“In order to write, I scan over 80 or more newsletters and magazines. If I get a newsletter and there isn’t something in there that I’ve used in a while then I’ll just unsubscribe from that one and look for another one that might be better.“
– Joyce Gioia
About Joyce Gioia
Joyce is a strategic business futurist and President of The Herman Group, which serves a wide range of clients globally with The Herman Trend Report and other services, and is on the board of the Association of Professional Futurists. She is the author or co-author of six books, including Experience Rules, and appears regularly in the media, including in Entrepreneur Magazine, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, and NPR.
What you will learn
- Using trend alert tools (01:46)
- How to select information sources and keep them up to date (05:43)
- Why it may be better to deal with information as it comes instead of on a schedule (08:36)
- Why the futurist’s job is making big concepts understandable to your audience (11:35)
- What makes an excellent futurist (14:52)
- Why it is important to engage stakeholders other than your customers (20:16)
- How the Chief Experience Officer frames a company externally and internally (22:35)
- Why taking care of your physical health is just as important as mental health (25:52)
Ross Dawson: Joyce, it’s a delight to have you on the show.
Joyce Gioia: It’s great to be with you, Ross.
Ross: Joyce, you help organizations and leaders to understand what’s going on, understand what’s changing, and to be able to act on that, how do you do that?
Joyce: The major vehicle that I use is something that I call the Herman Trend Alert. It’s read by close to 30,000 people every week in 92 countries. In order to write that I scan over 80 newsletters and magazines, probably over the course of a month or more even because some of the newsletters are compendiums of highlights from other newsletters, so the best of. I probably cover close to 200 with all the different newsletters and magazines that I look at.
When I find something that interests me, that I think I’d like to learn more about and I have a boundless curiosity like a kid, I try to find if they have something digital on it, if it’s an article online, I’ll grab the URL, and/or I’ll copy the item and just dump it into a new word file. When it’s from a magazine, I’ll tear out the pages or even look for that item online so that I don’t even have to translate the ink on paper into a digital format. Sometimes I’ll even hear a radio segment that’s on something that I want to cover. In that case, I’ll look for the transcript. I’ll keep the URL and the copy of the material in my trend alerts directory.
I’ll have dozens of items waiting for processing at any given time. Then when I’m ready, I’ll pull up the file and if I need more information, I’ll search it out on the web using DuckDuckGo. I like to use DuckDuckGo because it’s more private. It doesn’t share information as much as Google does. I’m getting upset with Google about the way that it’s blocking certain other systems. But anyway, I digress.
If I’m low on trend alert topics, which rarely happens, I’ll set aside some blocks on my calendar for uninterrupted research, but that very very rarely happens because so much comes into my inbox. I just need to look through the newsletters and see what interests me. This week’s trend alert is about growing third teeth. In order to get additional insight into that, I called a friend of mine whom I met at South by Southwest. Her company is Rhodium Research and what she does is she sends stem cells up into space to see what effect that will have and it turns out that stem cells multiply much faster in a microgravity situation. I had no idea.
Ross: Wow, that’s fabulous. I’d love to dig into what you’ve just told me. There’s a lot in there. Let’s start with the magazines, the newsletters, and your sources for use. How do you select them or how have you selected them and how do you keep those up to date or current with making sure those are the sources which can feed what you need?
Joyce: If I get a newsletter and there isn’t something in there that I’ve used in a while then I’ll just unsubscribe from that one and look for another one that might be better. You’ve got things like Ray Kurzweil’s organization and Bertalan Mesko who is the medical futurist, and I’m fascinated by medicine because my dad was a physician, my brother’s a physician, my daughter is a physician. Yes, you have my permission to feel sorry for me.
Ross: In some cases, it could be a boon.
Joyce: Yes, in some cases, it’s a great advantage to have doctors in the family, and other times not so much.
Ross: This gives you a head start on understanding your medical or biological issues, which are of course, so important at the moment. Are many of these sources more general ones who are also scanning the trends and the edge of the future, or do you look into ones that are very specific in industry or topic?
Joyce: The answer to your question is yes, I will look at specific industry ones as well as ones that are doing their own scanning of industries, so it’s a combination. If there are thought leaders, people who come up with ideas that I haven’t thought of, that are in my spaces, like my new book is called Experience Rules, how positive experiences will drive profit into the future. There’s a webinar that I’m attending tomorrow at 11 o’clock. That’s about the audio, the neuroscience of audio in webinars, and I always use music to set up my audience when I do webinars because I think that using multimedia, using music and beautiful pictures just adds additional dimensions to the whole presentation. It’s not just a talking head. I’m adding sight sound in motion. Besides me who’s very enthusiastic about whatever I’m talking about.
