In the past few years, we've witnessed a global pandemic, an energy crisis, the effects of climate change, and several other global woes, but nothing has quite prepared us for the dawn of new AI technology. Since ChatGPT's launch in late 2022, this superhuman technology has transcended the realm of science fiction and is now feared by many to potentially disrupt millions of jobs and industries. A sci-fi thriller movie, it seems, is about to unfold before us.
But today's guest on the show urges us to have a more positive outlook. He is Chet W. Sisk, a futurist, author, and keynote speaker who helps companies navigate their future uncertainties with calculated insights. For Sisk, AI will change the fundamentals of business in the near future and only proactive persons or companies will stay relevant. To find out what this means for you, listen to the episode now.
In today’s episode of the Harvest Growth Podcast, we’ll cover:
The power of having the right mindset in a world shaped by AI.
How AI can become an asset if we know how to harness it.
Dealing with anxiety and depression from the uncertainty of the future.
What to do with your skill and expertise to remain relevant against new AI technology.
You can listen to the full interview on your desktop or wherever you choose to listen to your podcasts.
Or, click to watch the full video interview here!
For actionable steps and one-on-one guidance on how to be successful in an AI-defined future, set up a call to speak with Chet Sisk at Universal Basic Resources.
Do you have a brand that you’d like to launch or grow? Do you want help from a partner that has successfully launched hundreds of brands that now total over $2 billion in revenues? Set up a free consultation with us today!
Prefer reading instead of listening? Read the full transcript here!
Jon LaClare: How will AI affect your business? As today's guest states, we are living in an exceptional moment where the fundamentals of business and life are changing. Listen to this episode to learn how to not only deal with these big changes but to get in front of them and to grow your business in exceptional ways.
Announcer: Are you looking for new ways to make your sales grow? You've tried other podcasts, but they don't seem to know. Harvest the growth potential of your product or service as we share stories and strategies that'll make your competitors nervous. Now, here's the host of our Harvest Growth podcast, Jon LaClare.
Jon: Welcome back to the show. Today, I'm really excited to be speaking with my good friend Chet W. Sisk. He's a futurist, an author, and a keynote speaker, in addition to being a good friend, and you're going to really like him as well I know throughout this interview. He's going to a lot of value to this conversation because of his experience in speaking to organizations, companies, and individuals, and just a wealth of knowledge that he brings to the table that I'm sure we're going to digest over the next several minutes throughout this interview. First of all, I just want to welcome you, Chet, thank you so much for taking the time and joining the show today.
Chet W. Sisk: Thank you, Jon, for inviting me, and thank you for the friends and family discount to get in ahead and be a part of the mix. I appreciate it. No, Jon's a great person, and I just really appreciate just being on your show knowing that you talk to all of these wonderful people. I said I should be in that category too. I should be amongst his wonderful people that he talks to. Thanks for making room for me.
Jon: Absolutely. Chet and I go way back. We hired Chet, his talent for a client of ours for a couple of videos over the years. Chet is known as having the greatest voice in video and radio, [laughs] as you can tell already. Great for videos, but as we got to know each other, your background is what I think is really exciting, and that's what we're going to talk about today is what you bring to the table to organizations in a couple of different ways.
The first one I want to talk about is your role as a futurist, and in that your speaking engagements that we'll dive into a little bit later. For the benefit of our audience, I know a lot of people have heard the term futurist, but many people don't really know what that means. What is a futurist?
Chet: Yes. First of all, let me say that there is no futurist school that you go to in order to get a futurist degree. For those of you saying, "I want to sign up for that, sounds like a great gig." Futurists are really people who come from diverse backgrounds. We really are all pulled together. In fact, I'm going to be meeting with a couple of futurists, even this the latter part of this week. We come from diverse backgrounds, and our focus is what's going to happen in the immediate future. Now, not all futurists do this, but at least the ones that I work with are all talking about what's going to happen over the next two to three years.
