Shocks and Solutions: Future Shock Forum 2018 Event Recap


I am so energized and full of hope! I’ve just returned from the beautiful city of Chicago where we hosted the 2018 Future Shock Forum. Everyone who joined us shared incredible connections, questions, and perspectives. To be sure, the event exceeded our expectations.


This event is part of the Toffler Associates legacy. For many years, our co-founders Alvin and Heidi Toffler would host intimate gatherings of curious, accomplished friends and colleagues. They would gather around the kitchen table of their California home to explore ideas and look at the future. Throughout the evening, everyone openly and respectfully challenged each other’s ideas and views on economic and societal patterns, and the alternate futures they prophesied.


Future Shock Forum is a modern version of those robust gatherings the Tofflers held in their home so many years ago. We build on the platform they made by assembling a cross-section of leaders from myriad fields and industries. Each one, in his or her way, is charged with shaping the future for their respective organization, and all are working to create better futures for people living in an increasingly complex global landscape.


The 2018 event gathered a diverse group of leaders, innovators, and thinkers from across the worlds of business, public service, and academia to explore and debate the shocks we are facing and their implications for business and government. These Future Shocks™ disrupt, disorient, and shape the future of business and society. From bio-digital convergence and geopolitical powershifts to infrastructure adaption and societal collisions, these shifts are creating immense uncertainty and opportunity for today’s leaders.


The Toffler Associates Award for Excellence

In addition to engaging in productive discussions about future-focused thinking and tackling the imagination gap, we used Future Shock Forum to celebrate the impact of Beth Comstock’s unfaltering focus on transformational leadership.


Comstock, the former GE Vice Chair, is a noted change-maker and the author of Imagine it Forward. Her first book is a call to action for leaders to behave with courage and creativity in the face of change. We awarded her the 2018 Toffler Associates Award of Excellence in Change Leadership in recognition of her contributions to creating and thriving in a better future.


“It’s really an honor to receive this award. I’ve always admired Alvin Toffler’s work and the work that Toffler Associates does. It’s so important we all continue to be curious about the future and the world we live in and to imagine it forward and make change happen.”
– Beth Comstock, Future Shock Forum 2018


Reflecting on 2018 and Looking Toward the Future

As 2018 draws to a close, we look back on a year marked by global disruption and surprise. The pace of change is so fast and desynchronized. It’s easy for leaders to discount future-focused thinking as an exercise in futility and instead keep their focus on what is urgent and immediate. As we discussed during this event, that behavior masks the risks ahead. It also prevents us from seeing and seizing opportunities that will position our organizations to succeed and our society to thrive in an unpredictable future.


Creating a better future is not a task for one person, company, or even one country. It’s a responsibility we each share as global citizens. The questions we explored at Future Shock Forum cut across national borders, bottom lines, and personal leadership responsibilities. Each guest brought unique perspectives and roles. All shared in the challenge of facing disruptive changes that are accelerating at an unprecedented rate and reshaping businesses, societies, and economies.


As it has been in past years, Future Shock Forum 2018 was a unique opportunity for leaders to step off their current (often frenetic) trajectory for a moment. These outstanding executives carved out quality time to be curious, discover new perspectives, consider new ideas, and share their own perspectives on the future and its possibilities.


My greatest hope is that everyone who participated came away inspired and thinking deeply about how they are the change-makers we need, and that new conversations are happening inside their buildings, boardrooms, and break rooms. In the spirit of optimism and preparation for the future, we hope that the cohort built over these two important days will remain connected and engaged in vital conversations about new solutions to the shocks that are reshaping how we live and work.


For those who could not join us at Future Shock Forum 2018, check in with us on Linkedin or Twitter and subscribe to our blog. We use these spaces to engage regularly with other future-focused leaders and to share powerful findings and perspectives on the complex and interesting topics shaping our environment. We invite you to contribute your voice to these conversations.


It’s time to fill the imagination gap. Join the forum. 

About the Authors

Deb Westphal

Deborah Westphal is a passionate humanist who has guided our era’s top minds and leaders to challenge biases, ignite ideas, and build connections and resilience for a secure and sound future. Her career spans more than 30 years in government agencies and Fortune 100 companies, and on virtually every continent. In 1999, Alvin Toffler tapped her as one of the founding members of his eponymous consulting firm, Toffler Associates. From 2007 through 2018, she served as the firm’s CEO and has since contributed her experience and knowledge as a member of the board. Through her work, she has guided notable organizations including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, Marriott, U.S. Air Force, Baxter International, Bayer, Heinz, Microsoft, Koppers, PPG, DARPA, National Security Agency, Loral Space Systems, NASA, Qwest, Verizon, and Westinghouse. Deborah’s empathetic and thought-provoking style helps readers spot patterns that signify future risks and opportunities. She’s a sought-after speaker and writer who provided the Foreword to After Shock. Her book, Convergence: Technology, Business, and the Human-Centric Future, was published in May 2021 by Unnamed Press. Find her at

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