Ross: In terms of scanning, you’ve mentioned before that you blocked out time in your calendar, is this daily? Do you spend time looking at all of your sources or what’s your schedule?
Joyce: No, as they come in I’ll look at them because I want to be as up-to-date and as right-on-target for what’s happening at that point if I can. There are times when the media escape is just so focused on something political, that it just doesn’t make sense. That’s when I go to my growing third teach kind of articles. For instance, if there was a solar eclipse, I might talk about magnetic resonance, solar eclipse, and how sunspots affect the telecommunications on the planet. I look for ways to tie what is current to what I’m talking about. I’ve done a lot of work because HR is very, very important to me and I’m very enthusiastic about helping employers to be better.
I’ve covered a lot about the Great Resignation and how to avoid that happening in people’s organizations. During COVID, I believed that people needed a trusted source for information on infections, masking, and vaccines so I became a real expert in COVID-19. I would have conversations with people and they would say how long have you been an epidemiologist? I would say, I haven’t. It’s just that I’ve done a lot of research in the field.
Ross: Hopping on the note-taking, you were saying that you captured the URLs, the content, and topics so what is your system? Where do you keep things stored? How do you relate things or tag things or note them?
Joyce: Very simple. I just keep them in a Word file and I suspect I’m not doing my brain a lot of favors, but I don’t have a tagging system. I just have a good memory. I’m blessed that way.
Ross: Then the process of distilling that into your report, are you choosing one topic or more than one topic and then pulling that all together and being able to then provide it in a distilled or digestible format? Is there any process to that?
Joyce: Yes, most definitely. One of the things is I do not want to ever use 75 cent words and that gets really difficult when you’re trying to explain something like quantum computing, really difficult; but I believe that it’s part of my job to take really complicated information without losing the basic meaning to bring it to the point where it is digestible by ordinary people. I believe that that’s part of my job as a futurist.
Another part of my job as a futurist is to make sure that I am making whatever it is that I’m delivering just as valuable as it possibly could be to my audience. I want to talk about what are the implications of this for them, for their families, for the future, for their futures, and to do that, I will take a page from how I developed a process for writing advertising copy and that is that I will literally put on the persona of the person who would be reading the article, and I will look out through their eyes and I will say, Okay, I just read ABCD, what do I want to know about this? What has not been covered here? And what else do I need from this article to have that be really valuable for me?
Joyce: Of course, then I jump back into the person who’s writing it and I write it.
Ross: So being able to asking the questions that are relevant to that particular person?
Joyce: Exactly. What I sometimes find when I do that is that there are whole paragraphs that are irrelevant to that audience and I just get rid of them.
Ross: That magic, part of it is being able to see the sense of the trend and to be able to work out what the implications are? Are there any processes of that sense-making or synthesis that goes on in your mind?
Joyce: Yes. Do you remember I told you I had a pretty good memory?
Joyce: I believe that what makes me good as a futurist is that I can take what to other people seem like totally disparate, trends and things that are happening in the world, and pull them together and see that they, in fact, are related to each other and therefore, the world is going in a particular direction. Let me give you a great example of that. My new book is called Experience Rules, how positive experiences will drive profit into the future. I started understanding the importance of experiences more than 20 years ago when I saw that regular consumers were looking for more and more extreme and intense experiences and I wrote about it. I called it Experience Junkies.
I talked about extreme sports, reality television, extreme food, and all kinds of extreme activities that people were doing like biking, hiking, and bicycling. It was just really extreme. When people were talking about food, it was food that would burn some people’s mouths that some others were gravitating toward. I saw that something was going on there. I realized that, to a degree, humanity was becoming jaded, that it took greater and greater experiences to turn them on, to make them feel. It went right along with the fact that the baby boomers were aging and typically when people age, they lose the ability to taste to a degree. We lose taste buds or some of us do anyway in our mouths and tongues. I pulled those together and I did that. That was the seed for understanding that experience was important.
Fast forward to about 10 or 12 years later, now we’re talking about CX, the customer experience, and marketers were focusing on the customer experience. Then very shortly thereafter, because companies realized that without good employees, they were going to be in bad shape, they started focusing on the employee experience. That’s when I started getting interested. Because I said, Okay if we’ve got some people focusing on the customer experience and others focusing on the employee experience, what about the other stakeholder groups? What about the families of employees whom Microsoft and others go a long distance to relate with, and have a good relationship with? So why not the families of employees who Microsoft and Adobe are going to great lengths to relate with, or the families of customers the packaged goods companies go to great lengths to relate with?
