This is the first full episode of Season 4 of ThrowForward Thursday. This season, we will keep the videos shorter, so they can be used in your “Five Minutes from the Future” sessions. They will be followed (next week) by a discussion guide to help you and your team implement the Futurist Skillset we touch on in today’s episode.
This episode is about future materials – for everything from construction to clothing – and how we’re going to find new materials with remarkable properties. I take you back in time to how we turned Teflon into waterproof clothing, just by playing around in a lab; and look forward to how you and your team should be playing around with the raw materials of your industry.
To get early access to next week’s discussion guide and resource about experimentation, make sure you join my Futures Club here.
Welcome to the future. My name’s Graeme Codrington, this is Throw Forward Thursday, and we’ve jumped into the future to investigate smart and magic materials. In the future, we are going to develop a whole series of fabrics and materials that can be used in everything from building and construction to the clothes that you’re wearing and these are going to have unbelievable properties.
Some of them will be smart and they’ll be able to take a code and be able to respond to the environment around them. Others are going to have characteristics that make them exceedingly useful, solving some dramatic problems. Now, we could just give you a whole list of imaginative ideas. I think that we need to be looking at graphene, for example, as one of the most significant materials of the second half of this century.
But what I really want to do in today’s Throw Forward Thursday, and this is the start of season four, and you’re going to see this approach coming more into season four. We’re going to learn how to think like a futurist as we think about the future and to understand how we come up with smart materials.
I need to quickly take you back to the past. Come with me back to the late 1950s, where Bill and Genevieve Gore started a small company that was intending to provide materials to the growing, booming electronics industry of the time. And they were experimenting with a number of different things. And in 1969, they discovered that if you take Polytetrafluoroethylene, that’s PTFE to you and me, or maybe more likely, you know it as Teflon.
Teflon is that very hard, but very smooth, slippery, non-stick, easy to clean, and easy to cook with covering that is on most of your pots and pans in your kitchen at the moment. If you take that and you stretch it not too far so that it breaks, but you stretch it, little micro pores open up in the PTFE. And what that allows is for water vapour to move through the material in one direction, but water droplets to not be able to get through the material.
Bill and Genevieve Gore had just invented Gore-Tex, one of the really most magic materials that we’ve had in the last century. This is the thing that keeps you dry when you’re out walking and hiking. We make shoes out of it, we make tents out of it, we make rain jackets out of it because the water can’t get in, but it doesn’t trap your sweat and your body heat in. It allows that to cool. So you can be cool or you can stay at body temperature, but without ever getting wet.
How did they come up with that? It was literally just experimenting. So many of the wonderful things that we have in our world right now, including some really life-saving things, you know, the stories are people who were just experimenting. They weren’t trying to find the thing that they eventually discovered they were probably trying to find something else or just experimenting to see what would happen if and out pops something that is remarkable, amazing, world changing. Gore-Tex certainly has been that.
If we now jump back to the future, we’re going to discover that through experimentation and through the use of DNA tools, where we are able to take, for example, some really powerful and strong materials like steel or graphene would fit into that category and then infuse that into spiders. The silk that they produce can become a bulletproof material, but it’s actually very, very thin and light and silky feeling that’s already being experimented with.
We’re going to be able to see smart bandages where you put a bandage on a wound and the bandage actually has intelligence built into it to be able to adapt and respond and give you feedback of what’s happening with that wound. And so, the list goes on.
The point is, we’re not going to get there by thinking about what smart material we want and then building it. We can do that every now and again, but we’re most likely to get there by just having experimental labs where we try different things and see what happens.
Even if you’re not a materials manufacturer, the concept of having an experimental lab and trying something to see what happens is certainly a way for you to get into a smart and magical future.
I’m Graeme Codrington, this is Throw forward Thursday. Thanks for joining me, as always. Don’t forget to like and subscribe on YouTube or in the podcasts Graeme Codrington’s Future of Work podcast or wherever you follow me on the social channels.
Next week, you will get a resource that will help you to go further into what it means to have a mindset of experimentation. You’ll get that if you’re a member of my Futures Club, you can join the Futures Club at any time at jointhefuturesclub.com.
Otherwise, I’ll see you in two weeks’ time when we jump into the future again and see what happens there.
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Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.
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.