Eric Meade is a Senior Vice President at the Institute for Alternative Futures. He will be presenting Persona to Psyche: Psychology of the Authentic Enterprise. Eric was interviewed by Les Landes of Landes & Associates.
1) Tell me about yourself and what you do.
As a futurist at the Institute for Alternative Futures, I help companies and non-profits place the decisions they are making today in a longer-term context. I help them identify trends they could get ahead of, position themselves for success in a range of scenarios, foresee unintended consequences, and focus on the core values by which they would want to define themselves in any future.
For communications, it is worthwhile to look at how the field has evolved over the past, say, 100,000 years to highlight the qualitative changes that have taken place in the past and to understand changes that may await us in the future.
My futures work benefits from my range of experiences – as a sourcing executive in China, an entrepreneur, and a submarine officer. I met my wife in China, where I lived for six years. We have a 2½ year-old daughter. My China experience, as well as my fluency in Mandarin, has been useful in qualifying both the excitement and the fears about China. I’m open to a “Chinese century,” but I also know the issues standing between here and there.
2) What is one thing CCM Conference attendees will learn that they didn’t know before your presentation?
One key point is that individual psychological development recapitulates human evolution. This point yields important insights about how change takes place in society. Most of us can probably think back to a time in our lives when we felt totally adrift, but then one morning we woke up with a new sense of clarity about what we needed to do. Just as our own lives fluctuate between chaos and order as we become wiser, society too can establish itself very quickly in a new paradigm – even at what seems to be the peak of chaos. This gives us hope, but more importantly it tells us to be ready for changes we can only imagine today. As communications managers grapple with globalization, the Internet, new stakeholder groups, a rising Millennial generation, and national policy debates that border on the absurd, they would be foolish to expect the future to be simply an extrapolation of the past. In my session, I will describe a shift to what I call “post-modern” consciousness, a shift that will fundamentally change the world of communications.
3) After your session, what will attendees be able to immediately bring back to their job and implement?
With the longer-term perspective presented in my session, communications managers will be able to identify the most important conversations that their companies need to have. These conversations will involve not just internal and external communications, but the entirety of the company’s operations. The Page Society report, The Authentic Enterprise, highlights that CEO’s want their communications managers to be more integrated into strategy; my session will offer a higher value proposition that communications managers can offer. Attendees will also possess an antidote to the point of view that says, “I know human nature and it never changes.”
4) What’s in your crystal ball for “What’s Next” in Communications for 2010 and beyond?
Over the next few years, we will reach the tipping point of a global shift toward “post-modern” consciousness that is self-reflective – e.g., it can step aside from its own strategies and look at itself from the outside in. This shift – or its individual manifestations, like globalization, the Internet, or new stakeholder groups – is nothing to fear. Rather, it offers tremendous opportunities for society, companies, and communications managers. But there’s a catch. Just as a self-reflective individual has difficulty lying to himself, a self-reflective global society will have an unspoken rule: No secrets, no lies. The distinction between “external” and “internal” communications will soon be a thing of the past. Those who cling to the distinction and its implications for strategy will find themselves increasingly criticized and censured by an increasing number of stakeholders. Conversely, those who unify their companies’ internal and external messages and integrate them with the company’s operations will say what needs to be said and will be rewarded for their ability to do so.