Chaos and Rocketfuel: Episode 85: Blind spots that will impede you being 2032-ready | Anton Musgrave, Futureworld


Welcome to Episode 85 of The Future of Work, the podcast that looks at every aspect of work in the future, featuring industry experts and thought leaders discussing how work is changing and evolving. The Future of Work is NOW.

In the past two episodes we have been talking to Anton Musgrave, a Futurist and Business Strategist, about being future-forward in your thinking. We’ve looked practically at trends and frameworks that will help you on your journey.

In this final episode we look at hurdles companies need to navigate today, to prepare them for the future. And we look at the hard reality of balancing long term future planning with the pressures you face today making a profit.

Anton Mustgrave, Futurist, Keynote speaker, Futureworld International Partner, unpacks the future of work

Anton Musgrave | Futurist | Keynote speaker

Anton has a background and qualifications in law, he has served as MD of Citadel Private Client Wealth Management, a Managing Partner of a large legal practice, and MD of a major property business, and President of a national property owners’ association, representing property interests worth $60 billion. 

As one of Futureworld’s resident Futurists, Anton drives our unique Strategy from the Future™ process, thinking from the future back to the present, turning traditional strategy on its head. He is an inspiring, spirited communicator and a globally acclaimed futurist and speaker. He lectured on executive programs at major business schools, including the London Business School, Duke CEOxford University’s Said Business School, the Tata Management Training Centre for Global Leadership, and the Indian School of Business.


[00:00:00] – Anton Musgrave
Almost any company that’s talking about Digital Transformation is at grave risk of irrelevance because Digital Transformation happened in the three months after Covid.

[00:00:16] – Doug Foulkes
Welcome to episode 85 of Chaos & Rocketfuel: The Future of Work Podcast. This is the podcast that looks at every aspect of work in the future. As always, it’s brought to you by Wndyr and Pattyrn. I’m Doug Foulkes and as always, I’m joined by the CEO of Wndyr and Pattyrn, Claire Haidar.

[00:00:34] – Doug Foulkes
Claire, we are coming towards the end of our time with Anton Musgrave. He’s a futurist. His company’s Futureworld. What are we talking about in this last section of the conversation.

[00:00:44] – Claire Haidar
Doug, if you think back to Segment One, we looked at the foundation that is required for companies to be able to just step out of the everyday thinking into more strategic 20-year thinking. In the second segment, we went through the very practical frameworks, mindsets, those type of things that executives and their teams can use to go through this process to really reinvent themselves and reposition themselves for the future.

[00:01:12] – Claire Haidar
Today we’re going to be looking at some of the practical hurdles that companies have to navigate today. It’s almost like we step forward and now we are stepping back to the present day and saying, what are the hurdles, what are the challenges that exist within teams and companies today that executives need to be mindful of in order to be able to stay future forward in their thinking?

[00:01:33] – Claire Haidar
I’m really looking forward to this. The conversation in segment one and segment two has been very rich with insight, very rich from a practical perspective and just enjoyable. Anton is a font of wisdom. This segment, I know, is going to be no different to Segment One and Two in terms of being very practical, but also very eye opening. He brings up things that people don’t necessarily connect or think about.

[00:02:00] – Doug Foulkes
Exactly. It’s a fitting end to a very interesting and enlightening hour. Let’s see what Anton has to say.

[00:02:09] – Claire Haidar
I want us to bring the conversation full circle and talk about what we spoke about right in the beginning, which is executives are firefighting today. I choose to take my company through this exercise that you’ve just laid out for us; go into dream state, work back from a completely free, non boxed in set of frameworks.

[00:02:36] – Claire Haidar
I’m now done with this beautiful exercise, which I can really say is a beautiful exercise to do because I’ve done it with you. How do I then go back into the business and basically juggle and balance this really, really difficult reality of firefighting every single day and actually starting to implement some of these things?

[00:02:57] – Claire Haidar
How do you do that in tandem? Because for me, one of the biggest things that I keep hitting up again as an executive, and I know I see this in our large customer bases as well, is the reality of there is a capital constraint. You know what I mean?

