Ready or Not?

Are you ready for the future? Maybe you doubt and that's okay. Life goes so fast the future makes us dizzy. But how do we become future proof? That is what trendwatcher Tom Palmaerts explains.

Kevin Van der Straeten
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Are you ready for the future? Maybe you doubt and that's okay. Life goes so fast the future makes us dizzy. But how do we become future proof? That is what trendwatcher Tom Palmaerts explains.

Hi Tom, welcome to our studio.

Hi Kevin.

Normally you're here to talk about: what will be the trends of the future?

Today we're going to do things differently, because you wrote a book. "Ready or not".

Why did you write this book?

Well Kevin, you know that I've been talking about doing research about the next five or ten years.

And the past two years, three years, I was really focussed on the year 2030. As a focus point.

Where will we head to, the next ten years, eleven years?

Two out of three people will live in cities. Worldwide.

There will be more and more single households.

There will be more and more single parents.

The impact of Asian cities will become bigger.

And so on, and so on.

One out of three of youngsters worldwide will be Muslim.

Possibly the food price will double.

And so on, and so on.

So, really interesting topics. Research topics. But when I enter a team and we start, not talking from entertainment perspective, about the future, but really: okay, let's start doing this. Let's start creating the future.

And you always have this innovation manager. Or the CEO. Or the marketing manager. Or the event manager. They have that urge to...

They have a vision and they want to...

They have their vision and they want to go to there. But then you have the rest of the team. And the rest of the team, they don't have time. The past is, for them, really important. Because every idea: someone already tried it out. And it didn't work then. So, it’s like: no, no, no. I'm not going to do that. Quit it.

And I found out that there is a lot of fearness about the future, about change. And in the meantime, we're like being more and more, as a society, more and more nostalgic. And nostalgia, in ways, is beautiful. I don't know what it is for you, but for me Nirvana, the unplugged session, MTV Unplugged. Just the first sounds of that music, it gives me a smile. But it can also be a dish. Or a certain smell. Or something that takes you back in time. And gives you a really great feeling.

But then we go along. Then we move forward. So, this form of nostalgia, the reflective nostalgia, is...

In a way, it brings us back to a certain moment in time. It gives us a smile. And then you go further.

So, the problem now is not that reflective nostalgia, but is restorative nostalgia. Is the longing that... We are really longing for a home that doesn't exist anymore.


Wow me. Why doesn't it exist anymore?

We're longing for a past, a home that doesn't exist anymore.

So, for instance: schools. Internet? Drop internet. Let's use books. Start writing, studying. We can't go back in time to the moment that there is no internet.

Okay, taxi-drivers. We can't go back in time, before there was Uber.

Hotels. You can't go back in time, before there was Airbnb.

And so on, and so on, and so on.

So, the home that doesn't exist anymore, means that, well, it changed. We can't go back. First.

Second, and that's more difficult...

Second is: probably that home in your head, never truly existed. Because it's just kind of a feeling. When I feel happy, when I hear this song of Nirvana. It's not something very clear. It's just an emotion.

It's not a specific time.

It's not a specific time, or a specific moment. Because when I really go back in time, I also have to think about school, problems. There's so much more. And so, every time you see that nostalgia...

We want to make America great again.


But also, like, very nostalgic packaging. Or movies, like...

All the time: old movies.

I recently started to use a fountain pen again. So, maybe that also applies.

But in a way, nostalgia can also be great. Nostalgia can also be a way to search for what was better in the past. And let's, somehow, use it to make the future better. So, somehow you can re-use elements from the past, towards the future. But then again, you're still future focussed. You're not starting to rebuild our past, somehow.

So, I wanted to tackle that. And I started digging. To research scientific research, like: how can I get that feeling, that longing for a home that doesn't exist anymore, how can I get that rid of? How can I get it out of the teams? The teams I'm working for. But also, the teams on events, when I speak. How can I get it away?

And I found out: in 1688, a long time ago, there was a student-doctor. From Swiss. Called Johannes Hofer. And that guy was the first to coin nostalgia. It was at the military and soldiers wanted to go home. And so, he could send soldiers home, but that was not a great idea.

