33. The future of work and building people teams | Ira Wolfe, Founder of Success Performance Solutions


Ira Wolfe | Founder of Success Performance Solutions


This episode we spend an enlightening hour with a “Millennial trapped in a Baby Boomer body, Ira Wolfe. Ira is president of Poised for the Future Company. Founder of Success Performance Solutions, a TEDx Speaker, and a global Thought Leader on the Future of Work and Recruitment.


Ira Wolfe with a blue shirt, smiling

Ira S Wolfe is a “Millennial trapped in a Baby Boomer body and president of Poised for the Future Company, founder of Success Performance Solutions, a TEDx Speaker, Top 5 Global Thought Leader on Future of Work and HR (Thinkers360), author of Recruiting in the Age of Googlization,  host of Geeks Geezers Googlization podcast (selected as one of the top 50 podcasts to listen to in 2021).



[00:00:00] – Ira Wolfe
As human beings, we became addicted to certainty and whether it was personal life, business, finance, banking, whether we were investing in stock, we were addicted to certainty and normal died and took with it certainty in 2020.

[00:00:25] – Doug Foulkes
Hello and welcome to The Future of Work, the podcast that looks at, believe it or not, the future of work.

It’s brought to you by WNDYR for their blog, Chaos and RocketFuel. WNDYR are productivity and human behaviour specialists whose goal is to help us humans remain relevant in an ever more technology based workplace. And you can check them out at WNDYR dot com.

That’s WNDYR dot com. I’m Doug Foulkes and along with WNDYR CEO Claire Haidar. We regularly meet up with industry experts and mavericks to get their take on work in the future. This episode, we spend an enlightening hour with a millennial trapped in a baby boomer body.

Ira Wolfe. Ira is president of Poised for the Future company, founder of Success Performance Solutions. He’s a TEDx speaker and a global thought leader on the future of work and recruitment. He hosts the Geeks Geezers Googlization podcast, which was selected as one of the top 50 podcasts to listen to in 2021. So no pressure there from our side. In this session, we get Ira’s take on what recruitment will look like in the next five years and the constraints we are putting ourselves under.

Why he sees the world as VUCA, how work is fundamentally changing going forward, and how leaders need to find ways to help their people develop, to change and to take a risk. Claire, over to you.

[00:01:57] – Claire Haidar
Ira thank you so much for being with us today. It’s just honestly so good to have you on the show with us. To kick us off I’m going to start with a pretty broad question. You’ve really become known as a thought leader in the area of recruitment and building people teams more broadly. There’s a lot of other topics that you go into. And I know that we are going to unpack a lot of those today, but I want to start there. Can you share with us a little bit of the history and kind of like the set of events that set this area of expertise in motion for you?

[00:02:28] – Ira Wolfe
First of all, thanks very much. A pleasure to be here. I love talking about these things. What set it in motion. You know, I think about that often. I’ve always been fascinated by change. When I did my TED talk, we talked about, the focus of it was, in fact when I started the TED talk, it was that I’ve danced with change my entire life, certainly not at the scale that we have in the last year or last few years, but have shifted careers and so I adjusted things, for the average person, I’ve always been at the, I won’t say the cutting edge of change but comfortable with some pretty dramatic changes.

But, you know, over the last few years, maybe few decades of my career, it was, you know, things were moving faster. People were more uncomfortable. There was definitely more uncertainty. You know, I just again, I’ve been fascinated by it. And I went down the rabbit hole, chased it and here we are, you know, in 2021 and after last year a pandemic, accelerating technological disruption. To me, it’s a fun place to be, but scary.

So I even put in my LinkedIn profile, you know, I’m fascinated and terrified by change.

[00:03:53] – Claire Haidar
Well, Ira, you’ve definitely come to the right place. We’re a company that believes in it, works with it all the time. And so this is going to be a good conversation.

[00:04:03] – Ira Wolfe
Oh, absolutely. And the good news is we’re uncertain where it’s going to go.

[00:04:07] – Claire Haidar

[00:04:08] – Doug Foulkes
Ira, I’m going to say hello, good evening, good morning. I’m going to jump straight in with it. What’s recruitment going to look like in 2030?