Now, a futurist is really someone who gathers information, looks over a bunch of data, and says, ''This is what we predict is what's going to happen.'' Prediction, it's a dangerous word. I don't like to use it. I'd like to say we make forecasts just like the weather guy. They don't predict the weather. They just forecast and say, ''This is most likely to happen based around the decisions that Mother Nature has made with how these things usually go.'' We do the same thing, except we say these are the things that we see based around what humans have decided and how it usually turns out based around similar patterns that we've seen before.
Now, a lot of this, my engagement into futurism really goes back to the fact that I'm a broadcast journalist. I used to be, I used to be a television news journalist. I was a newspaper journalist. I was a radio news journalist. News is in the blood. I graduated from the Southern Illinois University, the Carbondale School of Journalism. It's really about journalism. It's about following a news story outside of the news cycle, but this time you're following it not over a 24 to 48-hour period, you're following it over decades, maybe centuries, just to see where is this going to go and how will it affect us, and what should we do to prepare for those decisions that we've made and the outcome of those decisions.
That's really, really. It's a long answer to a short question about what a futurist is, but that really is it. It's broadcast, it's journalism, and it's just chasing the story.
Jon: That's a great way to put it. I've tried, as I've talked about you with friends and associates, and in the recent past, as we've been working together trying to describe what it is, I think that's very succinct. Great way to say it. Journalists over an expanded period of time.
Chet: Yes. You're just following stories and then really the other part of that is not just to follow the stories and say, ''Oh, this is the story that we follow.'' You also have to get to the place of being able to say, ''This is what this is going to mean to you. This is how it's going to affect you, your family, your community, your company, your organization.'' In a very real way, a futurist has to interpret that data. We have to sit back and not just look at what past patterns existed, but now we see all these new elements that come into play and we have to say, "You know what? This is going to be a little different and this is why." There's a lot of interpretation that's also involved.
Jon: Fantastic. As we talked about, you do a lot of speaking engagements and work with organizations. What sort of topics are rising to the forefront right now in your futurist discussions?
Chet: Oh man, [laughs] let me tell you. This is a great time to be a futurist. If some of you were out there thinking, I want to do that, it's a great time, mostly because there is a lot of uncertainty over just the next few years. That uncertainty is creating a lot of anxiety. A lot of companies are trying to figure out the fundamentals seem to have changed, then they're right. There seems to be a lot of elements all happening at the same time. We call it permacrisis, that is, it seems as though there are permanent crises always ongoing, and it's affecting the way that people think.
It's affecting our health. It's affecting our creative processes. We're all being affected whether we feel it or not, it is happening. A lot of times that's because of the fact that we don't see it. We see it in aggregate but we don't really know that it is affecting us in this subtle, almost subconscious way. People know that they're being affected. They just don't know the fine details. They ask me to come in and say, "Chet, my people have a lot of anxiety, or we don't know how to decide this because things seem to have changed even more so than the last time we made this decision."
There's an organization I got to have a chance to speak to tomorrow, and they're trying to figure out a new economic model for their county because basically, climate change is affecting their basic business model. When you have, I don't think it's a secret or anything, but it's a ski organization, a ski resort, and they're like, "You know what? There's less snow. You got any ideas about what we need to do going forward because this business model is not sustainable?" I have to come in and say, "These are the things that we know other resorts are doing."
Then we have to drill down on here are some other possibilities you might not have thought about. My big focus is to get them into ideation sessions because a lot of times people don't really think about these kinds of changes until they're at crisis. Then when the crisis comes, people make really hasty decisions, decisions that sometimes will regret a little later on. My job is to say, ''Let's get into ideation and create a formal structure where we can process this stuff through.''
Now, let me also say this. I know that there's a lot of anxiety around the technologies, particularly all of the big guys are going around talking about, ''Oh my God, AI is going to scare the hell out of all of us. It's going to be our doom.'' There's a lot of that going on but let me offer this as a thought. My personal belief and this is because of my relationship to modern technology and what I'm seeing and even my relationship to some of the big tech companies, is that it's not the technology.
The technology is a toaster. You could either make toast for your sweetheart in the morning and serve them breakfast in bed, or you can toss that toaster into their bath water and electrocute them to death, but the toaster didn't make the decision, we did. We are at a place where we can now decide how we're going to use that technology for the greater good not only for the company, for the organization, but for our people. Not just our people, for our community. Not just our community, but really for the planet. We have a window of opportunity, and I submit that window opportunity exists now, and will probably for the next few years.