For the war.

For the war.

So, they started doing research and he said: what nostalgia is, is a problem and we can heal it. And the idea was that people were saying that they felt nostalgia here. So, the first experiment was: take wood, put it in the fire and then just start poking people. Didn't work out very well after a while.

Then the second experiments were...

There is a vein here. And the idea was that nostalgia was somehow sitting here. So, if we can open up the vein, nostalgia can go through it. There were some kind of experiments, but also soldiers died.

So, then there was an idea that nostalgia is a bone. So, they started searching: what kind of bone sits in your body, that is responsible for nostalgia? So, we can crush it.

So, I was thinking like: okay, how can I work with that? So, then I came up with the idea of: let's write a book.

And is it also full of terrible things?

Full of terrible...

It's eleven ways. It's eleven, it's a wrong number. No, I hope that this book...

This book is not for the people who are truly innovators. And future thinkers. Because they'll do this already.

They have it.

They'll have it, it's okay.

But, for people who just, from time to time, need to have this push. Or a little bit of inspiration in how to do stuff.

Yes, because it's a really inspiring book, because there are a lot of drawings and the size feels good.

It's a pocket. I did a...

But, to make it a bit more concrete: what is it exactly? There are eleven ways. Can you give some examples of what you can do, to become more future proof?

Okay, a few examples.

Let's say first: stay young. Stay young. Young is a state of mind. It has nothing to do with your age. And I...

When I do exercises on the future, I hear a lot of people saying: I'm too old for that. And, yes, I can imagine. Sometimes your world is like: okay, I understand everything. And I'm now too old, to do this again or...

In the event industry, sometimes, it's: my audience is too old for that. That's even worse.

For instance: we see that people in their sixties, are extremely open for technology. They just need a manual. Wait: they just need someone to tell them how it works. But they're really open for technologies. So, thinking that: well, people in their sixties, they will never use technology, that's just...

That's the only generation that really had sex, drugs and rock-'n-roll. So, they're open for everything. So, watch out for your audience. They're never too old. So, stay young.

A really good example of research that has been done, is that the success factor of a start-up...

If you look at...

Because now, we're investing a lot in people in their twenties. But if you're in your sixties, you have three more chances to have success in your start-up. Than when you're in your twenties.

Because you have the experience.

You have the experience, but you have to be surrounded by young people. You have to be surrounded by a diverse group of people. So, you're never too young.

And you can learn a lot today, from looking to the activities of young people. And when we go back in time, 2006-2007, when I was giving talks about social media, Facebook, people were saying: well, that's for students. I'm not going to do that. And definitely my company is not going to do that.

And now everybody is doing it.

And now everybody is doing it.

Today, you have the same story. And when I speak now about TikTok.


That's for children.

That's for children. I'm not going to do that. And definitely my company is not going to do that.

So, maybe TikTok will be the new Facebook within ten years. Maybe not. Maybe next year you say: Tom, TikTok didn't work out. Well, maybe it's possible. I don't know. But TikTok is a very fascinating system network.

First, it's video first. You have Facebook: text first. Instagram: picture first. Now you have TikTok, that's video first. So, hear, hear, you are video first. So, you now already know that video has enormous impact. So, if you want to know what social media can be when video is first, check out TikTok. So, it's...

Then, another one. If you go on Twitter. If you go on Facebook. If you go on Instagram. You need to get people to follow you.

Otherwise you don't have any reach.

Otherwise you don't have reach. Nobody will listen to you. So then, companies start buying or "influencers" start buying followers. Because you want to have this reach and this impact.

But on TikTok, it's not your network first. It's the algorithm first. And the algorithm will help you to reach millions of people sometimes. Even if you don't have followers. So, it's an entire other approach of a social network.

And then third is TikTok in China. It's not the United States.

It's not Silicon Valley first.

It's not Silicon Valley first, it's China first. So, there is a cultural approach from China perspective. So, if you...

And then again: focus on 2030. Where you see that Asia will have more and more impact on our culture. Pop culture. Visual culture. Food. Drinks. And also: technology and social media.