[00:04:17] – Ira Wolfe
Well, we don’t know. I mean, I say I’m a futurist and whatever that means, we certainly have outlines what we thought 2030 was going to look like, happened in 2020. I actually gave a presentation in September of 2019 and it was entitled Workforce 2030. And many of the things that I spoke about, which we anticipated would be in 2030, happened overnight. And one of those was, you know, a remote workforce where you know, close to 50 percent of the people were working from home.

And that’s even evolved because we are talking about working remote. But now it’s not even working from home. It’s working from anywhere. So that was you know, that was certainly number one. And that has huge implications because what does the physical space in which we work look like, it opens up a whole new world of a potential talent pool that people felt that people had to relocate to the area to go to work, to show up in a physical space.

And now overnight, literally just about a year ago, we quickly learnt that we don’t need people to come to work every day. They don’t have to commute an hour, two hours, or three hours on a daily basis. It’s certainly been challenging. I can’t say that every job can be done remote, but much of the work that we’ve accomplished in the past that many management teams or many employees felt that you had to be in the same physical space to get work done, we quickly shattered that.

The biggest change is that we’re going to have this distributed workforce. We’re still evolving what that means and also because we were doing it on the technology that we had. And certainly people got very comfortable with Zoom and many of the other platforms that were out there. But can you imagine what that’s going to be in another 10 years? Part of that is virtual reality. I mean, right now, virtual reality is a little strange, though most people are still operating on 4G or slower technology.

We’re now, you know, 5G is certainly with us and that’s expanding and we’re moving towards 6G with that. And that 6G will certainly be here by 2030. So are the bandwidth, the Internet speeds, quantum computing, the challenges of streaming through virtual reality or augmented reality are going to be changed. In vision rather than, you know, us recording this remotely, we’re doing it through a screen that we literally could feel we’re in the same space. And what are the dynamics?

How does that change? I think the downstream from remote work impacts how people are going to be paid, what jobs are going to look like, from a full time, part time, to a contingent workforce. It’s exciting. In early 2021, we are literally in the first stages of reimagining what work will be.

[00:07:38] – Doug Foulkes
Just a point on the 6G, I read that you’re going to be able to stream 8K video live through 6G. So as you say, it’s just going to change absolutely everything.

[00:07:49] – Ira Wolfe
I mean, and people don’t understand what that is. But to put that in perspective, 6G or, you know, many people are are still operating on 3G or, you know, slower 4G. And just to put that in perspective, 5G is a thousand times faster than 3G. And it’s 100 times faster than 4G. We’re talking about these exponential leaps in speed. And to think, you know, I was certainly around when the first dial-up happened and you used to hear that horrible noise.

[00:08:29] – Claire Haidar
It was terrible. I can still hear it in my head.

[00:08:35] – Ira Wolfe
It’s terrifying when you hear that noise now. But we persisted. I mean, we got through that and then even with a fax machine and, you know, it was slow, it was uncomfortable. And we persisted and we’re literally one hundred thousand times faster than we were before. And now we’re talking about multiples of one hundred and a thousand and ten thousand, faster speeds. And that’s not even based on quantum computing.

So we don’t know. I mean, they’ve anticipated quantum computing was going to be here by 2021, 2022, 2025. So we’ll take a safe bet, a conservative bet. Most people are pretty comfortable saying we’ll have some form of quantum computing by 2030. You’re talking a hundred thousand times faster on the computer. We’re not even talking about bandwidth, we’re talking about how quickly information can process. And right now you can do a Google search and you know, in point two seconds, literally a fifth of a second, you get a million results.

That’s going to be instantaneous, more instantaneous than it is even now. So, yeah, it’s incredible. So we’re in for a very, very interesting decade. So I hope people are ready to buckle up.

[00:09:56] – Doug Foulkes
I’m going to pull it back just a little bit and we’re going to just talk about now. I know that you’re a big fan, if you could say, of the concept of VUCA. It’s an acronym that’s been around for a little while.

Can you just give me your version on it? Maybe just break it down and explain why you reference it so much?

[00:10:13] – Ira Wolfe
I came across VUCA about fifteen years ago and I don’t recall where but it originated in the 1980s and then it was adopted by the military after the Berlin Wall came down, just to give you some perspective, and what the US military recognised is that the future world was not going to be run by sovereign nations, that wars would not be between the US and Japan and Germany or Iran or Iraq, although we still have those to some degree. But even when we’re fighting the war, sometimes it’s factions within a country and then their affiliates.

