Chaos and Rocketfuel: Episode 83: Looking at the future of work through the eyes of a Futurist


Welcome to Episode 83 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.

Anton Musgrave is a Futurist and Business Strategist, he is driven by a passion to engage senior executives in challenging debates about the forces, technologies, and market dynamics shaping the future. In the next three podcast conversations, we will delve deep into his world and see how he challenges business leaders worldwide to look at the future differently.

In this first session, he will explain what we at Futureworld do and how he facilitates changing a present-day mind into a future state mind. As a business leader are you spending enough time thinking strategically about how you will remain relevant in the future of work? Anton has the answer for you.

Anton Mustgrave, Futurist, Keynote speaker, Futureworld International Partner

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
Everyone talks about the shift to an exponential world. So how do we do it? And it can’t just be an extrapolation of what you’re currently doing. What are these strategic options and choices we face as a business and what are the strategic realities we will have to cope with? And that’s where the conversation starts moving.

[00:00:25] – Doug Foulkes
Hello and welcome to episode 83 of Chaos & Rocket Fuel: The Future of Work Podcast. This is the podcast that looks at every aspect of work in the future is brought to you by WNDYR and Pattyrn. I’m Doug Foulkes along with my co-host Claire Haidar, who’s the CEO at WNDYR. Claire, how are you doing today?

[00:00:46] – Claire Haidar
Doug, I’m about to pop out a human, so I’m very pregnant. Very, very pregnant. And you? How are you doing?

[00:00:57] – Doug Foulkes
Yeah, I’m good. Yeah, I am not pregnant or even mildly pregnant. Yeah, it’s still cold over in South Africa, but I think what I’d like to do is get straight stuck into our guest for the next three weeks, Anton Musgrave. He is a futurist with a company, FutureWorld. Tell me, why is Anton on the podcast?

[00:01:17] – Claire Haidar
There’s a few reasons. First of all, Anton is a very good friend of both you and I’s, and I think it’s because we have so many casual conversations with Anton about this topic that we just absolutely know he’s a fit for the podcast, but his work is just so relevant and so timely to this current business market that we’re busy navigating where you have signs of a potential recession on the horizon. You have a lot of instability in the hiring market.

[00:01:48] – Claire Haidar
In general, employee trends, a lot of like shifting sand that’s reshaping itself there. Being able to just take a step back and look at this through the lens of somebody who has these conversations every single day with other businesses globally, I think is something that our podcast audience can definitely benefit from this point in time, because something that I’ve noticed is that most people are just fighting fires right now, which they absolutely should be doing.

[00:02:15] – Claire Haidar
But I think amidst that firefighting, it is really important to just take that step back, which is what Anton is allowing us to do.

[00:02:22] – Doug Foulkes
And so Claire, what are we talking to Anton about specifically in this first episode?

[00:02:28] – Claire Haidar
In this first segment, we ask Anton to actually just lay the foundation for us so that listeners coming in can understand the context through which he works with companies as a futurist. I mean, it’s not just him. There’s a whole company behind him in the form of FutureWorld. It’s him himself, his partners and the whole team.

[00:02:50] – Claire Haidar
Essentially, what that involves is they work with executive teams to ask them the big, bold question, without limitations, what would you need to be in 10, 20 years’ time in order to remain competitive? And when you look at that through the lens of all the different trends that are currently shaping the future that that’s the conversation. And so he lays that groundwork for us and shows us how to move from very much present mind into that future state mind.

[00:03:24] – Doug Foulkes
Excellent. I’m excited to chat to Anton.

[00:03:28] – Claire Haidar
Anton, welcome. It is just so good to have you on the show with us today. You and I have been scheming about this podcast for a long time, so very happy it’s actually happening.

[00:03:38] – Anton Musgrave
It’s great to be here, Claire. Thank you. And you’re right, It’s been a long time in the oven.

[00:03:42] – Claire Haidar
Yes, exactly. Doug, good to have you here as well with us today. I’ve missed our podcast recording sessions.

