As we look to the future, the role of data in shaping our world is undeniable. For businesses, embracing this data-driven revolution is not just an option; it’s a necessity to thrive in an ever-evolving digital landscape.

Why is data so crucial? Because it informs every decision, predicts every trend, and uncovers opportunities that could easily be missed. In a world overflowing with information, the ability to sift through noise and find what matters gives your business a competitive edge.

Strategically, the focus shouldn’t just be on collecting data, but on collecting the right data. Quality over quantity. Invest in systems that do more than gather; they must also interpret and recommend actions. And it involves getting a few people into your system who have a data detective brain. These are not data analysts, but rather people who use data to ask different questions.

Actually, go even further than that. Empower your teams. Data literacy is no longer a skill reserved for IT departments. Encourage a culture where every employee understands data basics and its impact on their role. As leaders, your mission is to build a bridge between vast oceans of data and actionable insights that propel your business forward. Make data a cornerstone of your strategic planning, and watch as it transforms not just your operations, but your entire industry. The future isn’t just written in data—it’s shaped by those who know how to use it. Lead with data, and let it lead you to unprecedented success.

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Data, data everywhere. That’s the future.

Welcome to ThrowForward Thursday, my name is Graeme Codrington, and every week we jump into the future and see what’s going on there. And this is episode 150. And as it happens, it’s the end of what I’ve been calling Season 4, the last 40 episodes in this studio. Well, yeah, it’s a green screen, but I’ve enjoyed this background anyway.

And what I did was I reviewed the last 40 episodes to see if any themes emerged and as it happened, one big theme stood out. And so, if you don’t mind me indulging in a little bit of a review. Data, data, data. That’s the big theme that emerges.

As we look at the future, the role of data is undeniable. Data is the new oil. It’s a cliché, we know that, but it’s true. For businesses, embracing a data-driven revolution is not just an option, it’s not a nice to have. It’s an absolute essential in an ever-evolving digital landscape. And the key here is not just to take the data that we’ve already got, whatever data you’ve got, normally, it’s got to do with your customer data, your sales histories, and so on. The key is not just to dig deeper into that so that you can provide more of the same types of products and services, maybe slightly cheaper and faster to people, maybe anticipating some of their needs just a little bit more.

All of that’s important. Do it if you can. But what we’ve been seeing together as we look at the future and try and imagine ourselves in the future. Is that more than an analysis of data, I like to think of it as data detectives. People who are able to take whatever data you have available to you, build a bit of quality into that data, that’s normally the starting point, and most people’s data is not in a great format, is not neat and clean, so you’ve got to build a bit of quality into your data first. But then it’s about looking for the patterns, looking for information in that data that isn’t entirely obvious. Or to put it into slightly better English, it’s about asking what questions we might ask that we don’t even know we can ask at the moment.

So, for example, if you were a city planner and you had access to a database that would tell you where every single motor car and bus and motorbike and delivery vehicle had travelled every day for the last few years. And you were able to analyse that information, to look at the usage of roads, and then add in information about accidents and hotspots and traffic. In other words, if you had access to all the data Waze has got, and if everybody had used Waze for every trip that they had taken on a vehicle, imagine what questions you could ask.

If you were then trying to look at, well, how do we optimise the usage of vehicle transportation within the city? And if we then had that data for every city in the world and now had to come up with building a new city or building a new suburb, what might we know? What questions could we ask to build a city of the future or to optimise an existing city to take advantage of having that information?

In other words, at the moment, we’re not even asking the right questions because we don’t even know we could ask those questions because we don’t know where we would get the answers from. So, if we reverse engineer from a massive imagined data set to the type of questions we might want to ask, we can then begin to say, well, how do we build that data set over the next few years?

Another example, and this is in fact already happening, is farmers are using data sets like this to do much better, they call it precision farming. And they can do it because most farmers have fairly set data sets. They’ve got their farm, which is a particular set of land. Most farmers have got a long history of weather tracking, literally on a day by day basis, and they can feed that into the system. They understand exactly what they are trying to achieve, which crops they are growing or which animals they are tending, and they know exactly what problems could emerge. So, it’s quite a controlled data set.

And on the basis of that data set, farmers these days are able to use autonomous machines, maybe more than any other industry in the world. Farmers are using driverless vehicles. Then you can go a step further with targeted laser precision, for example, weed extraction or fertilisation of particular plants at a particular moment, watering of plants in certain ways, and All of that comes off of a data set.

Now, you’ll see, I’m not using the language of AI because this isn’t really artificial intelligence, although artificial intelligence will be able to sit on top of these data sets. I think in the next 3-5 years, the key is for companies to develop those data sets and then to get humans who have the capability of asking better questions from the data set, can come up with all of those innovative ideas.