So you look at a terrorist organisation, they may have a hub. Their leader may live in a particular country, but they’re dispersed. There’s no defined country that we’re fighting and that’s how the world is going to be, much more distributed, much more globalised. And with that, they recognised that we would be living in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world, which is VUCA. So it’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. I don’t know a better acronym to describe 2021 than VUCA.

Tt was volatile, it’s uncertain, it’s complex. And it left us with a lot of ambiguity and that’s going to continue. And you know, people don’t like that. A good friend of mine talks about that we as human beings, we became addicted to certainty. And, you know, whether it was personal life, business, finance, banking, you know, whether we were investing in stock, we were addicted to certainty and normal died and took with it certainty in 2020.

[00:12:12] – Claire Haidar
I’m going to move a little bit back into the specifics of recruitment and building people teams. And I want to go back to some of those earlier things that you shared, but also tying it back into this concept of VUCA.

If we are going to have that exponential increase in speed, which is going to allow us to completely reimagine what virtual actually is. I mean, because if you look at just this interaction that we’re having right now, there’s actually a lot of impediments to it. You know, we’re all three looking through screens because of bandwidth, we’ve had to put cameras off and it still feels very constrained.

Like I don’t feel as if I’m sharing a physical space with the two of you right now, even though we technically are in the cloud together.

And all of those constraints are essentially going to go away with some of the things that you discussed, the speed, the virtual reality, everything like that.

If we look at what people are thinking about today in terms of building people teams, are they really thinking through how exponentially different it can be? Or are you finding that the thinking is still very constrained to what we know today? What are some of the really constraining mistakes that people are making in their thinking today?

[00:13:34] – Ira Wolfe
We are definitely constrained and I don’t think anybody has any idea. I mean, we’re talking about virtual reality, augmented reality, the difference between digital and virtual. Most people won’t have any clue what we’re talking about. So let’s bring it back down to them. And most people are looking through the lens of digital, and digital is again, I mean, looking through a screen. We all have experienced that struggle with that interaction and that interface. And it’s exhausting.

You know, I mean, Zoom fatigue is something very real, because it’s interesting that we were able to go to work. Let’s say, you know, I’m not sure eight to five was actually a workday anymore, but that you went from eight to five. You were sitting next to different people in your cubicles or offices. You sat next to people in meetings, you were there. And then all of a sudden, the only difference with the digital experience was we put a screen in front and we didn’t share that same space.

But people now seem to be exhausted watching people being on their best behavior all day long. And yet, twelve months ago, we had to be on our best behavior in a meeting, we had to be dressed. We couldn’t have a shirt on with shorts. You know, we only know what people wear from the shoulders up or the waist up. So it’s odd. I mean, people are struggling with this.

We had to be on our best behavior 8, 10, 12 hours a day just a year ago. But the technology’s not comfortable and people, we do have troubles with bandwidth, the technology, all of a sudden overnight, everybody became their own IT person and many people know how to use a computer as long as it’s working well, they know how to use their smartphone as long as somebody and put all the apps on and everything works well.

But when something goes wrong, you call the IT department or support or family. And then all of a sudden it got very complicated. People are still looking through the lens of 2020. And the world that we’re moving to is going to be incredibly, incredibly different. It’s not just going to be conversing through a screen. There’s going to be literally interaction in there. We’re seeing it a little bit in some education. So education has suffered throughout, you know, and still for many reasons.

I mean, people sometimes don’t even have access to online learning. But the whole experience of even in learning, whether it’s in business or education, of watching a video or watching a screen. It’s revolutionary, I mean, it is incredible what has evolved over the course of the year of how do you increase engagement, how do you increase participation. And that that doesn’t mean just people speaking up and getting comfortable in front of a camera.

It literally means engaging in your acting and forgetting that we’re not in the same space. And so it’s a mindset. I mean, it’s a mindset shift that we will have to undergo and everybody in the space will have to undergo that is going to grow and thrive and participate in a distributed world in order to be distributed and effective. We’re going to go from digital to virtual.

