Come with me to the future. My name is Graeme Codrington and this is the Throw Forward Thursday studio. Every Thursday or Friday this week we jump into the future and see what’s going on there. This past week I’ve spent the week week in Dubai at the Expo 2020. Yes, that’s not incorrectly named.
It was due to launch in October 2020. And of course, with covid had to be postponed by a year. It’s the last few weeks of the Expo and I was able to spend some time looking around the pavilions 192 different pavilions, almost every country in the world represented, and lots of specialist pavilions basically showrooms for the future. And the themes were sustainability, mobility and opportunity.
So this week I thought I’d just do a quick reflection. I haven’t had time to really think through and deal in detail with some of the things that I saw. You’ll get some of that impact and input over the next few weeks. But today just an immediate response to my experience and my first response, I must be honest with a little bit of disappointment. As I went around and visited the exhibitions, I wasn’t overwhelmed.
I wasn’t surprised or wowed by visions of the future, of technological marvels and innovative opportunities in the future. And as I went from exhibit to exhibit and continue to not be amazed and not find these wow technologies of the future, I began to realise that I was the one who had misunderstood the assignment. That wasn’t the point of Expo 2020. And I think that they were right. We weren’t meant to be awed and amazed by inspiring innovation, given a picture of some science fiction vision of the future that may or may not be possible.
In fact, Expo 2020, I think, very deliberately did the opposite. I think what it did and what it intended to do was to say, here’s what’s possible, here’s what we should be doing, here’s what we could be doing. Let’s do it. It wasn’t meant to be an inspiration of innovation. It was meant to be an invitation to action, an invitation to actually do something to say, here’s what we should be doing in sustainability, mobility, in opportunities to live in different ways, the ways which are more sustainable, ways which provide more access, ways which are more equitable.
And I think it achieved exactly what it set out to do. It set out to show us what’s possible and invite us to do it. And I think that that’s what people walk away with. Yes, you also walk away with a little bit of being overwhelmed by just noise and multimedia visuals. I would have loved to see a space of quiet and silence.
I would have loved to see more invitations for reflection. I found that probably most at the Women’s Pavilion exhibit, aimed at highlighting the fact that women are still fighting for equal rights and opportunities, then presented you with the possible solutions and stories of women and men who are implementing those solutions around the world. And then in the final part, through a wonderful 360 virtual reality experience, invited you to just sit with, in fact, literally sit with a variety of different women around the world and not listen to them tell their stories, but just sit with them for a few minutes each and experience their worlds.
It was beautiful just allowed that moment of reflection, which I felt many exhibits didn’t. Another exhibit, which maybe was a highlight was the Kazakhstan Pavilion, which was a wonderful expression of what Kazakhstan is on the ground floor. And it was more of a sort of tourism advert for the country, which was great looking at cultural heritage and natural resources and so on. But then it ended up with a vision for the future for Kazakhstan, a vision which incorporates smart cities and various technologies, and then ended with a five minute dance, a solo dance between a human and a robotic arm. I recorded some of that, and I will show you more of that on my social feeds over the next few weeks.
So for me, Expo 2020 was well worth going to. By the time you watch this, it will probably be over. So have a look for some of the highlights on YouTube, and I’m sure there’ll be some documentaries made about it. There’s some wonderful exhibits well worth going to. I’m really glad that I did, and yet also glad that they made the decision that they did.
I would love to go to a world Expo and exhibit which showed grand visions of the future. And I think that that’s what the Museum of the Future also recently opened, and there were no tickets available. It’s completely sold out for the first few weeks of opening. But I think that’s what Dubai’s Museum of the Future, this remarkable building is meant to showcase. So I have to go back to Dubai and spend a day or two in there.
But I think Expo 2020 got it exactly right, saying we must build a more sustainable world. We must build better cities, better societies, better farms, better environments. We need to do better with our use of the world’s natural resources and better with our equitable distribution of what we already have. And we can do it. We must do it, and it should be done.
Now. That was the invitation of Expo 2020, and that’s the invitation of Throw Forward Thursday. Yes, we jump into the future and we probably show some interesting visionary ideas of what the future might be, but always with the intention of inviting you to consider what does this mean for me? So thank you for joining me on Throw Forward Thursdays. Every week, it’s coming up to a year that we’ve been doing these, and I hope that you’ve been enjoying them and that you’ve watched the archives If you need to Throw Forward Thursday, and we will continue over the next few weeks to unpack some of the lessons and learnings from Expo 2020.
And then we’ll be heading into a miniseries on the future of work and the future of the workplace followed by a mini series on what will happen at the end of and there are some end of things that are pretty scary.
The end of coffee, the end of chocolate, but then also possibly the end of sickness and the end of death as well.
So thanks, as always, make sure that you like and subscribe if you’re on YouTube, subscribe to the podcast, give us feedback and rate on your favourite podcast platform.
If you’re listening in that format, I’ll see you next week in the future.
For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.