[00:03:50] – Doug Foulkes
Yes. For once on a podcast, the South Africans are outnumbering the Americans. Anton, nice to chat to and welcome to the podcast.

[00:04:01] – Anton Musgrave
Yeah, good to be with you again, Doug.

[00:04:03] – Claire Haidar
Anton, our typical audience that listens in to our podcast are C-level executives and sort of like two layers of management down from that C-level, typically very large organizations. We do have some on the smaller side, but they would typically be in and around 1,000 employee companies.

[00:04:25] – Claire Haidar
We dealing with all the typical challenges that you are really an expert in terms of, you know, globalization, like the cultural meshing of companies across those different geographies, all of these very real issues that we’re seeing becoming more and more prominent today.

[00:04:42] – Claire Haidar
What I’d like us to do is… We don’t usually do this on a podcast, but I think it is very pertinent to the conversation that we’re going to have today that you just kick us off and actually just share a little bit with us who you are and what you do, because what you do is so relevant to the conversation today, and that’s where all the meat of the conversation is actually going to come from. So over to you.

[00:05:04] – Anton Musgrave
Well, thanks very much for that, Claire. I mean, the easy answer to the question is I’m Anton Musgrave, a founder partner in FutureWorld International, which is based out of Gibraltar but operates across the world and across all industries.

[00:05:19] – Anton Musgrave
I guess I’ve been described and it’s quite amusing, actually, I’ve described myself as a futurist and a business strategist. When you’re filling in immigration forms, I kind of just use futurist because it’s short and sweet and I hate filling in forms. It never fails to alert the American immigration officer or the British immigration officer who sees this and says, “What on earth is that?”

[00:05:43] – Anton Musgrave
And of course given the politics of the day, one’s going to be quite sensitive to how you answer that, because they’ll always ask, “What’s the future of our country?” But in essence, it’s really as a futurist, I spend my days and my passion is getting leaders to think differently beyond the obvious about what lies over the horizon.

[00:06:03] – Anton Musgrave
Of course, I would be an idiot if I had any confidence in what is coming over the horizon. Suffice to share that there are many things and they are coming at us at speed and we don’t know what the answer is. But we need to think at least about what the answers might be.

[00:06:23] – Anton Musgrave
I can’t predict the future, but I really love talking about what I call the waves of change. In fact, I call them unstoppable business tsunamis, because they often, as in a tsunami, a real tsunami, they’re not obvious. They’re small ripples on the landscape of business, but they don’t stop and they come towards us with increasing pace, increasing amplitude, and force.

[00:06:48] – Anton Musgrave
And unless we prepare for them well in advance, when they break on the shores of the marketplace, they are incredibly disruptive. And if you’re not ready, you end up as a matchstick. That’s what I do. I talk to leaders around the forces that are shaping the future. What are the signals that the future is sending us?

[00:07:07] – Anton Musgrave
Some of them are loud and some of them are very soft and very small. But what are those signals and how are they combining to tell us a different story about the marketplace and therefore the relevance of business in the future? This is not about trend spotting because if you spotting a trend, it means it exists today. So it’s not the future.

[00:07:27] – Anton Musgrave
These are those things that are not yet obvious, but they’re actually all around us in some shape or form. We just need to pay attention. Of course, the only reason I have a role as a futurist is because most leaders I find all around the world are so engrossed in the operations of business of today. The short-term focus, the quarterly results, the Wall Street demands, the analyst expectations and so forth that we don’t spend enough time just pressing pause, lifting our heads and peering over the ramparts to see what’s out there.

[00:07:58] – Anton Musgrave
And then the most fascinating is even if we did that, we don’t make the time to say, well, what does that mean to us and our customers and even our children?

[00:08:08] – Anton Musgrave
What does it mean for the conversations we are having with our kids about their subject choices, for example, and their career options? And so we just embedded in these conversations around the world of today and the immediate future. I try and break that cycle.

[00:08:24] – Doug Foulkes
And I’m going to jump in. I mean, it sounds incredibly interesting and almost like every day is a clean slate to start with. But can you be a bit more specific and maybe just give a couple of examples, obviously, without giving away too much detail, but examples of the sort of work that you’ve done so more recently with companies?