[00:17:15] – Claire Haidar
OK, so let’s mine that one a little bit more there, because there’s a lot in what you’re saying there. If it’s more than just the technology, if it’s more than just the systems and the processes. And there’s a very big component that rests on the individual, which is that mindset piece, but also how I physically show up now, which is so different to walking into a building and sitting next to somebody. What would you say are the critical factors that managers specifically need to start working on with individuals in their teams to help them make that shift in how they think?

[00:17:53] – Ira Wolfe
So there’s two different things going on in my head. One is, I’m going to go back to that physical space. Most people never thought of the physical requirement in work. I mean, and I’m not talking you have to lift 25 or 50 pounds. There are now jobs that are essential but can be performed remote or virtual. And there are other jobs that are maybe essential, maybe not as essential, but have to be done on site in a physical space.

And then we have the second component to that, of not only being in the physical space, but how do we function effectively? How do we get our work done if we have to be six feet apart or we have to wear masks? And even after, you know, after everyone’s vaccinated and the pandemic, there’s still going to be a level, not everybody’s going to be vaccinated and we’re going to have different variants. And who knows, you know, people are predicting already that it’s not going to be 100 years until the next pandemic.

So there’s going to be, fortunately, out of this a higher level of safety and precaution. I don’t know any business that really looked at a job beyond part time, full time, and could someone work remote? Can somebody work remote one day a week? To all of a sudden is the physical requirement of where work must be done or where it could be done most efficiently and effectively. The physical aspect is new and we’re still figuring that out.

Even companies like IBM, you know, they have three hundred and fifty thousand employees. And I remember the CHRO in a meeting, she since retired. But I remember I was on a panel and a discussion with her maybe in March or early April. And they said, somebody asked, what’s the one thing that surprised you the most? And she said, as a leader in data analytics, people, analytics and really understanding the workforce, we had no idea who our essential workers were.

And when we identified our essential workers, we never even considered which ones could work remote. I mean, an essential worker meant you had to show up in the physical space and that all went away. So that’s one aspect. So we have to to think about that. The other aspect is how do we get people to be more comfortable with this uncertainty, so which is the manager side of it? I do a ton of writing and thinking and resilience, you know, the word of the year in 2020 was resilience. Publications all said the word of the year was resilience.

But resilience means bouncing back. It doesn’t mean growing. It doesn’t mean thriving. It means surviving. I mean if you bounce back, you bounce back to its original state. So kind of the evolution we need to get people to move toward is not thinking about bouncing back, but how to bounce forward and not only bouncing forward, but in doing so you grow and you become stronger.

And Nassim Taleb, he wrote the book, The Black Swan, which really became very popular in 2008 with the financial meltdown. He talks about something called antifragility. So if we imagine that a cup, you have a porcelain cup and you drop it on the floor, it shatters. That’s fragile. And we’ve built our organisations, and this leads into where we’re going with teams, we built our organisations to be efficient and squeeze out, you know, mistakes, live on a just in time environment.

We became incredibly efficient. The problem with that is organisations and people became so specialised, they became fragile that when there was a huge impact, a huge change, that they shattered. And that’s what happened last year. Organisations shattered, our society shattered, our infrastructure shattered and careers shattered. They just, many disappeared. The resilience means we bounce back. So instead of the shattering, it bounces off the floor and you leave out a sigh of relief that it didn’t break.

You know, that’s happened to all of us. You know, a cup or a dish or something falls on the floor and remarkably, it bounced. So that means that there was some resilience, but it didn’t necessarily mean it was better than it was before. You just were lucky you got through it. And with a changing environment, with the world we live in, it changes so fast. By the time it bounces the second time and you pick it up, the world changed, the environment, the jobs, the markets, everything changed.

So you’re sort of out of place. It’s like going back in a time machine within seconds that, yeah, I survived I’m still in one piece, but everything appears different. So we need to learn how to grow and thrive. And in order to do that, is what Taleb talks about as being antifragile, and antifragility means with each impact with each bounce, you’ve learned from it and you’ve grown to. To do that requires courage because we need, as individuals and managers need to help people through this.