Dare I say that after that, I think that we're going to be in trouble if we don't get in front of this technology now. Honestly, the technology should be used as an extension of our greatest dreams and aspirations. That's what it was designed for. We just forgot that. Somehow we gave up our agency to Elon Musk and said, "Oh, whatever you figure out, we'll go with that." We are the ones that need to decide that.
My big job in big work inside of organizations and companies is really to help them regain that agency of how do we use this not just to make money, but really to improve quality of life, to improve the quality of the work that we do, to make the world that the Jetsons talked about in those cartoons back in the 60s when they were talking about how the world would be a better place, more efficient, more effective. We can still do that. We are just going to have to reimagine ourselves. People talk about reimagining the technology, but really it's about reimagining how we approach the technology and reimagining ourselves in this new technology-based world.
A lot of futurists talk about the tech and they just stay there. My big focus is to make sure that we understand the human part, because that is what it does, and should direct the technology. I spend a lot of time really just drilling down on what are you thinking. What is it that you seek to do? How is this going to affect you in the way that you walk through the world? Like I said, we've gotten lost along the way, so my job is to bring us back to that.
Then once we are grounded in that or at least in the concept of it, then it's good to bring in the technology and say, "This is how this can work with your humanity, and with your people, and with your organization."
Jon: It reminds me of a story. You probably know the details better than I do maybe. The early 1900s, there was an analysis done economically from an economics person saying that 100 years from now, which we're now there, that our lives will be able to work just a handful of hours a week. That has changed, right? We work as many hours now as we ever have.
Jon: What happened is, well, we work more than we necessarily have to. Things have gotten so much more efficient because of technology we have today, even before AI, right?
Jon: Think of the last 20, 30, 40 years compared to 100 years ago.
Jon: We can be so much more efficient, we can get so much more accomplished, but we have more stuff, right? Homes are bigger, we have multiple cars on average, right?
Jon: We have more things in our home, we take a lot more vacations. We materially have much, much more today than we did 100 years ago. If you go back and reanalyze what he was saying, this economist back in the day, we could work five hours a week and have the same stuff we had 100 years ago, and enjoy that simpler, easier life, right? We don't. We work a lot more, but we have a lot more to show for it. I think AI, you're talking about efficiency has the ability, you know this again, way better than I do, but the way I interpret it for myself is it can improve what we do.
The output that we create, increase our efficiency, and maybe it means we work less. Maybe it means we have more stuff. [chuckles] You know what? We define that in our own lives. If we use it as a tool, again, I love your toaster analogy, right? Use it in a positive way rather than a negative way, it can enhance on average all of our lives, right? Careers will change jobs, jobs will go away today like they always do, right? Whether it's AI or whether its minimum wage recently going up has driven workers out of fast food in some restaurants, right?
Jon: Things change, but they get pushed into other organizations and other types of jobs, et cetera.
Chet: Right. Let me just say that I know that I spend a lot of time talking about the future of work in a lot of my presentations because I think where we've lost our way is to think that, I'm dating myself here. If you remember some of the cartoons, I watched a lot during the 1960s, one of them was Fred Flintstone. You see Fred Flintstone, the Caveman, the Flintstones was the cartoon. He went to work for Mr. Slate at the quarry.
The perception is that somehow we've worked jobs since the Caveman days. Just to let everybody know, particularly the Millennials and Gen Zers, the Flintstones is not a documentary, it is a cartoon. The assumption is that we've always had work. Let me clarify that. The assumption is that we've always had job. We've always had to work. We've had to work to stay alive, to eat, to take care of ourselves, okay? That's just part of the human experience. Job, the idea of going and punching in a clock, 9:00 to 5:00, that is only a 100-year phenomenon.
Back in the day when they were saying eventually the technology will advance to the place where we only spend maybe a few hours doing that particular job if at all, is not unreasonable. It's just that we have become attached to job because of the fact that people say, "Well, how will we take care of ourselves? How will we feed ourselves"? That's where we have to start to reimagine our human experience. As opposed to basing it around job, we should be basing it around how do we create a better world? How do we create something that serves everyone?
