EisnerAmper’s 7th Annual Alternative Investment Summit, Raising the Curtain: The Next Act for Alternative Investments, featured futurist Erica Orange, executive vice president and chief operating officer of The Future Hunters. One of the 50 Top Female Futurists as listed by Forbes, Ms. Orange discussed the impact of emerging social, technological, demographic, and environmental trends as they relate to the alternative investment industry.
Ms. Orange opened her presentation with a picture of herself skydiving out of a plane. Scary, right? But she said she knew it would be ok, as she had all the proper safeguards in place to land safely on her feet. She used this analogy to convey how we should think about the future. She said things are happening faster than ever; at times it may feel like we’re freefalling; and there is so much risk. Having the right outlook and focus, the proper safeguards in place, will help us land on our feet.
She said the question now becomes “How do we navigate this?” She said it’s imperative to get comfortable with the tailwinds, not just the headwinds, and realize that the forces coming from behind us can create tremendous opportunity. It’s no longer just about trend and counter trends; there are many crossroads now which are representative of many different futures, multiple realities. Everyone should have a flexible roadmap with varying short- and long-term goals, that also allow for fluctuation between the terms. She emphasized the importance of not losing our vision; who we are; and what we can become.
One fundamental question that Ms. Orange likes to ask is: “Why? Why is this happening?”
To answer this, she goes back to 2005-2008, to the time of the recession and points to this as essentially being a fundamental global economic transformation. The blurring nature of time and space was defining the economy then, and also the future. Disparate concepts were coming together – real and virtual, analog and digital, biological and technological, and now, true and false, real and fake. This new world, she said, is being catapulted by one critical thing. She then asked the audience to define a luxury that is high in demand and short in supply, and the resounding response was “time!” Time is the driver nowadays. That is how her term “templosion” came to be. The temporal explosion of time; so much is happening, the biggest of events, in shorter periods of time. She urged the audience to think about what is progressing in the industry, the rapid rise of startups and billion-dollar unicorn companies, all seemingly employing minimal people, and having shorter timeframes for their strategic, financial, and research and development (R&D) planning cycles.
AI, Cybrids and the Three T’s
Artificial intelligence (AI) is nothing new, but it’s accelerated over the past few years due to COVID-19. Human labor isn’t going away, but certain facets of our jobs will be replaced by AI. The creation of new business efficiencies will allow companies to work smarter, and companies need to adapt to utilize these systems in order to add value and increase their bottom line. This integration is a time saver and allows the focus of human labor to be what is exclusively in the human realm.
An important investment strategy is foresight, and not going in blindly to invest in technology. It’s crucial to get the timing right, to see what’s coming and have proper resources for implementation. Analyzing both the micro and macro environment is critical to picking the right time to ‘play in the sandbox.’
In addition to time, trust and truth are luxuries right up there. It’s critical to start putting more trust in human relationships and human judgement. There are so many versions of the reality in this boundary-free world, it’s hard to know what the truth is anymore, or if it’s a “who” or “what” said it. This existential challenge, she said, is what keeps her up at night when thinking about the future.
In Ms. Orange’s opinion, we need to get out of our own way in order to move forward. We all know that knowledge is an asset, but knowing too much can, at times, be what holds us back from seeing things for what they truly are. This is not about reinventing the wheel, but removing the blinders in order to identify the issues, the low-hanging fruit. Businesses should take a step back and create space for new concepts and ideas, get educated and transform the future. Innovation is all well and good, but we need to flip our perspective and apply imagination as well.
She closed with the well-known adage “a diamond is merely a lump of coal that did well under pressure.” Applying imagination to the proverbial lump of coal, with enough time and pressure, and through transformation, we have the ability to take what’s right in front of us, and turn it into a diamond, catapulting us into the future.
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