Then I started doing some research, do we have investor relations experienced consultants? In fact, yes, there are investor experience consultants and they are thriving. Now I’m beginning to get a holistic picture and a bigger picture. I started thinking okay, so all of these different stakeholders are very important to companies. Why is nobody talking about it?
Ross: A lot of the process then is thinking of the stakeholders, the people involved, the many perspectives. As Gregory Bateson said, knowledge comes from a single perspective, wisdom comes from many perspectives, so then it sounds like your process is keeping on asking and identifying those other perspectives and looking at it from that viewpoint.
Joyce: Indeed. What I also did was then I wanted to look at not only the stakeholder groups but how the new technologies were being used. I looked at AR, VR, and AI, and how they’re being used to connect with these different groups. Then I also wanted to talk about gamification and simulation, and I took it a step further even. I talk about something that I call “workafication”, which is taking the installed databases of things like League of Legends, which have over 10 million installed players, and finding a way to incorporate work into those games. I think that’s what’s coming next.
But anyway, I took all of those technologies and I put them into the book, and then I said, Okay, how do I make this again, putting on the persona, I’ve got all this information about how different companies, over hundreds of companies, are bonding with different groups of stakeholders, I’ve got all of the technologies, so where does the company begin to use this information and drive profit? I realized that the model was already there in looking at the customer journey.
What I said was we’re already mapping the customer journey, why aren’t we mapping the employee journey? Why aren’t we mapping the supplier-vendor journey? Why aren’t we mapping the journey for the families, investors, and all of those different things? That’s the next step. But then companies need someone to oversee all of this work. I forecast the rise of someone called the CEXO, the chief experience officer, whose job will be to coordinate all of the messaging, branding, and advertising for all of those stakeholder groups.
Ross: You’re bringing together all of these different perspectives, as you say, all of these different journeys and so on, in terms of just the cognition in the mind, what is then the process for you or that CEXO to be able to pull these together into a whole because there are so many different perspectives. Is there any state of mind or process or ways of synthesizing or bringing these together?
Joyce: The key is that CEXO has to realize that all of the branding has to be aligned, and all of the messaging has to be aligned because if the employee message is different than the customer message, that’s not going to work. It’s their job to look at how do they create the congruence between all of these messages? And it’s very interesting that there are two companies that are looking at a much more holistic approach to doing business. Both of them have come up with a single word, which doesn’t surprise me, the word is “caring”. When I needed to change the TEDTalk, which I did in New Zealand in 2018, or something, to make it more consumer-oriented, I used the title creating a culture of caring. I started by talking about the relationships between parents and children, then evolved it to our work families, and ended by talking about what I’ve just shared with you.
Ross: Fantastic. I think it’s really insightful, that process of bringing together those ideas and being able to see the point of some of the major things emerging. To round out, is there any advice you would give to those who are seeking to thrive in a world of excessive information?
Joyce: Yes, in the process of collecting, being a sponge, and having this unbounded curiosity, which I highly recommend because it works very well for me, understand that you have to take care of your body as well. What that means is, I get daily exercise, I’m still trying to get eight hours of sleep a night, I haven’t mastered that one yet. Although many times I’ll get four hours early in the evening, get up and do stuff, and then go back and get another four hours, it doesn’t serve me and I’m trying to get out of that. My husband says that I have two speeds, supersonic and off. It’s really vital to turn off and just be sometimes.
What that means is not necessarily meditation, but just giving yourself time to breathe. Give yourself time to just relax and just take in the world. How does your body feel against the seat of the chair or wherever you are? What is going on? How does the air feel on your skin? Just tuning in to your body for short periods of time, a minute here, a minute there, but it’s an opportunity for a reset, for us to just reset ourselves, relax, and then we can turn back on the brain, we can turn back on all the senses and we come to a degree with fresh eyes and ears because we have given ourselves this opportunity to just relax, and be with ourselves for a short time.
Ross: Fantastic. I think it’s not only sound advice, many people don’t recognize, to the degree they can, going supersonic requires those stop times as well. Is there anything, any way you would point to people to find some of the best of what you do?
Joyce: Right now, it’s still at www.hermangroup.com. However, I am working on a new website, which is joycegioia.com. I’ll also have much more information on another site called experiencerules.com.
Ross: Fantastic. Thank you so much for your time and your insights, Joyce, it has been a real pleasure.
Joyce: Thank you so much. Ross.