Futurespace 2023 wrap up

Over 170 professional consultants and their clients attended our conference Futurespace 2023 where only a few weeks out from the election we spoke about the big issues like climate change adaptation and mitigation, the infrastructure deficit, housing, immigration and digital innovation affecting our industry. Here's a wrap-up from the event. 

Michael McQueen

Futurespace 2023 kicked off with a bang when thought leader and author Michael McQueen spoke about how we truly are living in an age of uncertainty. Where best practice doesn’t stay best practice for long, and we need to think of revolution, not evolution:

"We want to be tides and not waves. Waves are loud, visual and constantly causing us to jump, whereas tides are silent, unseen yet over time reshape the entire coastline."

At the Fireside Chat with the Chiefs, panellists Jodie King, Siobhan Procter, Carrie Hurihanganui and Susan Freeman-Greene spoke about how we can best balance being the tide – holding onto our strategic vision – in the wake of the daily, immediate waves that take hold. As leaders, to keep ourselves and our people focused, we need to keep telling the story of what will happen if we don’t keep to our strategic vision. To ask ourselves: “What do we have to do to not achieve that vision?”

Fireside Chat with the Chief's panellists Susan Freeman-Greene, Jodie King and Siobhan Procter 

Attention expert Johann Hari refined this question of how we can reclaim our attention for setting our long-term and strategic goals. He reminded us of the importance of flow states, mind wandering, relaxation, sleep, rest and deep thought. To help us into flow states, he posited we need to do three things: chunk time and do just one thing at a time; have a goal that is meaningful to you; and to play at the edge of your comfort zone – this is the trifactor for our best thinking states and creative problem-solving free from distraction of the forces that are trying to steal our attention.

The necessity of this ability to generate deep thinking and create was highlighted in the client message we repeatedly heard during the conference, which was that clients want us to challenge them, to be their thought partners, and to be influential and strategic.

And bringing this full circle to the context of the current election, we were challenged to be more political – we know the state of our assets, we are well-placed to provide neutral, expert, evidential advice and put our message out to the world in a braver way.

One of our favourite Futurespace messages passionately shared by John Gamble, CE and President of ACEC Canada was about the harm the legacy of billable hours is causing consulting – ourselves and what we can offer to our clients. Billable hours have no correlation to the risk you incur or the value you provide as consultants, and it constrains the potential of our industry. If we continue to chase to the bottom, we are saying we think that’s all we are worth. John noted we are at the pinnacle of where we need to be asking ourselves what a better system could look like, and that is about promoting value-capture in the same way we promote it to our clients, thinking about subscription fees and supply and demand. To get our clients on board we need to talk more about client selection and be prepared to be confident and to walk where necessary.

As John said, consultants have an obligation to be successful to reinvest in their organisations and you should do it without apology. The lawyers do this well – so can we.