Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Future in Focus: Richard Ramsey, Walt Disney International

Today, foresight is the secret weapon of success. Without foresight, we can’t prepare for what the future has in store for us. This concept has always been important, but now more than ever, it is more difficult to come by because everything in our world is constantly changing. Our technologies, jobs, institutions, even some of our treasured values and ways of thinking are shifting radically, making it very difficult to prepare for future challenges and opportunities. 

I was lucky enough to catch up with Richard Ramsey, Vice President of Human Resources, Walt Disney International, to discuss this rapidly growing importance of using foresight and trends in business. Ramsey will be speaking at the upcoming Foresight & Trends 2014 conference in Los Angeles next week.  

This year, Foresight & Trends unites the most forward thinking, creative and innovative people from across the globe to discuss macro trends disrupting how business gets done. This unique event synthesizes trend insights, consumer insights, foresight, brand strategy, design thinking, human science and innovation into a clear vision for capturing future opportunities with a unique blended learning curriculum. It unleashes valuable knowledge, contextualizes the knowledge into relevant examples for you to apply back to your business, and then empowers you to connect with the future in hands on translation sessions and immersion techniques centered on core themes.

Here’s what Ramsey had to say:

IIR: How do you challenge the status quo? 

Ramsey: There are many ways to approach this.  I will mention two.  First, I try to connect with and hire people who think differently, are curious, and are always looking for a better way to do something.  Second, I try to constantly change my world.  By that, I mean me and the environment that I directly control.  I push myself to constantly learn, unlearn, and re learn.  And, I try to improve and update my immediate environment continuously.

IIR: How does understanding and implementing foresight and trends ensure commercial success in business?

Ramsey: Give an example of how you have done this.  While foresight does not allow you to predict the future, it does allow you to determine if your strategies will survive in different worlds.  We have used scenarios to test our strategies within specific focal areas and are in the process of building foresight into our strategic planning process around the world.

IIR: How do you get your organization to align with your vision of taking action on foresight?

Ramsey: We have systematically built engagement through our senior leadership team and within our general employee population through Futures Teams established in our major markets and regions around the world.  

IIR: Why are trends so important in order to make strategic choices for your business? 

Ramsey: We can begin to act today in a way that prepares us for the future.

IIR: What do you think will be the biggest trend affecting the future of business? 

Ramsey: We began our work in Strategic Foresight when trying to anticipate what the landscape for talent will look like in 2030.  Since we have a large part of our business that is directly interacting with our consumers, and we are managing businesses in 43 countries, this will continue to be a significant driver for us in the future.

IIR: What would the world be like without foresight and innovation?

Ramsey: Like going to Las Vegas. 

IIR: Have you ever been wrong about a foresight or future trend?

Ramsey: We are early in our work with foresight but I would anticipate that I will be answering this question in the future with a “yes.”  But hopefully, there will be a lot more “nos.”

Want to hear more from Richard? Hear from him during his session, “Our Future World Tour: Creating a Global Foresight Practice in Walt Disney International” at Foresight & Trends 2014 November 11-13 in Los Angeles, CA. For more information about the event or to register, click here:

About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1stDigital Impact, STEAM Accelerator and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at Follow her at @AmandaCicc.   

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