[00:03:17] – Claire Haidar
Yes, we spoke about it in the beginning and said we shouldn’t be using that as a defining factor in thinking through this future state. But you walk back into the office and there’s a capital constraint. So now what now?

[00:03:29] – Anton Musgrave
Yeah, I guess the big thing there is, look, there is the hard reality of cash flow and bills to pay. The problem in many organizations is this kind of strategic foresight thinking, if you like, and preparing yourself for the future needs to happen when the company has the capability to actually go and do something about it.

[00:03:50] – Anton Musgrave
The chances of success diminish when your back is hard against the wall for all the reasons that you’ve mentioned. So that becomes really, really difficult. If you’re in that category of company that’s got your back hard against the wall, you need to make some investments or some new decisions because of this exciting ambition that you’ve got, it’s really, really difficult.

[00:04:10] – Anton Musgrave
Then you’ve got to focus your team around a broad view of the destination you want to aim at, to mobilize their energy, to unleash their best potential within them, get them excited and help everyone in your team to actually just all hands on deck with the belief that what will come after this hurdle is with the pain and the suffering. Because they believe in it, they can identify with it.

[00:04:38] – Anton Musgrave
That’s about all you can do in the short term. Then, as resources free up, of course your options change. If you’re a company that’s just done an M&A, for example, or you have a new leadership team, or you have a tough activist shareholder, et cetera, and you’ve got some resources, then obviously you can do a whole lot more. But it’s not more of the same. It needs to be relevant for where you’re headed as an organization.

[00:05:04] – Anton Musgrave
What we do is we look at a company’s current growth rate and we develop with them their aspirational sort of ten year ambition. There’s always a gap, a Delta between them. The question then is how do I fill that gap? How am I going to create new lines of profit, new businesses, perhaps, that helps me go from my current growth rate to my aspirational outcome and how do I close that gap?

[00:05:28] – Anton Musgrave
I mean, one of the case studies I can share with you is, we had a client in the media business with incredibly strong traditional media brands, very loyal customer base, but struggling. Obviously the media world is difficult because everyone’s pulling their advertising dollars, right?

[00:05:41] – Anton Musgrave
So the question is, we’ve got these assets, we’ve got these viewers, these listeners, et cetera, that are very loyal. They love us, but boy, we can’t draw ad dollars anymore. So the business model is creaking badly.

[00:05:51] – Anton Musgrave
We looked at this and we looked at them and we said, “So let’s look at your marketplace, let’s look at your profile of your customer base.” We built personas around them and we said, where are the gaps in solutions that they need? One of the areas that came up was education for children and insurance for example.

[00:06:08] – Anton Musgrave
But wow, we’re in the media business. But hang on a moment. Let’s take your media brand loyalty, customer following, let’s design a completely disruptive insured tech, edutech combination. That’s the interesting thing about this future is that, you don’t only find business opportunities in your own industry or in one area of disruption.

[00:06:30] – Anton Musgrave
Where areas of disruption combine, you get hugely exciting ideas. You combine insured tech plus edutech, you apply a new design of a new business proposition and you leverage the loyalty in the viewership, listener base of a media company appropriately, obviously, and bang, you’ve got instant success in a business you weren’t in six months ago.

[00:06:53] – Anton Musgrave
That’s how you start this journey of morphing from your business of today, which you still run, you still sweat the cash cow, you still make the profits because you need to, but you start building that future relevant income stream at the same time alongside it.

[00:07:08] – Doug Foulkes
Anton, in your experience, have you found specific industries, you spoke about media there, are the particular industries that jump at this more readily and find it much more easier and say maybe certain out of thought, maybe more traditional manufacturing industries find it much harder. And how do you sort of bridge that gap if there is one?

[00:07:29] – Anton Musgrave
The answer to that is very definitely. I mean the industries right now that are obviously printing money, one can’t ignore the carbon energy industry, all the oil majors have more money now than ever before. Some of them are wisely reimagining their long term futures and allocating the capital to reinvent themselves over time. Not sure they’re doing it fast enough, but yes they are.

