Speaking Topics

List of Gerd Leonhard’s ‘Green Futurist’ speaking topics

January 2012  For MediaFuturist topics please go here

From Ego to Eco: the people formerly known as consumers, and the future of energy

Almost 2.5 Billion people are connected via the Internet, already, and over 5 Billion are glued to their mobile devices. Add social media, mobile video, location-based services, crowd-sourcing / crowd-funding and the viral spread of activism via digital means, and you are looking at a recipe for a perfect storm in pretty much every sector of our society, and every industry, everywhere.   We are irrefutably going from being proudly independent to dramatically interdependent, and our economic models are following. This fundamental shift from EgoSystems to EcoSystems is imminent; and not just in the sense of ecology but also in respect to doing business in a networked society. 

There may soon be no such thing as a ‘typical’ consumer or customer, anymore. Instead, constant fragmentation and change i.e. ‘permanent beta’ (to use a Google-mantra) has already become the new normal. Customers as well as business partners are now expecting extreme transparency, demonstrated openness and sincere, two-way engagement. What’s more, they are also expecting a constant stream of added values, timely and personal relevance and some kind of larger story, a societal meaning - all which goes way beyond the simple provision of a service or the selling of a product. Business as usual is likely to end. Around the globe, customers, partners, stockholders and governments are starting to really care about ‘doing good while doing business’, about ‘green business’ and about many of the pressing environmental concerns, and about truly sustainable economic approaches - and much of it starts with energy. So what can we expect from ‘the people formerly known as consumers’ in the next 3-5 years, what do they really want (and what do they care most about), what must utilities and energy providers start to plan and offer, and what can we learn from other industries that are in the midst of this fundamental shift from Ego to Eco (such as media, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals and banking)?

Green business - oxymoron or requirement for future success?
It seems like everyone from Richard Branson to the local city council is talking about how it should be possible to ‘do good and do do well in business’ at the same time, i.e. that doing the right thing is indeed financially rewarding as well. If you live in a free-market, money + profit + growth-driven economy this issue may well be at the heart of your concerns that influence most of your decision-making in regards to climate protection, carbon reduction, renewable energy and the taxes needed to fund public projects in those areas. Can we still make money like we used to, and not cause damage to the planet and to each other? Is capitalism as we kn(o)ew it really adaptable enough to fit into this much larger story, i.e. carry us beyond profits or individual gains?  Would an entirely new way of doing business be more compatible with sustaining us in the future, and if so, what would that look like? Ecotalism, anyone? Who needs to take initiative, who pays for it, who decides what and where?  If science fiction author Bruce Sterling was correct in saying that ‘the future if a verb, not a noun’ what will it take it for global business and political leaders to really take action - or do we need new leaders, as well?

A futurist’s definition of sustainability
Sustainability has become a widely used term that almost rivals the word ‘online’, yet it is used in so many different and sometimes even opposing ways. Looking at it from a futurist’s perspective, what could sustainability really mean, politically, economically, scientifically, culturally and environmentally? 5-10 years from now, what may a sustainable world - and worldview - actually look like, and how will this impact our humanity, lifestyles and experiences? What kind of scenarios seem thinkable, or plausible or even likely, and which futures could be our preferred ones? And how do we get there?  How does the view of the developed world differ to that of the so-called emerging economies, on this issue, and where will this take us? If the only way to predict the future is to create it (Alan Kay / Peter Drucker), than what do we need to start with, right now? 

The end of lying: social media and the ‘business of green’
So-called ‘social media’ and the explosive rise of social networks around the world (call this the Social OS, if you want) has truly and very quickly changed the game for everyone, be it consumers or businesses, students, doctors, CEOs and executives, workers, companies or governments. Especially in the BRIC countries, mobile devices are quickly becoming the primary way people connect to social networks which means that pretty much anything can be shared (and cross-checked), blogged or videoed from anywhere, anytime. It is seemingly becoming impossible to lie (this maybe bad news for advertising or autocratic governments:) or tell things that are not true - there is always someone that is watching who could quickly unleash a firestorm of protest. From the KeystoneXL pipeline to SOPA to the banal twitter jokes of Kenneth Cole during the Egyptian riots to the fake BPGlobalPR twitter accounts, it’s all about transparency now, about engagement, conversation, openness and ultimately, TRUST. How and when can social media be used to really reach and touch people, engage them, and possibly affect large change in society, at large? How can ‘green’ businesses, green movements and organizations use social technologies and processes more effectively and in accordance with their principles?