[00:08:43] – Anton Musgrave
Well, I think the work really starts when someone in the in the C-suite starts asking questions about, how are we going to be relevant in the world of tomorrow? Or they say, “How do we Freex our growth?” Everyone talks about the shift to an exponential world. So how do we do it? It can’t just be an extrapolation of what you’re currently doing, working a few hours longer and harder because most people are working pretty much as hard as they can anyway.

[00:09:10] – Anton Musgrave
What are these strategic options and choices we face as a business and what are the strategic realities we will have to cope with? And that’s where the conversation starts moving.

[00:09:21] – Anton Musgrave
What I found is many strategists start off by sort of analyzing the existing balance sheet of the business, the organigram and organizational structure, their business models, et cetera. They do awful things like SWOT analysis and competitor analysis and so forth.

[00:09:39] – Anton Musgrave
And really all of these exercises actually one by one, imposes a mental constraint in what’s potentially possible. Because I look at the balance sheet and it might not look so good. And therefore they think, well anything that needs large capital expenditure we can’t afford. So take all of those ideas off the table and so on. By the end of the day they whittle their strategic options down to a very small set of incremental evolutionary improvements in what they’re already doing.

[00:10:09] – Anton Musgrave
What I found is very useful and very, very powerful is to break that mental pattern of thinking, if you like, and disengage from the present. Say to the leadership team, let’s not look at your business of the day and all of those traditional lenses. Let’s take a leap two or three step changes from now into a grey zone where even their most talented self-believer starts losing confidence in their own ability and in that space let’s talk about what that world might look like.

[00:10:39] – Anton Musgrave
By the way, you have to have a view, but probably will be wrong. But you need to have a view as a leader. Let’s explore what shapes those views, what shapes those options, and talk about what that marketplace of the future looks like and immerse yourself in that world of, for argument’s sake, my experience is 7-10 years out is a good time frame to work in because most people will say, “I really realize that I don’t know the answers.” And that’s a great space.

[00:11:05] – Anton Musgrave
Uncertainty is the playing field of immense opportunity, and it’s in that space that we then engage in a set of questions, let’s say, around defining what you might be in that world that really gives you goosebumps and excites you. Don’t worry about the balance sheet or the chairman of the board or the capabilities or the tech stack, et cetera, et cetera.

[00:11:26] – Anton Musgrave
Let’s get really excited about that. The impact of that business on your customers, on the marketplace, on society and so forth. And then we’ll work on a level of granularity and actually develop some detail around what that ideal business might be.

[00:11:41] – Anton Musgrave
But then the question is not what should we do from a 2022 or a current-day perspective. The question is, how did we get here? And so when you take the strategic thinking process and you launch the operational execution questions from the position of an ideal, exciting future that’s giving you goosebumps and you say, “How did we get here to this amazing outcome as a business?”

[00:12:07] – Anton Musgrave
Then you’re looking back to the present day and you’re saying right within the first six months, obviously, we did A, B or C, in the next 12 months we did X, Y, Z. And so you develop a high-level strategic roadmap from the future back. And that then overcomes these constraining lenses that leadership teams often impose on themselves, even unwittingly.

[00:12:30] – Anton Musgrave
I mean, think about it. If you’re a bank and you’re talking about a disruptive fintech opportunity. In the boardroom, the first question every one of your execs is silently asking themselves, what does that disruptive fintech mean for my division, my retirement, my share options, my power base, my title, and so on?

[00:12:47] – Anton Musgrave
It’s very difficult to have that exciting conversation with folk in the room that might be disruptive or maybe don’t understand the tech, et cetera. At a practical level, that’s where it starts for me is deeply engaging conversations about possible amazing futures and of course, understanding the big forces that are shaping that future marketplace or context in which business takes place.

[00:13:14] – Claire Haidar
I want to weigh in here and Anton and I can speak to this specifically because you’re an investor in our company, which is why we’ve been scheming about this podcast for so long. But you’ve actually taken our executive team through this thinking process, you know what I mean? Not the full three-day weeklong process, but we’ve done it in a compressed style.

