'An uncertain future calls for personal innovation'

'The future will be disruptive'

January 25 2024

We don't know what the future will look like, but we can prepare for it, according to Professor Jeff Gaspersz in his emeritus speech on January 25. "The future will be disruptive. That requires flexible thinking and working on a set of future-oriented competencies."

As professor of Innovation, Gaspersz focused for many years on innovations within organizations. In his farewell speech, he shifts that focus to personal innovation. What can you do to find stability within yourself in a world that is becoming increasingly complex and unpredictable? Gaspersz addresses three developments that will have a profound impact on our work and lives in the near future: artificial intelligence, remote working, and climate change. "With each new development or challenge, ask yourself: what new thinking is needed to continue to see opportunities? And what competencies do I need to strengthen to remain effective and achieve my goals, or those of my team?"

Artificial intelligence

"Digital technologies have radically changed our methods of communication. The impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on organizations and our work is increasingly noticeable," Gaspersz says. "A report by consulting firm McKinsey estimates that AI will lead to the loss of 800 million jobs worldwide by 2030. Yet I dare say that the threat is not in AI itself, but in that colleague who does know how to deal with AI. It is therefore essential to keep developing our digital skills and to look at AI with a curious and open attitude. Critical thinking remains very important in this regard, especially in a world where we are inundated with disinformation and fake news."

Remote working

We are increasingly working from home. And while this has its advantages, Gaspersz says there are also disadvantages. "Working from home can lead to loneliness, the lack of connection, and the blurring of the line between work and home. People also have the idea that they always have to be reachable, even if they briefly go to the supermarket during working hours. Research firm Gallup conducted a study in 140 countries in 2023 showing that employees around the world who work hybrid or constantly at home or other remote locations experience more stress and anger than their colleagues who work full-time on-site. So not everyone seems to benefit equally from working from home. Competencies such as body awareness, self-discipline, self-reflection, and online networking are essential to working remotely in a healthy and enjoyable manner as well. And as for the mindset, accept working from home as a new promising reality. Working every day in the office will never come back. See working from home as an opportunity to approach work and life in a more integrated and personal way."

Climate change

Of all the developments, climate change will have the greatest impact, according to Gaspersz. "We may experience helplessness in this regard. Yet it's important that we maintain a sense of empowerment and responsibility. Because, of course, what must not happen is that the global scale of the climate problem causes us to think that individual actions do not matter. We must strike a balance between realism and optimism. It is essential to recognize the seriousness of the climate crisis, but also to remain hopeful and motivated by focusing on what can be achieved individually and collectively. Critical thinking is very important here. In an age where information, as well as disinformation, is rapidly disseminated, it is essential to carefully evaluate the sources of our information and rely on scientifically based knowledge. In addition, it is important that we reflect sufficiently on our own behavior and lifestyle so that we can adjust them in line with what we consider responsible from a sustainability perspective. Curiosity, wanting to learn about new sustainable technologies, and being open to new ideas can also contribute to a more sustainable lifestyle. Finally, I want to emphasize how essential it is to think creatively and innovatively when finding sustainable solutions, starting with our own lives."

Starting point

Although Gaspersz is now retired, he won’t be sitting still. "I have focused most of my career on innovation in organizations and have had the opportunity to work with hundreds of organizations. As such, I know how difficult it is to achieve a permanent innovative force. Organizations that succeed in this almost without exception have employees who are willing to innovate personally as well. For me, my retirement is therefore not a farewell, but a starting point to focus my keynotes, master classes, and my books primarily on personal innovation. My first book in that new series was published in November and is titled Zó kun je de toekomst aan, 100 praktische advies om jezelf te innoveren. My next book on the subject will be published in the summer."


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