suspect. When everyone agrees with you, find some new friends. Make sure you’re open to and getting fresh perspective. Understanding helps you find meaning in what you do, and stay focused on the big picture.

40 Futurists advise on what to do before the shift hits your plan! #futurework Click To Tweet

David Houle – “Stay healthy.”

David HouleDavid is a professional futurist that has spoken on six continents and 14 countries with some 700+ speeches.  He has authored or co-authored seven books about the future and has just launched a global non-profit to face Climate Change.

“At least one if not three of the careers you will work in have yet to be created.  Get an education that prepares you to be a creative thinking generalist.

“Stay healthy.  Anti-aging breakthroughs will mean that you will be able to live to 120, so you will probably work 60+ years

“Climate Change will be the dominant reality of your lifetime. Face it fully.

Anna Simpson – “Think: Adventure playground.”

Anna SimpsonAnna Simpson is Curator of the Futures Centre at Forum for the Future, and author of two books on design thinking and innovation. The Futures Centre brings people together to track change and find opportunities to accelerate action for a sustainable future.

“Tomorrow’s world of work is breaking free of former frameworks. Profession, career, fast track, expert, line manager: these are all words nearing their expiry date. In their place is a world of vast possibility and fluid structure. Your path can be less like a ladder and more like an adventure playground. Think about the challenges you want to take on, what skills you have, and who you need on your team. Keep agile, with your eyes and mind wide open to new possibilities – in yourself, all around you, and beyond what you can imagine.”

Your path can be less a ladder, more an adventure playground. Click To Tweet

Neil Richardson – “Learn everywhere.”

Neil RichardsonNeil is Director of Advancement, Partnerships & Continuing Education at the University of the District of Columbia and UDC Community College in Washington D.C. He’s also co-author of Preparing For A World That Doesn’t Exist – Yet and recently launched the website

Learning with and from other people’s experiences, books and the Internet is critical. In the past and even in most schools still, teachers are seen as experts, and they are – but in a limited way. Learning should include incorporating as many perspectives as possible to get a baseline of context. And from this context we use our judgement and wisdom to make choices and understand concepts.

Find teachers who want to be deeply interactive and also understand that learning is something we all must do beyond the classroom.

Patricia Lustig – “Horizon scan.”

Patricia LustigPatricia is a widely recognised and talented practitioner in Strategic Foresight, strategy development, future thinking and innovation. She is the author of Strategic Foresight: Learning From the Future. 

“Think about what is going on around you. Futurists call this ‘horizon scanning.’ Look for ways to make sense of it all, and what will it mean for you.

“Then, in figuring out what job you might like, think about what excites you. Fill your future with specifics: Where would you like to work? Which sector? What type of company: small, medium or large? That will help you identify what skills and knowledge you will need.

“If you are not yet sure where you might like to work, what could you do to find out? How could you try various jobs to help you, as you to continue to scan for possibilities?”

Christopher Bishop – “Get ready for ‘cool’.”

Chris BishopChris speaks, consults and writes about the future of business, culture and society. He is passionate about *improvising careers*, sharing the story of his nonlinear, multimodal career path to inspire people to reinvent themselves in the 21st century’s global, borderless workplace.

“Hey, how ya doing with Pokémon GO? Did you catch some cool ones to feed or evolve? Heads up: augmented reality will be a key part of how you do one of your many jobs. I know you are stressed about tests and getting into college, but chill. 85% of the jobs you are going to do haven’t been invented yet. And you’ll be using technology that will make your iPhone look like a Victrola. (Ask your grandmother what that was.) You’ll be doing really cool stuff in sustainable energy, space travel, autonomous vehicles, implantable medical devices, molecular robots. Stay focused, but know that the future is going to be really exciting!”

Note to child (future work): Where the cool stuff will happen, so your future is exciting. Click To Tweet

Now check out part two of this Expert Round-Up post, on Skills and Contribution.

But, before you do that: Why do you think futurists talk about the future in the plural, not the singular? Leave your comment below.

Razor Social 2016 Blogging Challenge – My Winning Entry from Elizabeth Alexander on Vimeo.

About Dr. Liz Alexander

There are 5 comments

  • Lee Jones-Shehata

    The futures use what we know now and what we dream for our tomorrow using different criteria to create different futures but as there are no guarantees then there must be futures to accommodate the uknown.
    The future is not yet ours.

    • Dr. Liz Alexander

      You’re right, Lee…all futures are possibilities at this moment in time. However, between current trends and weak signals, the roots of the future are invariably available to us in the present. The futurists commenting here are drawing from what they understand of possible and probable futures to help young people identify the ones they consider to be preferable. Thank you so much for your comment. Liz

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