[00:13:35] – Claire Haidar
I consider myself to be pretty able and capable of stepping out of the day-to-day and not getting lost in that. And I tend to be somebody who actually embraces a creative outlook on life.

[00:13:48] – Anton Musgrave
And you are. That’s why I invested in the business.

[00:13:51] – Claire Haidar
Thank you. But I can attest to what you’ve just outlined in terms of how difficult it really is to go through that process. The point that I really want to make is, which is what makes this even more challenging today than it would have been just five years ago, is that the change that’s happening in the day-to-day ups of a business is so quick and fast in comparison to what it was just five years ago. But as an executive, it is so hard to pull yourself out of that day-to-day firefighting. You know what I mean?

[00:14:25] – Anton Musgrave

[00:14:26] – Claire Haidar
The day-to-day firefighting five years ago was way more operational. You still had a layer in the company that was able to look at the strategic and then the team that was sort of on the ground dealing with the ups. But the firefighting that’s happening today is really big strategic issues. It’s major disruption that we’re talking about.

[00:14:45] – Claire Haidar
I consider myself fortunate because you’re one of our investors. You kind of like you’re there on my shoulder constantly tapping me and you remind me. But a lot of executives don’t have that luxury of having a futurist in their shareholdings, who’s doing that for them. And so I can completely relate to it. I mean, we’re a tiny company. We’re not talking about like a major listed global organization. That’s just where the fire is, just everywhere.

[00:15:16] – Claire Haidar
And I think that’s where executives really… Particularly those listening to this podcast with you. That’s actually the first problem that they have to solve, is actually being so deliberate about carving out that time to flip this mental thought process.

[00:15:34] – Claire Haidar
Absolutely, Claire, and I think that’s… I mean, you’ve hit the nail on the head as usual. It’s carving out the time. It’s creating the space to disengage from the now and carry out your fiduciary function actually, as a leader to make sure that not only are you operating the prism efficiently, effectively, profitably, et cetera, but also creating the future.

[00:15:57] – Claire Haidar
If you say to shareholders, “What do you expect the leadership team to do? Operate the present or create the future?” The answer is obviously both. Then you ask, “Well, how much time should you afford each of those two very different functions?” Typically when I ask the question again across industries around the world, the answer is never less than 60% creating the future and only 40% at senior exec level should be operating the present.

[00:16:25] – Claire Haidar
And then, of course, you send the air into the auto diaries and you do the analytics. And it’s a scary picture. But what makes it even more scary is I talk about the old world in the new world, in the old world, from a strategic or a strategy point of view, false followership was very compelling and very… Might have been a good strategy.

[00:16:45] – Anton Musgrave
But the problem with the new world is the speed with which things or opportunities are rising or disruptions are arriving is so quick that false followership might cost you the race. So you have to be very close to the forefront of thinking. Your foresight has to be much, much better than ever before. We’re also living in a world where most executive teams have access to all of the data, all of the tech, all of the disruption, all of the sort of debates that are happening.

[00:17:14] – Anton Musgrave
What differentiates the winners from the rest of the pack is the quality of strategic thinking applied in the boardroom around all of this knowledge that everyone has access to. And then you look at capital markets. So where are global investors putting their money in? It’s fascinating when you analyze listed companies on the stock exchanges of the world. There’s been a massive turnaround between the value of organizations represented by hard, tangible assets, stock in trade, buildings, plant, et cetera, et cetera, and IP.

[00:17:49] – Anton Musgrave
In the last ten years, there’s been a huge swing away from fixed assets as a core underpinning of value. It’s now all about IP, ideas, brands, relationships, ecosystems and so forth. That’s had an interesting swing because when you look at the expectation premium that investors pay for listed companies, at least, I mean, Tesla, of course, has to be the classic, the intrinsic value. The discounted cash flow value of Tesla is 20% of the actual market value.