So, we need to look for that. And so, now, if you're in your forties, like me, or in your fifties, or in your sixties: please check out TikTok. There are a lot of children, now. But just try it out. You're never too old. Learn.

Okay: stay young. Are there other things we can try to do?

Maybe a little bit linked to it: stay connected.

We see that, at the age of twenty-five, people start to have less friends. And it becomes also more difficult to get new friends. I already talked about that in previous interviews. Loneliness is going to be one of the big issues to tackle. From a society perspective. But also, from an event perspective.

So, how can we get people to be more connected to each other? It appears that when you have more friends, you are more happy. But if you have more friends from diverse cultural groups, religion groups or age groups, you're more creative. You're more flexible and you're more an entrepreneur.

Because you're getting more input.

You get more input, more different ways of thinking.

Then maybe we go to a third one. A third way is: uncover your blind spot. We see: people have, most of the time, one vision towards their future. And that vision is, most of the time, constructed, by our ways of looking towards the future. If you look at how we now see the future and compare that with ten years ago. The biggest difference is technology. When you now talk about the future, people start talking about technology.


Yes, the Tesla cars and...

And so on, and so on, and so on.

And most of the time they're true, but sometimes they didn't really think about the question.

So, our society now, when they look towards the future, there's: technology, technology, technology. And that's great. If you like this, if you are a bit of a nerd. If you have people surrounding you, that are a bit of nerds. And you try things out. It's your future, you're part of it. Go for it. Don't look back, go for it.

But if technology is not in your DNA, what happens is that people freeze. And definitely, when people only talk about Amazon and Google, and they freeze, because they are just a little store, somewhere here and they can't deal with those types of stories. So, they freeze.

And what I do, more and more, now, as just a form of exercise, is that I let people stand up. Ask them to close their eyes. They're always a bit scared then. I'm not a hippy. It's okay. Close your eyes. And I bring them with a story. I bring them towards 2030, in their mind. And I let them, to think about the world in 2030.

How they are working? Who are their colleagues? How are they traveling to home? Or to a pub? And what do they drink? What do they eat? What kind of friends do they have? How do they communicate? And so on.

So, I bring them in a story. And they need to create some kind of future vision in their mind. And then I ask them a simple question: what kind of future did you create? And most of the time, people create a future from the constructed vision. That was to what people are telling us. So, all autonomous cars. All robots talking to us. Google Home or Alexa is listening to us. All this type of future visions. Constructed.

Some people say: well, that's the story that I'm scared of.

Those are, most of the time, the two types of stories that you hear.

But actually, you have three types of stories. You have the constructed story. You have the future that you fear. But you also have the future that you hope.

And the beautiful thing is: when you start doing these exercises, three times, that you don't think in one future anymore. You think in different possibilities. And that constructed vision - that people are telling you: that's going to be the future - that's bullshit. Just forget about it. That's constructed. That will never be like that. If it's your future, if you hope for it, then go for it. If it gives you energy, do something with it. If it gives you negative vibes, don't look at it. Look at a different future perspective. Look at the things you fear. If you know what you fear, start tackling it today. If you know what you hope, don't wait until 2030. Play along with it today.

Yes, the exercise gives you control today. To start steering where you want to go.

Yes, and I think it's a really big insight.

The future trends are interesting exercises. But it's only interesting if you start doing, with it, some...

When you start working with it today. It's not about waiting until 2030. The really great future exercises are exercises that give you energy to do something today.

So, that's why I hope that this little book, will not give you insights in that future. But gives you the energy, the positivity, to start doing stuff. Because the past was shit. And the future probably as well. But we don't know yet. So, let's start doing it. Let's start creating it. Look back. That nostalgia feeling from me of Nirvana, for instance. Or look back to learn and then go forward.Then really go. Jump forward. I think we need to be way more futuristic. From a human aspect. From a technology aspect. Also, the event industry needs to be way more futuristic. Go and work on it. But don't wait until 2030.


Yes, and don't be afraid.

And don't be afraid.


Have fun.

We will put a link below the video, so people know where they can find the book.


Thank you very much for coming over.

You're welcome.

And you at home, thank you for watching our show. I hope to see you next week.