And some of the managers need help doing this. We need to learn to become courageous to take that first step. What do we need to do differently than we did a month ago, a year ago, two years ago, five years ago? What do we need to do differently? That got us to our place right now, because doing the same thing over and over again in the future is just not going to work. So resilience is part of it.

We’re going to have setbacks. Grit is another term that’s thrown out there, which is endurance, which is perseverance, so in order to go from what I call the four stages of adaptability, the first stage is collapse. You just got crushed. You’re curled up in a ball wondering what’s going to happen. The next stage is coping. And coping is what most people are currently doing. They’re literally just coping. They’re trying to get by. They’re hoping that we go back to normal. We hope somebody externally fixes the problem and that there’ll be some sense of normalcy coming down the pike.

But that doesn’t mean we’re any better than before. And a lot of people are at risk for being left behind. We need to help people grow and as I said, grow and thrive. And in order to do that, we need to help people become better at dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty. We call that mental flexibility. Part of that is about having a growth mindset versus the fixed mindset. Carol Dweck did a ton of work and we can talk a little bit more about that if you’d like.

But growth mindset is just the ability that we’re going to make mistakes. We have to be more forgiving. Organisations that grow on innovation have learnt to allow people to make mistakes, to try new things, to have input and to constantly be evolving versus feeling that you’re a failure if you get a B or if you get an A minus, you’re a failure. And then finally, and this may be one of the biggest ones is we have to unlearn.

We’ve had accomplishments. You may have multiple degrees, you’ve had success. You’ve been the top salesperson. You’ve attained different titles and positions. You’ve received awards. You got there on the back of a lot of hard work and education and the school of hard knocks. Some of the things we’ve done in the past, some of the memories we had of the past, we’re going to have to let go. That doesn’t mean forget, but we’re going to have to unlearn what we did, not only learn new things, but unlearn what we did.

So managers are going to have to become adept at adapting. And in order to help other people become adept at adapting, we’re going to have to help people take many steps, take that first step, get the courage to change, to try something new, to learn something new. And after the first step, they’ll have a little bit more confidence to take a second step. And ultimately, the more steps you take, the more hopeful you become, the brighter the future.

It doesn’t look like the world is crashing down on you. It looks like it’s, hey there’s some opportunity out there and I think I can do it. And so to me, the number one thing that managers and leaders in organisations need to do is look at their people and figure out ways to get them more comfortable. Taking that first step at learning something new.

Unlearning and taking a risk.

[00:26:56] – Doug Foulkes
Actually it is quite funny because I was actually just going to quickly play devil’s advocate and say, well, when it’s over is there a chance that it could go back to how it was? Because people want the comfort of knowing what used to work in the past. From what you said? I don’t think so.

[00:27:12] – Ira Wolfe
No. Well, we don’t have control. We don’t have control over the environment. The only thing we control is how we respond to the environment. And if you’re going to respond the way you used to respond, that’s probably more, you may be coping. You know, maybe there’s some room, a wiggle room in there to grow a little bit. But the faster things change and the more things evolve, it won’t take much for the next whiff the next, going back to VUCA, the next volatile event, the next surprise that we have, whatever it might be, whether it’s a virus or whether it’s, you know, an attack or whether it’s politics, whether it’s climate change, whatever it might be has changed our environment and the environment in which we live has changed. We need to respond differently. We just can’t, and we can’t react. One of the other problems with just grit and resilience, they are really reactions to a problem. They’re not proactive. They’re not anticipating it. And if you’re getting, you know, if we were thrown a curveball in life once every 10 years or once every 20 years, we had time to respond and react and be resilient when every pitch is a curveball.

Yeah, it’s really tough. So we have to start anticipating how we’re going to react, how we’re going to respond. Rather than just waiting for something to happen, to react.

[00:28:54] – Claire Haidar
I think people really need to pause and take in. What you said there, Ira, is that grit and resilience are just reactions to a problem. They are not proactive solution finding ways of being. And that, you know, like so many people right now, like grit and resilience, are kind of like the buzzwords.

And managers are kind of seeing it as the latest hot thing. And what you’re essentially saying is that it’s outdated already. We’ve got to be somewhere else already.

[00:29:24] – Ira Wolfe
They’re comfortable.