How do we create something that improves quality of life? That's some heavy lifting, and I don't get too far out there. A lot of times, organizations are like, "Listen, we're just trying to make sure that our work is our job and our company is efficient." I get it, but there is another place where we have to start asking bigger questions. I think that's the part where we have to get back to why did we create the technology in the first place? The reason why we did that was to make our lives easier and make things work more efficiently. We've lost the plot.
That's where we are now, where we're sitting back and going, "Oh, it's about the technology." No, it's about us. The technology is just an extension of that original thought. How do we create a more efficient, and effective, and an abundant world? You have to start with your organization that you work with. If you do that, then everything passes through that lens. When it goes through that lens, you're more likely to be able to identify the technology that you need as opposed to just the technology that you want because it's sexy and everybody says you got to have it, and then you end up wasting money.
Then you get mad at technology and say, "Hey, it's no good. It doesn't work." You might be caught into the hype. My job is to bring us back down into what is it that we need. More important, what is it that we're trying to do? Yes, there will be jobs that will be lost along the way. I know people don't like hearing that, but there's a truth here. That's not necessarily a bad thing. It only means that we've gotten to the place where now we can take that same employee and say, "Here are new tools for you to go out and do greater things other than punching a widget every day."
That's an inefficient use of that person's time and them as a resource. We've failed to use people as the resource that they are, the thinkers and the people. We've trained them up to just knock the widget in as opposed to explore all of the creative resources they bring to the table. All of this is going to force us to really rethink, what are we doing, and what do we need? The greatest resource that we could have are human beings.
Jon: Absolutely. Love that. So well said. If you think about your speaking engagements specifically and a lot of these topics, you're giving us a small taste of, and this is, I'm writing up a bunch of notes. This is super valuable. What types of organizations typically best benefit from you coming in and doing a speaking engagement?
Chet: Every type of organization you could think of. I've covered the waterfront because I think we haven't had this conversation yet.
Chet: Usually when people have futurists come in, they just run some dry numbers, and hear what the demographics look like, blah, blah, blah, or they talk about flying cars 50 years from now. I'm a change management specialist. My thing is to say, "Hey, guess what? You were over here, and now you're about to go over here, and you're going to do it in record time, and you are going to have to get your people ready. You are going to have to rethink who you are in this relationship because the level of change that's happening is different than anything that you've experienced to date.''
It's just something completely new and we have to be able to talk it out. A lot of times we just don't get a chance to talk it out. We just hold on tight to the fast-moving car and hoping that we don't fall off. My job really is to say that we can slow this car down, we can all get in, strap ourselves in with the seat belts and we can put in our GPS so we can figure out where this car is going to go. We do have the ability to do that. Like I said, we lost the plot some time ago because we got caught into some of the sexiness of it all.
All organizations are in a place where they have to do that level of heavy lifting. I know some people like, ''Ah, I don't want to talk about it because I don't know that much about it.'' Well, you're talking to the right guy because it's not about some tech wizard coming in and blowing stuff past you, and then you go, ''Well, that sounds good.'' It's about having human conversations about what is it that we're trying to do and what works for us in this organization so that we could do great things. I'm that guy that is the piece between this high-tech super-efficient world and where we are now.
I'm the conversation piece. I can help to make that conversation work so that it doesn't intimidate us and gives us a chance to confess to the fact that maybe there's some stuff we just don't know. That's just part of the deal. It is part of the deal. There's just stuff we just don't know. Let's have a conversation, an ideation session where we can break it down.
Jon: I'd love to shift gears a little bit. Somehow you fit two massive tasks in your daily life. One is as we just talked about all the work that you do on the futurist side and speaking engagements and helping organizations really prepare for and deal with change and another side is Universal Basic Resources, another organization that you head up. Can you describe for our audience what type of work you do under that organization?