[00:07:51] – Anton Musgrave
I find the resource companies doing pretty well over the last while. Obviously inflation and commodity demand has softened a bit because of global trade and so forth. But the resource companies are reimagining themselves. We’ve been working with one massive international coal business that is building new businesses from green hydrogen plants to new bio-agri plants almost in the desert if you like, or in desert areas.

[00:08:19] – Anton Musgrave
We are looking at, for example, one resource business that is building a PV or photovoltaic solar farm of massive proportions. But obviously you can’t store all of the energy and the energy doesn’t flow into the national grid in that particular jurisdiction very easily. So they’re looking at combining that in the off peak hours with bitcoin mining operations. So harnessing that stranded energy differently and so on.

[00:08:46] – Anton Musgrave
These combinations today become possible. If you do them at the right scale, in the right way, the numbers start moving the dial. But you’ve got to think differently and you can’t ask a business of today line executive who’s responsible for quarterly production targets to have these kind of conversations, never mind actually commercializing and executing them. So you’ve got to create that capacity in the organization as well.

[00:09:11] – Claire Haidar
You’ve hit on my exact thought that came to me as you were talking, Anton, is what you’re saying is fully spot on, but it’s not an evolution. It’s almost like a whole new creation. That is a significant change management challenge because, alongside this new change that you’re taking the organization to, you’re essentially churning out the old organization, which is a form of trauma.

[00:09:37] – Anton Musgrave
It’s a huge form of trauma. One of the lessons that I’ve learned over the years is you don’t do it in the organization. You do it alongside the organization.

[00:09:46] – Claire Haidar

[00:09:47] – Anton Musgrave
Because the corporate antibodies in the existing business will simply throttle this new crazy idea that might disrupt it.

[00:09:53] – Claire Haidar

[00:09:53] – Anton Musgrave
And many other reasons. We won’t go into that in the session, but that’s how you do it. But don’t underestimate the organizational change journey, even in the business of today. For example, I said recently that if your business has a standard operating procedure that’s older than three years, it’s no longer relevant.

[00:10:11] – Claire Haidar
Fully agree. I’m laughing at three years. It’s more like three months.

[00:10:16] – Anton Musgrave
Well, let’s not be too scary.

[00:10:20] – Claire Haidar
Anton, I’m telling you, in startup land, it’s three months.

[00:10:24] – Anton Musgrave
Startup land, I agree. But if I’m looking at your clients, for example, many listeners on this podcast, anything that was designed more than three years ago, folks, you need to delete and start again. Almost any company that’s talking about digital transformation is at grave risk of irrelevance because digital transformation happened in the three months after Covid.

[00:10:46] – Anton Musgrave
Of course, we don’t live in an analog world anymore. It is largely a digital world, even in remote markets where rural communities have access to smartphones that are affordable. Again, that comes to one of the toxic assumptions. The assumption is that rural markets can’t afford the data, et cetera. Well, that’s toxic because data costs in rural India or plummeting.

[00:11:07] – Anton Musgrave
You look at Mr. Ambani and his mobile company called Jio offering the cheapest data rates in the world. That’s today, and in five years time it will be free. If you’re designing a business based on that constraint, you will be out of business in five years time. So the level of organizational disruption now is not to be underestimated. And then, of course, we’ve got the exciting Business of Tomorrow’s stuff from the sideline.

[00:11:30] – Claire Haidar
Yeah, exactly. Anton, we need to invite you back to the podcast many times over.

[00:11:36] – Anton Musgrave
Be delighted. It would be my pleasure.

[00:11:38] – Claire Haidar
Four very quick questions that I’m going to rapid fire to you and keep the answers quick as well. When was the last time that you had a conversation that just so fully immersed and absorbed you that you forgot about the world around you?

[00:11:56] – Anton Musgrave
I think it was on a beach in France six weeks ago with a person who has a multiple outlet doughnut business. It’s not that his arguments were full of holes, but the stories he was sharing with me and the customer insights in his sector of the market, if you like, was just mind boggling. It gave one a whole new perspective on who’s out there in society and communities. How are they living, what are they experiencing, and why they just love this damn doughnut that he makes.

[00:12:34] – Claire Haidar
I love it.