I am building this continuum, as I said, of the stages of adaptability and it goes, you know, collapse, coping, growing, and thriving. Grit and resilience are probably required throughout. I mean, you know, whether you’re going from collapsing to coping or coping to growing or growing to thriving, you’re going to need some, you need perseverance. You need stamina to get through that. And each of those steps, there’s going to be some setback.

So you do need grit and resilience to go from stage to stage or step to step. But in order to actually make it through the growing, in order to grow, to even get to growth, forget thriving, but just to grow even nominally, we need to have that ability, that mental flexibility, we have to have the ability to deal with ambiguity and uncertainty. And in order to do that, we need to have this growth mindset because we have to forgive ourselves for not being perfect.

We have to forgive ourselves too. Everything we do, again, has risks, we can’t be perfectionists anymore. I mean, that just doesn’t exist. Yet we designed our lives in there. A good friend of mine explained this. We moved from a world of complicated to complex. And in doing so, we move from a world of just in time to just in case. And I think that pretty much sums it up. You know, going back is, we need to teach people how to live a life just in case.

Going back to that Hemingway quote, which I presented a while back, and it was, you know, when you go bankrupt it starts slowly and then it occurs suddenly, you don’t go bankrupt when the last bill comes in or whether you fall ill. You were on the precipice before, you were on the edge. You lived paycheque to paycheque or you had minimal savings. Or, you know, when the kids grow up, I’ll start putting away retirement or when I graduate, I’ll start doing this.

We always kick the can down the road a little bit. And unfortunately, that’s how the majority people tend to live. But it’s like all of a sudden, you know, it is that medical emergency or the roof caved in or the car or whatever caused it. But that’s how we’re going to have to live in the future. I mean, the Internet’s been around for 60 years. It’s only in the last few years that, you know, most people have experience going from that dial up.

We talked about the 1G to 2G to 3G to 4G to 5G, but the spaces between the time spans between each of those is so much faster. You know, it took like seventy five years to have fifty million people adopt electricity. And there was like two hundred million people that were I think using TikTok within like twenty four hours. The adoption rate of change is so much quicker than it was before. Again, we’re going to have a lot of things that happen suddenly.

[00:32:42] – Doug Foulkes
Ira I’d like to move the conversation towards the future of work and specifically I would call it Gen Z. You call it Gen Z. How should current business leaders be thinking about utilising their outlook to life and their experience of the world to benefit their own businesses?

[00:33:00] – Ira Wolfe
It’s a good question. And I think the first thing is, I wrote a book in 2008 about the generations and Gen Z or Gen Z or they go by other names as well. Wasn’t even part of it. We weren’t even concerned with them because they weren’t in the workforce. So the four generations at that time were the traditionalists or veterans. They were born before nineteen forty five and then the baby boomers, you know, between 1946 and 1964 and then Gen X between 1966 or 1965 and 1980 and then millennials which were between you know between 1990 and 1996.

And there was a whole lot written about them and the differences and certainly baby boomers remember, JFK and the older generation remember Pearl Harbour and, you know, Gen X remember the space shuttle. And these were like life changing events that occurred. The challenge with that is, is that it’s a mindset. I mean, it’s not just chronological. It wasn’t that if you were a baby boomer, you’re confused by technology and you’re confused by change.

I am an older baby boomer. I am on the upper edge of baby boomer. But I think like a Start-Up. I think like a millennial or and maybe now as a Gen Z. Where all my friends and colleagues are retiring. I’m constantly in Start-Up mode again. They’re literally approaching the winter of their lives and I’m looking towards spring. So when we talk, going back to your question, Gen Z and the younger millennials have grown up in a world that they’ve always had technology.

There’s a video out there and it showed two young millennials. Let’s assume at the time they were somewhere between 18 and 22, and there was a teacher or a parent that came in and showed them a rotary phone and asked them to make a phone call and they didn’t know how to use it. And as baby boomers and even Gen Xers everyone laughed at them and went, yeah, that’s what’s wrong with millennials, look how stupid they are. They don’t know how to use. Well, they never used it.

It wasn’t a piece of technology. And then I also found a clip that had a, the reverse was true, that somebody young, a millennial had given a smartphone to her grandmother. And, you know, she looked at it and it was like, oh, is this a mirror? How do I use this? And the fact is, is that younger millennials and Gen Z only know a world where everything was digital. They’re very, very comfortable doing things remote.