Chet: Absolutely. UBR, Universal Basic Resources is really just me doing the application part of the stuff that I know. Oftentimes, you hear futurists and they come in and they talk in theory. They'll go, ''Oh, yes. This should happen. Thank you very much,'' and then they go home and then they just speculate. I believe that once you start to grab a hold of this level of information you are compelled to go do some stuff with it more than just to be a theoretical person and in talking in those spaces but really to say where can this be applied? There are three places where I do apply it under the UBR banner. One of them is the UBR Climate Strong Initiative. It's basically a incubator for black and brown business entrepreneurs who are looking to create climate-adaptive and resilient businesses in their communities so that their communities are adaptive and resilient in the face of extreme weather. Our bottom line is that every futurist out there should be talking about the overall effect of climate crisis. It's serious and it will create climate migrants, it will displace jobs, it will affect health and well-being, all of those things.
We have to start to develop this kind of approach that allows us to be able to create adaptive and resilient spaces so that communities don't fall apart. We're doing that with and under, again, the banner UBR Climate Strong Initiative. I have a relationship with Arrow Intelligent Solutions and this is the company that gives me all the insight into the technology where they say, "Hey, Chet, you got to check this out. This stuff, it's crazy." I'm like, ''Okay, where'd you guys get that technology from?'' ''Never mind that. It's good stuff.''
Now, they give me all this information about this high tech and then what I do is to say if I'm dealing with an organization, I say let's get you into an ideation session with these high tech companies, and let's find an application that is in keeping with what you're seeking to do because a lot of times people don't have those conversations with the companies because they don't have a relationship with them. The only thing that happens is that somebody comes in and says, ''Yes, you need this and you need that.'' People are like, ''Yes, but we don't know what that means.''
My partnership with Arrow Intelligence Solutions is to bring everybody to the table and we just sit back and map out what people are seeking to do and trying to do, what their challenges are, and what their possibilities are. Then we have another program called UBR Talent Pipeline where we have an online class that basically helps professionals really get ready for this next level of change. Everywhere I go when I talk to the CEOs and the managers and directors, they're always saying, ''Boy, if I could just get people to do creative thought or critical thinking and problem-solving and all of these things, we could manage and do well inside of this new tech environment.
Our challenge is that we can't get people to really think this stuff through. We've developed an online class, a series of classes that allow professionals to be able to do those kinds of studies, if you will, in creative thought and problem solving as well as health and wellbeing, business development, just the whole aspect, the whole suite, if you will, for people to be able to become higher and greater, especially at this time of change. We're really concerned about the health and well-being part because we know that people are rumbling under the pressure of the anxiety of this time.
We really incorporated those things along with creative thought and problem-solving into this suite of classes. This is me 15 years doing this and saying, what part am I going to play in helping the people that I'm working with and the people that I serve also transition through this time of change? I want to emphasize there is no other time that even comes close to the level of challenge that we're facing right now. This level of change is different. I'd love to say, ''Oh, well, if you go back 100 years or a few years, we've never had this kind of perfect storm, if you will, of all of these things happening at the same time and affecting humanity.
Again, we have to do things above and beyond all that we know in order to meet this particular moment but I have to tell you, Jon, I have faith in us. I really do. As much as it may seem and how these people are wringing their hands and throwing terror out there, the reality is that never underestimate people in a time of change. People can meet the moment but we need to have the conversations first so that we know what moment to meet.
Jon: Well said. I have a couple of final questions, but before I do, I want to encourage our audience, please check out universalbasicresources.com. If you're interested in working with Chet and bringing him into your organization as a speaker or want to reach out with any questions or certainly to learn about the two paths of Universal Basic Resources that they offer, it's all on that website. You can go to universalbasicresources.com. It's in the show notes.
If you're driving, go check out the podcast notes afterwards as well and you can pick those up and reach out to Chet directly. Final couple of questions though, Chet, are there any resources specifically that have been helpful for you that you think would be helpful for our audience as well?
Chet: I will definitely say Universal Basic Resources, the talent pipeline, and the solutions part only because of the fact that I know it sounds a little self-serving but the reality is that what we really want people to do is have access to the tools necessary for this moment. That to me is if you don't have access to the tools everything becomes strange. Everything becomes enemy in a lot of people's minds. It's just access is out there. Even if you don't want to necessarily sign up for what we are doing, there are some other tools out there especially if you can get close to some of the tech companies and recognize what they're doing, what's coming down the pipe I think that that's crucial.
