Letter from the CEO: Happy New Year, and Welcome to 2021

“What will be the lasting changes brought on by the pandemic?” is the question I have encountered most this year from clients, the media, and friends.

We know the impact that we see and feel each day, but it is more difficult to understand how the pandemic served to accelerate or decelerate (what we at Toffler Associates refer to as the Forces and Anti-Forces) other changes across our lives, such as societal institutions, gender and race relationships, work, technology, policy, and climate. Many of the changes we are dealing with today, like teleworking technology, online learning, or telemedicine, existed previously – the pandemic simply forced us to adopt them quickly and at scale, a challenge for us all to innovate business models and practices.

Throughout 2020, the Toffler Associates Vanishing Point Blog explored the question above from different perspectives: healthcare, education, security, supply chain management, enterprise resilience, energy, smart cities, and return to work. Our focus, as always, is to look over the horizon, exploring what the world might look like ten years from now so that we can help our clients make decisions today.

The Great Wait timeline we shared in April identified key signals to expect on our path to the Novel Normal. Several of the signals have been validated in recent months and others will be demonstrated in the coming months. For example, we continue to see geographically based waves of strict policy from COVID-19 hot spots, and this will continue until the vaccination is delivered to the global mass market. With the high death rates post-holiday, we will see an evolution in testing, advanced therapies, and vaccination distribution. Last week’s protest and attack on the Capitol was a demonstration of geopolitical unrest in our backyard and will lead to greater instability and future threats to global democracies. Rising unemployment, income and healthcare inequalities, a rise in mental illness, and ongoing “future shock” will continue to spark civil unrest throughout the world. On a more positive side, organizations will put an increased emphasis on supply chain diversification and security along with enterprise resilience.

“We can’t slow the pace of change, but by peering farther into the future, we lay a longer runway,”

– Deb Westphal, Toffler Associates Board Member and former CEO

A theme from our clients and Knowledge Network of SMEs was a realization many organizations were not prepared for this high impact, low probability event. While many people may want to call this global pandemic a “black swan” event, that would be a mistake – it was neither hard to predict nor a surprise; many experts have been warning about and preparing for such a pandemic for decades. In fact, Toffler Associates has included global pandemics in our ALTERNATE FUTURES® scenario planning for years, for clients ranging from the commercial to the intelligence sector. Lack of preparation does not make something a “black swan,” but it does provide comfort to some organizational leadership who would like to deflect responsibility (i.e., “Well, who could have really predicted this would happen?!”). Leaders are now realizing how critical it is to develop long-term strategies that consider a range of possible scenarios, elevate strategic foresight, examine more imaginative possibilities for the future, and plan to mitigate risks and seize opportunities.

Reflecting on 2020, I’m in awe at the strong leadership our clients demonstrated and their ability to make progress while looking farther into the future. It was thrilling to be a part of strategic engagements understanding the Future of Science and Technology Workforce 2030, helping to design a new ML/AI commerce platform, defining the Future of Army Installations, establishing new models for Enterprise Resilience, and determining what it takes to help everyone return safely to live sports and entertainment. In addition, I am proud of many other things we accomplished in 2020:

  • Celebrated the 50th anniversary of Alvin Toffler’s publishing of Future Shock
  • New TA Knowledge Network tool to expand our super-connector capabilities and relationship with SMEs for client collaboration
  • Innovated how clients can prepare for uncertain futures with Toffler’s Futures Game
  • Launched cross-sector collaboration with our Future Threats Lab to keep a pulse on risks and enable enterprise resiliency
  • Helped clients remain productive with virtual collaboration tools and techniques for virtual tabletop exercises
  • Added new talent to the Toffler Associates team, aligning new capabilities to client needs
  • Enjoyed numerous virtual Toffler and client team building activities and figured out new ways to enjoy each other’s company

“It is an incredible time to be alive for those that have a vision of their own future form. For the change that is happening around us is revolutionary, full of opportunities for those courageous enough to think beyond today.”

– Alvin Toffler

January 2021 is the official start of the third decade of the 21st century, and this new start brings me hope and optimism for our clients and society’s future. We’ve seen clients invest in innovation by looking into 2030 and then planning what can be started now, even during the pandemic. The resilience, creativity, and adaptability demonstrated by organizations and leaders give us positive signals on how future disruptions may be handled. I’m especially excited that this year Toffler Associates will celebrate its 25th year advising clients, developing strategy, identifying blind spots, and understanding future uncertainty.

Although 2021 will continue to challenge us as individuals and as a society, we will continue to show compassion and learn as people. I look forward to seeing you this year and exchanging smiles with our mouths and eyes.

Maria Bothwell

CEO, Toffler Associates

About the Authors

Maria Bothwell

As CEO of Toffler Associates, Maria taps into deep experience with strategy development and execution, customer experience, business performance management, acquisition integration, and organizational transformation. She is an energetic and insightful executive who brings dedication and know-how to help organizations define business strategy, lead high performing teams, grow new markets, and create measurable results.

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