We live in a world of great transformation – and because of advancements in technology – we are experiencing this transformation at an accelerating rate. But how are organizations coping with this change and what role do their boards play in ensuring they are prepared to handle what’s next?
Jeff De Cagna, a widely respected advisor, author, and self-proclaimed student, with 25 years of experience in the association and non-profit space has recently formed Foresight First LLC. His primary goal is to help organizations strengthen their board performance to better anticipate and prepare them for the future.
In this episode of the Leading Learning podcast, both Celisa and Jeff talk with Jeff De Cagna about the “foresight first” approach, the role that learning plays with it, and the implications this has for boards and learning leaders.
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[00:20] – Thank you to YourMembership, sponsor of the Leading Learning podcast for the first quarter of 2017. YourMembership’s award-winning learning management system, CrowdWisdom, provides organizations with the means to manage all of their educational content formats in one central location, and also provides tools to create and deliver assessments, evaluations and learning communities.
[1:10] "]– YourMembership is also the executive sponsor of our upcoming Leading Learning event, Learning • Technology • Design™ (LTD). LTD is an virtual event designed specifically for professionals in the business of continuing education and professional development. We launched LTD as a successful face-to-face event in 2016 but decided to try it out as a virtual event for 2017. The goal of the event will be the same – to help attendees find new and better ways to engage learners and create lasting impact through the effective use of technology. The event will take place March 1-3, 2017. You can get our preferred pricing rate – $100 off the full rate – through the end of January.
[02:01] –Highlighted Resource (this is something new that we will do during the introduction to each podcast) – this week, we’d like to highlight our Leading Learning Newsletter. This is a great complement to the podcast – we describe the podcast as audio intelligence for the learning leader and the newsletter as inbox intelligence for the learning leader. The monthly newsletter includes a curated set of links across 5 domains: leadership, strategy, learning, marketing, and technology and each contains high-value, powerful information.
[03:59] – A preview of what will be covered in this podcast where Celisa and Jeff interview Jeff De Cagna, author, speaker and advisor for associations and non-profit organizations.
[06:15] – Introduction to Jeff and some background information about what he does and his key interests. Jeff shares about his 25 years of experience in the association/non-profit space.
[07:45] – Jeff talks about what prompted the rebranding of Principled Innovation LLC to Foresight First LLC. He says we’ve reached a point/critical juncture with associations and non-profit organizations where we are seeing the confluence of future developments accelerating in pace, the transformation of our society, and we also now have a critical issue with the performance of boards. With Foresight First, he’s trying to strengthen and improve board performance by focusing their attention on the fundamental issues their organizations are going to have to grapple with over the next 10 years and beyond and reorienting their work to be about foresight and learning with the future. It’s a shift in direction from what he’s done in the past but he believes it’s a necessary area of focus for associations/non-profits.
[10:24] – What is “foresight first,” and how is it like a “mobile first” approach/mindset? Jeff explains that mobile first is a mindset that says with the tremendous proliferation of mobile devices (of all types), that for any organization that wants to be an effective player in this environment, you really have to concentrate on how you’re going to reach people on the devices that they’re using. The analog to that with foresight first is that because of the importance that mobile has taken in people’s attention, we need boards to focus their attention on the issue of foresight.
One of the challenges we have with governing is that we aren’t really using the attention resources that boards bring to the table effectively. We need to capitalize on those attention resources and their ability to learn in an area where it’s going to have far more impact on the success of the association. This is about making a shift in governing orientation to the idea of being foresight first. Jeff emphasizes that boards are the groups within associations/non-profits that combine the responsibility, opportunity, and authority to be able to move their organizations forward.
[14:50] – Can you talk about the role that learning plays in a “foresight first” approach? Jeff asserts that with the arrival of automation and artificial intelligence, we really need to build our capacity for learning. It has become the central capability that organizations need to have to be able to thrive in a rapidly shifting environment. He uses the phrase, “learning with the future” rather than, “learning about the future” because “learning about the future” is more about prediction and “learning with the future” is more about what might emerge.
Rather than trying to establish our unique prediction of what the future is going to be, we need to prepare ourselves for understanding how it could unfold in a variety of ways and that requires us to learn which Jeff says has to be a consistent practice, not a one-off activity. The foresight process that he encourages boards to adopt is about consistent learning, something he says is crucial and necessary. In the past, he points out that boards haven’t been asked to learn much and/or their work was shallow but he’d like to see the work of governing become a form of deep work, something that will involve a lot more rich learning.
[19:04] – A discussion about the makeup of the boards and that we likely need to rethink who it is that we are looking for on boards – rather than experts, it’s important to have good learners. Jeff explains that we need to have insatiably curious people serving on boards in order to sustain the necessary level of investment and attention. He says it’s also about having people with humility and vulnerability. The whole notion of foresight first is a comprehensive way of framing our governing orientation that involves the identification and selection of directors, the orientation of directors and the development of their capacity, the governing process itself, and how we assess and evaluate the success of those boards.
[23:32] – What’s different in a “foresight” driven board meeting/call/interaction from what you might expect in a traditional board interaction? Jeff explains the fundamental difference is the board is going to be devoting their attention to the work of foresight, almost exclusively. What makes this possible is that we have technology to reduce the cognitive burden on issues that boards have struggled with in the past. This allows directors to have more time to engage in conversation with one another in a cycle of activity that’s part of a “foresight first” framework including a 3 step process: sense making, meaning making, and decision making. They will also have a variety of tools to help them manage the process. Jeff adds that another aspect of this is shifting primary responsibility for strategy making to other stakeholders in the organization to include young people and he explains the benefit of this.
[29:54] – What do you see as the application or implication for learning professionals working at associations for this “foresight first” attitude? Jeff shares that we really do need those people serving in learning roles to be more about learning – not just about how to deliver effective conferences/workshops/events, but how to design those experiences to be about learning so that everyone can contribute to the conversation around the future of their organizations. Learning professionals have to play a fundamental role in helping that learning capability be nurtured and supported. There can also be very effective internal coaches/supporters helping those inside the association (staff and board). Jeff believes this is an extraordinary opportunity for those involved and passionate about the work of learning in order to drive it deep into how organizations operate.
[32:31] – What’s your approach to your own lifelong learning and development? Jeff describes his approach as being “insatiably curious” – he’s always looking for information/perspectives/insights in a variety of areas. He tracks information beyond what’s related to his work. He prefers to refer to himself (and be referred to) as a “student” rather than an “expert”. Each day he ensures he learns something new and the more that he does that, the more excited he gets about the possibilities of this for organizations. Jeff notes that this is a good question for everyone to ask themselves because learning is the central capability that’s going to determine those individuals/organizations/networks that will thrive and those that will struggle.
[36:49] – How to connect with Jeff:
Connect with Jeff through chat link: chat.center/foresightfirst
[38:01] – Wrap Up
Thanks again to YourMembership for sponsoring of this episode of the Leading Learning podcast.
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[39:50] – Sign off