[00:12:35] – Anton Musgrave
It’s really interesting. It comes back to my comment about the level of anxiety in the world, and there’s nothing more than a little bit of goodness in a doughnut with sugar all over the top. But we spoke about people and humans and how so many human experiences are happening in the periphery of our vision.

[00:12:52] – Anton Musgrave
Some of them are scary and deeply sad, and some of them are incredibly enriching, and yet we oblivious to them as we charge down this road, whatever road we’re on. That really rocked me a bit because I thought, wow.

[00:13:05] – Anton Musgrave
It reminded me, Claire, I used to try and do something different every three months, and I went to a design conference once. The first scary thing was everyone there was about a third of my age, and they all wore jeans full of tears and rips. I found no one to talk to for the first two coffee breaks. Then I made myself get engaged with people that I would not normally engage with and it was, again, one of those aha-moments that rocked my own thinking.

[00:13:30] – Claire Haidar
Podcasts and books. I’m not sure which one you lean towards, but what are you currently listening to or reading?

[00:13:38] – Anton Musgrave
I’m currently reading stories about Russia and the intricacies of the Kremlin and the thought processes in the Kremlin, so that’s keeping me pretty occupied at the moment.

[00:13:49] – Claire Haidar
I was going to say that is not what I would classify as light reading.

[00:13:56] – Anton Musgrave
No, it’s not light reading, but it’s pretty engaging.

[00:13:59] – Claire Haidar
Yeah. That I can believe for sure. Inside or outside?

[00:14:04] – Anton Musgrave
Definitely outside.

[00:14:06] – Claire Haidar

[00:14:06] – Anton Musgrave
Fresh air and sunshine, my favorite. Give me a howling gale sitting on top of a rock watching a crazy ocean. If you add a glass of wine, that’s even better. But I don’t need the wine to love it.

[00:14:19] – Claire Haidar
And Anton, my final question for you is, what is it about the future that gives you the most hope and the biggest sense of excitement right now?

[00:14:30] – Anton Musgrave
Our children.

[00:14:32] – Claire Haidar
Love it.

[00:14:33] – Anton Musgrave
I think we are scared because we come from, again, my word, the old World. And all of what we remember is being disrupted and challenged. Every dimension of life and society, from the Church through to United Nations and all of those things and the things we’ve been speaking about.

[00:14:51] – Anton Musgrave
But I look at children. I’m talking about kids in the range of 18 up to 30 that’s of category. They’re smart, they are super smart. They’re unbelievably well connected. I mean, the technologies like oxygen to them. They’re not constrained by the complexities of it. They see opportunity to solve for the big problems. I think we have the answers or the means for the answers to get the answers at the moment.

[00:15:19] – Anton Musgrave
Our problem as leaders is we’re so constrained by our tradition and our gurus that we are deeply embedded in, but this next young generation are unconstrained and I think they’re going to solve all of the messes that we’ve created. I’m very excited by that.

[00:15:33] – Claire Haidar
Amazing. That gives me a lot of hope.

[00:15:35] – Doug Foulkes
Yeah, fantastic. Great comment.

[00:15:37] – Claire Haidar
Anton, thank you so much.

[00:15:39] – Anton Musgrave
It’s a great pleasure, always.

[00:15:40] – Claire Haidar
For a conversation that wasn’t planned in advance, it went very well.

[00:15:46] – Anton Musgrave
Hopefully, you can make some sense of all of that.

[00:15:48] – Claire Haidar
No, we definitely will be able to. This is going to be a great episode.

[00:15:51] – Doug Foulkes
Anton, thank you so much from my side. Nice to connect again and thank you for spending the last hour with us.

[00:15:57] – Anton Musgrave
It’s a great pleasure. I didn’t realize it was an hour. It felt like about six minutes.

[00:16:01] – Doug Foulkes
And that is the end of episode 85 and our comprehensive look at the future of work through the engaging eyes of futurist, Anton Musgrave. If you found this podcast of value, then please share it with your friends and colleagues. Catch us on Spotify, Google, and Apple Podcasts or on WNDYR’s website;

[00:16:23] – Doug Foulkes
From Claire and myself, bye for now.