Then, of course, personally, you've got to re-skill and upskill. Everyone has got to think about that. Even those who are saying, ''Oh, my job is safe. AI can't do what I do,'' but the reality is that the terrain is changing and you should be re-skilling and upskilling to meet this moment, period. Those are just, like I said, what we provide but any sources that help you to reskill, upskill, and understand the technology, and then there's one other thing too I believe very adamantly about. I think that one of the most important things that we have to do is understand who we are philosophically.
I embrace a concept called Ubuntu, which means everything and everyone is connected. Now, nature shows us that everything is connected. Climate change should demonstrate that to us out loud. If this has a problem, everything else is affected, right? Then we also have the technology that demonstrates that too. Everything is connected. Once everything is connected, it works more efficiently. We have to see ourselves in that same light of connectedness, connected to community, connected to each other, connected to family. That to me appears to be the wild card that we actually need in order to make all of this stuff go.
Because if you see through the lens of connectedness, it's easier to see possibilities and opportunities in that connectedness. A lot of times when we see things as being separate and apart, there was a book that came out years ago called Bowling Alone. It basically was talking about how the stress and anxiety of being alone, the aloneness that exists in our society is really also at the heart of a lot of the madness that we see around us. Ubuntu, the connectedness of things I think is key. It will help us to see problems and solutions differently than we see them now. I highly recommend that as a concept going forward.
Jon: It's so true that, as you mentioned at the end of that, being alone is one of the biggest trials, I think, right now, where everyone is so connected or can be so connected digitally but it's different. Many feel alone in how to overcome that and being connected through Ubuntu, just realizing we're all connected can open us up to being connected to those around us we may not know well yet. Getting to know our neighbors and people around us and people we pass can be a small way to progress that way. Chet, is there anything I didn't ask you that you think would be helpful for our audience?
Chet: Boy, Jon, you're like 60 minutes. You hit the hard-hitting questions. I would say, no, I think we've covered everything. The most important thing to know that I can't emphasize enough is that we are living in an exceptional moment. If you're applying some of the things that you used just a few years ago, I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed because the fundamentals have changed. We have a population bust that's happening right now that basically are changing the whole fundamentals of the economy of this country.
We have income inequality changes that are happening that are also going to affect how people spend their money, how they live their lives. All of these things are happening at the same time. Please don't get it twisted. This is not just another phase that we're going through. This is pretty much-- You've heard the term, and I quit using it years ago, but you've heard the term paradigm shift. We're in some level of a paradigm shift that will either set the tone for a really abundant future or a very troubling one, but that's being decided now.
Not just on the macro level, but with our companies, with our communities, with our organizations, all of those things are happening now. I don't want to be over-melodramatic about this. All I'm saying is that if the terrain changes, we too must figure out ways of how we're going to change with that terrain as opposed to letting the change happen to us. We can get in front of this, but I'm the person that will help at least facilitate the conversation so that we can have it.
Jon: Well said. I'm excited, to be honest with you. I'll listen to this podcast again on my own. I've learned so much over the last 2 or 30 minutes or so, but this has been fantastic. Chet, thank you so much for taking the time and for sharing your wisdom with those of us. Again, I encourage our audience, please check out some of the work and resources that Chet has made available at universalbasicresources.com.
Feel free to use that website to reach out directly to Chet to bring him in for an engagement within your own organization or within your company to learn how to deal with all the changes that are in front of us and really take advantage of them and make it a positive change in your own life. Chet, thank you again for the time. I really appreciate it.
Chet: It is my pleasure, Jon. Thanks again, and thanks for having me in your array of stars that you have on your show.
Jon: For our listeners, go to universalbasicresources.com to learn more. Be sure to check out harvestgrowth.com to see other episodes we've recorded. If you like this episode and you want to learn how you can profitably grow your business, please subscribe to our show. Or you can set up an appointment right from our website and speak directly with a member of the Harvest Growth Team in a free consultation to learn the process that has worked for hundreds of businesses since 2007.
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