[00:18:21] – Anton Musgrave
Investors are giving you this massive premium in your share price because they believe that you can reinvent and stay relevant in a rapidly changing marketplace. Conversely, companies are penalized where investors don’t think leaders can do that and that the market cap is trading at a discount to the net present value, if you like, or the intrinsic value.

[00:18:44] – Anton Musgrave
Then you look at the longevity of successful companies on the stock exchanges. In the 1960s, the S&P 500, if you were in that category, you were there for an average 34 years. The number now shrunk to 12 years. The urgency to reimagine and innovate and stay relevant is escalating all the time. And I don’t see that disappearing.

[00:19:09] – Claire Haidar
Yeah, it’s actually going to shorten. That 12 years is going to shrink even further.

[00:19:13] – Anton Musgrave
It’s going to shorten. Again, I come back to words I chose earlier. The fiduciary duty of an executive is to stay relevant and create this business of tomorrow whilst you are operating the business of today. And that duality is is very challenging. But if you don’t carve out the time, as you said, it’s almost impossible.

[00:19:36] – Claire Haidar
It’s interesting that… Doug, this is my last comment and then I’m going to hand back over to you.

[00:19:41] – Doug Foulkes

[00:19:42] – Claire Haidar
The 60/40 principle that you shared there, Anton, reminds me of what my English teacher in high school drilled into my head. And I’ve actually shared this with our team multiple times over the years is she said, “If you want to consistently give an A-plus plus on every essay that you write and submit, spend 40 minutes of the 60-minute hour planning that essay and spend 20 minutes writing it.”

[00:20:13] – Anton Musgrave

[00:20:15] – Claire Haidar
It’s so counterintuitive because you would think that the more time you spend actually writing the essays is what’s going to get you the A-plus plus. And I actually tested her one day. I was like, I want to see if this really works. I spent more time writing and I can’t remember what I got. But it certainly was not A. It was the worst essay I ever wrote. Every single time I applied that rule, I got my A-plus plus on the essay.

[00:20:42] – Claire Haidar
It’s one of those lessons from high school that I’ve carried into business because it’s applicable to almost everything. Spend that amount of time on strategy, spend that amount of time on preparing for customers, all of those type of things and the reward yields itself.

[00:20:57] – Anton Musgrave
Well, as you know, I used to be a lawyer in my previous life. And when you’re preparing for a trial or a contract negotiation the time spent in the court is inversely proportional to the hours been preparing, at least if you want to win the case.

[00:21:11] – Claire Haidar

[00:21:12] – Anton Musgrave
And I think that’s it. It’s [inaudible 00:21:15]. Often I’m asked to talk about the customer of the future. Companies pay vast sums of money to consultants to go and research who is the customer of the future, how will they behave, what will they value? All of those typical questions. My answer often is and it’s quite flippant, but it’s quite sincere. It is, if you’ve got kids between the ages of 8 and 16 around the supper table tonight, pay attention as a business person, not as a mother or a father, because normally about passing me the salt, don’t put your elbows on the table kind of thing.

[00:21:48] – Claire Haidar

[00:21:48] – Anton Musgrave
Instead of just listening to what they’re actually talking about. And then ask yourself the question, ideally with your own executive team the next morning, what is this behaviour of my teenager mean for the future of our customer? By the way, also the future of our employees? What does that mean? And that connection about, so what, is very seldom made.

[00:22:09] – Anton Musgrave
As I said, we all read about the latest robots and AI and wonderful things, but how often do we just sit and explore? What could that mean? Where’s the opportunity? Where’s the challenge? Where’s the disruption? How do we leverage it? How do we avoid it? And so forth.

[00:22:24] – Doug Foulkes
Anton, I’m going to jump in. Just my comment really around what you’re saying. Claire, you said that, because of what has happened, it makes it more difficult to disconnect from the current. I would have thought, Anton, in a situation when you’re trying to get the C-suite or executives to disconnect from what’s happening at the moment, just pointing out what’s happened over the last three years would actually make it even easier because that was never on the horizon.

