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Diary of a futurist

In conversation with Mike Bechtel

Take a deep breath. Let it go. Ground yourself. We’re often reminded how important it is to stay present, but what do you do when your job is to spend much of your time immersed in the future?

As our Chief Futurist, Mike Bechtel has a front row seat to watch the evolution of some of today’s most exciting technology. One of the best parts of his job is predicting that evolution – and then sharing that knowledge with his clients, ensuring they navigate to the future without losing their way.

A child of the eighties, his imagination was captured by the technology he saw in science fiction. Although the time machines, light sabres and hoverboards were sometimes used by the bad guys, a young Mike quickly learnt that technology was a tool – and it could be used to build a better world.

We recently paused for a moment in time to chat to Mike - about which piece of historic technology marked a milestone moment in his life, how businesses can adopt exciting technology in a strategic way and what the best route to the future is…

Read on for more.



The journey to becoming a futurist

“For the first twelve years of my career, I was an inventor. I had a soldering gun in one hand and was writing code with the other. Lots of patents and lots of art of the possible. After a stint as a chief technology officer, I co-founded and ran a venture capital firm where I became an investor. In that journey from inventor to investor, I learnt that when it comes to technology, there can be a balance between novelty and utility.

Right from when I got my first Commodore 64 as a kid, I realised that technology was a sort of ‘force multiplier’. It could amplify whatever we want to do. When I arrived at Deloitte, I realised there was a unique opportunity to access the boardroom and the server room – that we’re connected to businesses in every sector and can help them to change the world. ‘Futurist’ to me was really an open-ended title that I could use to say to clients ‘Hey, best practices got you here, but you’re going to need some next practices to help you navigate to the future.’”

“Technology can amplify whatever you want to do – it’s a force multiplier.”



Sense-making in a sea of possibility

“There is a great quote by William Gibson that says ‘The future is already here. It’s just not evenly distributed.’ We take that literally in our team. There’s stuff happening at NASA that would blow minds at a mid-level insurance company, but we believe there’s also stuff going on at a mid-level insurance company that would blow minds at NASA. We want to share that knowledge, bring it together and use it to shape the future for both organisations. A large part of our work is really all about understanding what’s going on out there.

We then move on to what I call ‘sense-making’, which is all about filtering what really matters from a huge sea of possibility and blizzard of buzzwords. To understand what will move us from possible to profitable. And that really comes from recognising patterns. When we gather every week as a team, we share what we’ve seen but, importantly, we try to understand why that matters.”

“We focus on understanding what’s happening out there and filtering out what really matters.”



The latest and greatest hammers

“The best advice I could give to businesses to ensure that they adopt new technology in a strategic way is to ensure that they lead with need. Technology should always come last in your strategy because it’s very much a tool.

Think of the craziest tech you've ever seen as a glorified hammer. If that hammer is the focus of your efforts, everything starts to look like a nail. By all means, use the latest and greatest hammers, but focus on the rusty nails are worth hitting. And to find them, it’s important to ask why do we want to solve this problem? What do we wish to be?

Organisations tends to overswing in terms of novelty versus normalcy. They think about what they want next versus what they have now. A solution to this is to consider that old cliché that hindsight is 20:20. I like to think that foresight is 20:20.

What this means is you take 20% of your budget and allocate that towards introducing emerging technology to your organisation. You then take 20% of that allocation for the exploration of truly next-gen, tomorrow-based tech. And then, critically, 80% remains for what you’re currently doing. This recipe ensures that we're navigating to the next, while nurturing what we have now.”

“Think of the craziest tech you've ever seen as a glorified hammer – use it to find the nails worth hitting."



An evolution and a renaissance

“There are surprisingly enduring themes within enterprise technology. Emerging technology is all part of a long journey – something new always comes along but we’re interested in that evolution over time. Futurists are really just historians.

The latest generation of computerised creativity tools actually serve as a bit of a funhouse mirror for the human beings using them. And so what our team is finding is that this kind of tech is increasing the focus on and importance of imagination and creativity. Let’s celebrate our capacity for fresh thinking – and use it wisely. Because in a world where machines do the coding, the painting, the poetry and the drawing, we can really start to think ‘what do I want’?”

“Futurists are really just historians. We’re interested in the evolution of technology.”



Technology with added technicolour

“My hope for the future? Amidst the big quantum leaps, let's do better. A big focus right now is how we can build mechanical minds that can do an increasing percentage of what we do. That’s great, but as my friend and colleague Bill Briggs, our global CTO, likes to say, ‘Good does not come from doing bad things faster’. We have a precious opportunity to teach next generations to do what we wish to be, rather than what we’ve been.

In a world where you get six of the same person with the same background asking for the same thing from the gen AI, we’re at risk of getting pretty monochromatic results, right? So let’s push for a world where you have six wildly different people with wildly different backgrounds and experiences – that way you’re going to get something in vivid technicolour.”

“Let’s teach future generations to be what we wish to be, rather than what we’ve been.”

Thanks for reading


It’s easy to get lost considering all of the endless possibilities that technology offers us. It was refreshing to hear Mike’s perspective on how we can stay focused - and inspired you on how business can use technology as an amazing tool to help solve some of the world’s biggest challenges.

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