One final example. Imagine our homes could be smart homes, homes that learned our rhythms and patterns of when we wake up and when we go to sleep and what we eat and what we watch and listen to and what we wear and why we wear it. And then we linked those data sets with our calendars and maybe with smart devices that understand our health needs and obviously then have smart devices in the home that, for example, might be able to analyse what ingredients we have in the fridge and the pantry, what our bodies are asking for in terms of vitamins and nutrients, what the requirements are for the day ahead, and then a smart home will actually prepare a breakfast for you, perfectly timed for when you get to the kitchen.

It’s not difficult to imagine scenarios from city planning to farming to smart homes and then, of course, into every other area like education and health care and so the list might go on. Where if you ask the right questions of a massive data set, you come up with spectacular products and services that will be in demand. This is the type of thinking that we’re going to need over the next few years. And then when we reverse engineer that back into our businesses, we can then begin to say, how do we start building that data set? And how do we start building a team of people who are able to think in this way?

So strategically, we need to be focusing not just on collecting data, but collecting the right type of data, quality over quantity. Although I’d argue, go for the quantity if you can do nothing else. But we’re going to have to clean up the data, so you might as well try and make it as clean as possible as you’re collecting it. And then you need to invest in systems that do more than just gather the data. They must also interpret and recommend actions and come up with new ideas. And that probably involves getting a few people into your system who have this data-detective brain, and I do think it’s a mix of personality and training and creativity and innovation.

It’s probably not the people you’ve already got because they’ve been trained to see the world in a certain way, and they’ve been trained to ask the questions your industry already asks. You might need people who see things differently and who engage with data differently. These are not, as I say, data analysts, but they are people who use data to ask different questions. That’s why I call them data detectives.

Actually, I think you need to go even further than that, and you need to empower your teams with data literacy. This is no longer a skill that’s just reserved for the IT department or the number nerds. We need to encourage a culture where every employee understands basic data manipulation and the basics of how data impacts their role. And who knows? The more people who think in a data-inspired way, the more likely you are to come up with some future-focused ideas.

So why is data so critical? It’s because data informs every decision, it predicts every trend, it uncovers numerous opportunities that could otherwise easily be missed. In a world that’s overflowing with information, the ability to sift through noise and to find what matters is what gives you or will give you, a competitive advantage once you’ve built it.

As leaders, your mission is to build a bridge between the vast oceans of data and if you don’t have those oceans of data, to get them in the first place. And a bridge between that and actionable insights that will really push your business forward and uncover opportunities you haven’t identified yet. Make data a cornerstone of your strategic planning and watch as it transforms your business, your operations, your entire industry, actually. The future isn’t just written in data. It’s shaped by those who know how to use it. Lead with data and let it lead you into unprecedented success.

That’s my summary of the last 40 episodes. Data, data, everywhere. I hope you’ve enjoyed the ride. There will be one more episode in this season next week, just closing out and giving you a wonderful announcement about what we’re going to do next.

Season 5 is going to be a little bit different around here. We’re going to take a break from these news bulletin scenarios from the future. We’re going to do something else, I think you’re going to enjoy a lot for the next few weeks and months.

Don’t forget that you have access to a discussion guide that I wrote about a number of the episodes, my favourite 26, I think, episodes over the last 150. I selected my favourites and I put together discussion guides for each of them so that you can take those videos and use them with your team to be able to stretch your strategic imagination and grow your insights about the future.

We’ve given you a free sample of these. You can go to this website. It’s that shortcut link Capital S, capital I, capital T, S-I Toolkit, the strategic imagination toolkit. There will obviously be a link in the show notes as well for you to click on. Download the sample. It’s there for you to use. And if you’d like the full toolkit, all the instructions are there for you to be able to get that as well.

Thank you, as always, for joining me in the ThrowForward Thursday Studio. Thank you for coming along for the ride. If you’ve just discovered us, there’s an entire archive for you wherever you get this, whether it’s on the Podcast or on YouTube or any of my social channels. Every Thursday for the last 150 weeks, those are all available to you. Go back and have a look and get excited about the future that’s facing us.

I’ll see you next week, and then I’ll see you in season 5 for something different in the future, as always.



Thanks, as always for joining me in the future, today was a little bit more not quite a rant but a little bit more of a comment on where we are rather than where we’re going. But as always, I appreciate you joining me in the future and I’ll see you next week where we’re going to have exciting news about a brand-new resource, I think you’re going to really enjoy. I’ll see you next week in the future

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Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognised futurist, specialising in the future of work. He helps organisations 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 recognised 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.

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