[00:22:48] – Anton Musgrave
Doug, you’re absolutely right. I mean, Even beyond the obvious things of the last three years, when you trigger a conversation about what’s the future of democracy, for example, is it fit for purpose in a world that’s behaving like a huge, big, interconnected system? And people are having suboptimal educations because schools are not teaching people who are becoming adults and leaders, of course, to think critically as a systems thinker.

[00:23:16] – Anton Musgrave
And then, of course, we panning them with all this fake news and we expecting them to make contributions to increasingly complex questions as voters in democracy. That’s a big debate, but it has fascinating consequences for the high level.

[00:23:30] – Anton Musgrave
When you take it one step lower and you say, in business, in the old days, we used to say companies are there for shareholder profit. Thank heavens we’ve moved away from shareholder now and it talks about stakeholder. And Jamie Dimon and his group of 180 CEOs signed a few years ago that manifesto.

[00:23:46] – Anton Musgrave
But you then start talking about what is capitalism fit for purpose? And you realize it has some fundamental shortcomings. And of course, the events of the last three years have highlighted many of these. Now we know what other systems have not worked. So how do we tweak capitalism?

[00:24:01] – Anton Musgrave
It’s relevant for companies, even in the short-term, because the question then is, okay, so if companies are shifting to stakeholder value in all of its dimensions, tell me how you measure your success as a business. And the answers I get are typically, well, it’s so much profit and so much sales and it’s so many employees and it’s et cetera, et cetera. All are quantitative, but a lot of it needs to be quantitative.

[00:24:26] – Anton Musgrave
And so when you stop thinking about how are we actually going to measure our success in the future 5, 10 years out from now, in a world that’s shifting, then you start realizing you need to put different processes in place, look at doing different things to have that new impact in the world around you, and that then starts having very immediate consequences in your capital allocation decisions, your structure of your organization, your business model and so forth.

[00:24:55] – Doug Foulkes
And that brings us to the end of the first part of our conversation with futurist Anton Musgrave. To see where this conversation goes and understand why more than ever, his work is relevant to today’s workplace. Make sure to catch the next two parts of this conversation on Spotify, Google or Apple Podcasts or on WNDYR’s website, From Claire and myself, we’ll see you soon.

Frequently Asked Questions about Futurists

What is a Futurist?

Futurists are people whose specialty or interest is futurology or the attempt to systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present, whether that of human society in particular or of life in general.

What role do Futurists play in the Futureworld process?

The future is unknown, but with the right tools it can be understood and embraced. Our Futurists – or Gurus – stretch the thinking of leaders to open up opportunities for evolution, shifting the future from a daunting mystery to a fertile field of growth possibilities.

Can you have a one-on-one session with a Futureworld Futurist?

Absolutely. Our Futurists are available for strategy workshop facilitation, keynote presentations, events, and Exco and Board meetings. Our Futurists will help you open your leadership team’s eyes to all that is possible in the future and help them understand the forces shaping the future of your business.

How do I book a Futurist for a leadership intervention?

Our Futurists monitor and interpret signals from the future that break the ‘business as usual’ mindset to provide unique insights for leaders and teams. Our powerful keynotes shape cutting-edge thinking. To enquire about booking one of our Futurists, visit our Contact page and complete the contact form. We will get back to you within 2 business days to understand your needs.

How do I join Futureworld as a Futurist?

We have a number of featured Futurist Gurus and partners, to become one of our partner Futurists, please visit our Contact page and complete the contact form. We will get back to you within 2 business days to discuss how you can become a Futureworld partner Futurist.

Do Futurists predict the future?

Absolutely not. It’s impossible for a Futurist to predict the future. In fact, if a Futurist tells you he/she can predict the future, you should probably take that as a clear sign that they don’t really know what they’re talking about. A true Futurist monitors and interprets signals from the future. You’ll notice we didn’t say “trends” and this is deliberate. At Futureworld, we pay very little attention to trends because trends are already well known in the market. If you, as a leader, follow trends you’ll always find yourself behind the curve, with others well in front of you. Instead, our Futurists focus on identifying the forces shaping the future – those ripples out on the horizon that will grow in five and 10 years to become the tsunamis of change.