Welcome to Copenhagen, welcome to the future

Excerpt from my Leisure Report article where I attended the DontStop02 Conference, organised by the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies.

My flight to Copenhagen has just been cancelled; the SAS cabin crew are striking’. The well-dressed business traveller placed his phone back in his top pocket, shrugged his shoulders and drifted away. Attending the Copenhagen Institute for Future Studies annual conference: Dontstop02, was looking shakey. Fortunately, the strike was in its first few hours and some flights, mine included, were still departing from Gatwick. The trip back however, was a whole new adventure. Of course, the really-good futurists would have anticipated the strike and travelled by sea. The term ‘futurist’ is really a misnomer. They don’t look into glass balls and make predictions; instead they study life and create plausible perspectives about how life may change. If I were a Futurist, I would cross this term out and put ‘Opportunity Finder’ on my business card.

During the flight, I was thinking about the conference theme: Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow’ , and the background of delegates. Was the conference gong to be filled with several hundred practising ‘futurists’, or senior executives seeking a better understanding of applying the principles of ‘foresight’ to their organisations? Refreshingly, it was the latter. Breakfast was spent with a Danish animal fur broker. ‘How’s business?’, I asked, expecting her to lament its terminal decline. Never been better’, came the upbeat reply as it transpired that they were the world’s largest fur skin house and could not keep up with demand from China. She went on to explain that the vociferous UK animal rights movement was far-removed from Danish sentiment, where fur skins represented a major part of Denmark’s GDP. Sensing that conversation was now pretty well exhausted, I found a seat among the 240 delegates and awaited the opening remarks from Johan Peter Paludan, Director of the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies.

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow

Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow was the conference title, but the key message from Johan was clear. The future is somewhere for companies to travel to, not just something to think about. Companies need to pro-actively claim a stake of the future now. What will they need? A compelling vision, an ambitious strategy and a robust action plan.

Look out for megatrends

A key motivation for me to jump on a plane to Denmark was to hear what John Naisbitt, often referred to as the global philosopher among futurists, and one of the world’s most sought after business speakers

had to say about the future. A ‘social forecaster’ rather than a futurist is how he would like to be known. Naisbitt coined the phrase, Megatrends, which became the title for his seminal book, that has now sold more than nine million copies. Naisbitt, has a unique presentation style. He relaxes into a sofa and under the light of a small candle, delivers bolts of wisdom, drawn from his 45 years of advising former US presidents and studying life – there is not a whiff of technology in site. This is a technology-free experience, where you feel you are in the company of a sage. This delivery style aligns with one of his messages; we are becoming too dependent on technology and losing the capacity to emotionally engage, to have fun, to be happy. ‘Whatever the future holds, it will be worth nothing if there is no joy’, he argues.

To read more, browse over to articles.

Picture shows John Naisbitt on right.

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