They’re very comfortable using smartphones, are very comfortable taking pictures and doing selfies and doing videos and being on, you know, using social media. They’re comfortable doing that. But do they understand the mindset? Do they have the knowledge and wisdom of how to apply that? Some do, many don’t. They just use it. Just as many baby boomers use a computer. But if anything goes wrong, they can’t fix it. They can’t change it.

They’re afraid they’re going to blow up the Internet. It reminds me of the old days when the VCR came out and they used to say, you know, at that time Gen X was the young kids and you needed your kids to come over and stop the flashing lights on the VCR. Now, ask a Gen Z what a VCR is, and they’ll have no idea. The technology just doesn’t exist. I mean, VCRs, everybody has them stacked up in their basement or in garage sales.

So part of it is they are comfortable with technology. That’s the only world they lived in. But how they apply it is really a mindset. And you have some Gen Z that are creative, curious, motivated, innovative, growth-oriented. They’re excited about the future. But there are some young ones, there’s not 80 million Gen Z that is excited about the future. You have conservative Gen Z, you have conservative millennials. You have liberal, innovative, entrepreneurial baby boomers and traditionals, the oldest generation.

So it’s a mindset. And I walked into a room one time and often happens with people when I go on screen and versus saying what my age is. People said, oh, we expected somebody much younger. And it’s like, you know, my baby boomer body shows up. My mindset is one of much younger. And I think that’s the really important part. We started a label, the four generations, and we started to make assumptions that we need to hire Gen Z and millennials because they’re good with technology.

They know how to use technology. But as far as applying it and making change for the good, understanding it, they’re not all there. Sometimes it could be a seventy five year old baby boomer who understands both the technology and how to use it better. Maybe they’re not experts at coding, maybe they’re not experts at using their thumbs on a smartphone to type quickly, but they have a greater understanding in different parts. So the generations are helpful.

If you’re thinking about mindset, they’re dangerous if we just use them chronologically.

[00:38:51] – Doug Foulkes
But I mean, in that respect, you don’t have to know how stuff works. I mean, look at a car. I mean, most people, just about everyone drives their car, but they couldn’t fix it. Certainly the modern cars today, but I was thinking more maybe around, being used to that technology. So my son, for example, plays a lot of video games.

That’s where you’re going to see the top level of virtual reality at the moment, as you say. So as we move into that, they’re going to be super at home in that type of environment.

[00:39:19] – Ira Wolfe
Yeah, and that’s a great example. I mean we for a while we heard about what do we do about our kids sitting and playing video games all day long until I told them that they were one of the first schools that had them. It was Ohio State, had a graduate degree, had not only a degree, but a graduate degree in gaming it was a master’s in gamification. And to graduated it, I think one of the first classes they had 10 people graduate, 10 students graduate, and the lowest starting salary for any of them was two hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

And all of a sudden it changed it, because it wasn’t necessarily the development of the games, but how do we apply games and that which goes back full circle to our conversation about how do you make digitisation, how do we turn the screen into an interactive experience, an engaging, interactive, productive and or learning experience and make it a game and who knows better how to play the games than, you know, young people that game, but not every young person is a gamer.

I still have the cover. It was a 1985 Newsweek magazine. There were three young kids sitting on a sofa in front of a TV. You know, whether it was Atari or maybe early Nintendo, they were playing. But it was a pretty cynical, sarcastic headline. I don’t remember exactly what it was, but it was about the lazy no good for nothing, you know, young people, all they’re going to do is sit in front of a TV and play games all day long.

And then those people grew up and became the start-ups, the Silicon Valley’s, and what they tried to change, what work could be, of what learning could be. Yet our bureaucracies didn’t allow it. And we’re paying the price because had we thought about how could we use gaming to improve our learning experiences, how can we use it for reskilling and upskilling? How can we do it to change the face of education? How can, you know if you don’t have an expert teacher in one environment or let’s say in health care, you didn’t have an expert surgeon in one area or another?

Why couldn’t we use the fundamentals of gamification to change how we deliver care, how we teach, how we manage, how we cope, how we collaborate, how we get things done. And bureaucracy said, nah we need people that are here. We need people to show up and work. We need to have them in the same room. We need to watch them to make sure they’re doing their job.

[00:42:04] – Claire Haidar
And there’s still some people saying that even though we’ve lived through 2020, which is really scary.

[00:42:11] – Ira Wolfe
I got off the phone just earlier this morning and somebody said it was about testing. I mean, that’s what we do, that’s a core part of my business. We do pre-employment leadership testing. And he said, is there a way to monitor the people taking it? And I said, well one, it’s illegal, so no. So no, you can’t do that. But yeah, you know, part of that is what we need.

We’ll have to come in and have them see them. And I go most people work remote, and you may never, you may rarely physically be in the same space as your people. So if you’re going to hire them to work remote, you know, get with it. I mean, you hire people you can trust and there’s ways to screen trustworthiness and be able to monitor that. Technology does not fix a broken process. It only makes it worse.

So people sometimes you try to use technology to patch up a broken system or broken process. Technology used in the proper way, automates a good process or a good system. It makes it better. It makes it more engaging. It takes away some of the tedious, repetitive tasks from people, so allows people to be more productive. But when you purchase technology to fix a bad system, it only gets worse.

[00:43:32] – Claire Haidar
Ira, we’re drawing closer to the end of our time together and we’ve got about five minutes left. I’d like to close off today’s podcast with you by asking you two questions. And I want you to share with us the most immediate thought that comes to your brain for both of them. OK, so that first instantaneous thought that comes. Why should people take what you’re saying seriously?

[00:44:01] – Ira Wolfe
Because there’s a serious risk of being left behind.

[00:44:05] – Claire Haidar
Love it. And then the one that I’m most fascinated about. I really want to hear your answer on this one. Is give us the data points that are currently keeping you awake at night.

[00:44:18] – Ira Wolfe
That’s a good one. The data points that are keeping me awake. While in the U.S. and maybe around the world is probably the politics. We are so divided and much of that division really traces back to the fear of everything we just talked about, the fear of the uncertainty, the fear of loss. I’m going to lose my job because of somebody else. I’m going to lose my career. I don’t know if I can retire. I don’t know what happens if I get sick.

The fear has really been divisive across all socioeconomic lines. But, you know, but especially amongst the minorities and, you know, middle class and lower class, not lower class person, but lower economic class. So the divisions, you know, VUCA and everything that’s happened has certainly exacerbated those divisions because people are afraid. They’re scared, they’re angry. They’re upset, they’re anxious. What keeps me up is how do we, which goes back to my first answer, what do we need to do to help ensure that humans are not left behind?

[00:45:34] – Claire Haidar
The opposite of fear is hope. And that perhaps is one of the biggest mindsets, you know, which is what you said. This is you, learn to live alongside and within complexity and uncertainty, which are perpetual when you have hope.

[00:45:55] – Ira Wolfe
Yeah, that’s well said. And that, you know, I talk a lot about the adaptability. We talked about, you know, the grit and the resilience and mental flexibility. And frankly, those are the skills. Those are the tools you need in your toolbox. But the ultimate goal for growth and thriving, not just surviving, is going to be to have what do you need to do to have the courage to take the first step, to build the confidence, to take the second step.

And the more steps you take, the more hopeful you become because it’s not so scary.

[00:46:32] – Claire Haidar
Ira, thank you so much for having this conversation with us today. It’s honestly been, it’s always so nice to be in conversation with somebody that’s doing very similar research to us that’s, you know, passionate about the same things that we are. It’s always a conversation that we can learn from, which is great.

[00:46:52] – Ira Wolfe
Together is better that’s what Simon Sinek said.

And it’s absolutely true. I really appreciate the opportunity. I can’t believe how fast that went. And I hope everybody enjoys the episode.

[00:47:05] – Claire Haidar
Amazing. Thank you so much.

[00:47:07] – Doug Foulkes
Well, together, it certainly is better. Thanks there to Ira Wolfe, a thought leader with a lot of sage advice to offer. We really hope you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If you have, we look forward to inviting you back sometime soon. Just a reminder for more information about WNDYR and the integration services that they supply. You can visit their website, that’s WNDYR dot com. And so, as always, from me, Doug Foulkes and Chaos and RocketFuel.

Stay safe and we’ll see you soon.

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