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Fusion Keynote Sneak Peek: Elatia Abate on Embracing Disruption for a Better Tomorrow  

  • 5 Min Read

Warm up to AI. Be future-prepared. Upgrade leadership. Take the captain’s seat. Elatia Abate—futurist, entrepreneur and future of work and strategy expert—on what you’ll hear when she delivers the keynote at Fusion 2024.

Melinda Wilson

We’re living in a world that’s in a state of rapid transformation. Arguably, the biggest agent of this change is artificial intelligence (AI). And soon, there will be a day when our personal and professional lives will be inexorably entwined and forever at the mercy of connected with this evolving technology. If that makes you uneasy, keep reading.

Better yet, reframe how you think about AI.

According to Elatia Abate, futurist-in-residence at Paylocity and founder of the consulting firm The Future of Now, with the right strategy, framework and understanding, the technologies causing disruption today can be the human empowerment accelerators of tomorrow.  

In advance of her appearance on the mainstage at Fusion 2024, we sat down with Abate to discuss the positive impacts of AI, the value of being future-prepared and the need to upgrade leadership as the world around us evolves.

An Introduction to Futurist Elatia Abate

I’m a futurist. I go out to the very edge of disruption. I seek to understand the dynamics that are creating change in our world. Then, I help transform those dynamics into tools, strategies and frameworks that we can use to create results today. I work with everyone from Fortune 500 companies to early-stage startups, helping leaders understand and pilot the big changes that are happening.

So, What’s a Futurist Anyway?

Futurists range from economists to marketers, trend watchers to creators. But essentially, there are two kinds: those who push forward from the past, taking what has occurred to project out a series of possible futures, and those who are visionary strategists, who go out to the edge of the future to pull it into the present.

I fall very strongly into that second camp. Both perspectives are needed. What I like about the second is that it allows us to turn a kaleidoscope and look at the challenges and opportunities that we’re facing from different perspectives. By doing this, it allows us to comprehend the underlying logic and principles of the things that are changing our world. With this understanding, can we use those dynamics and that logic to create better results and leverage opportunities that make the world a better place.

Riffing on Fusion 2024’s Theme: Our Learning Transformation

We’re in a time of great transformation. And I will be talking about a leadership learning transformation. Right now, in the popular press, from Harvard Business Review to The New York Times, to The Wall Street Journal, it’s all about upskilling and re-skilling and the 10 best classes to take on how to figure out AI. That’s important, but those are tactical, hard skills. There are very few people talking about the upgrade in leadership that needs to occur. And this is the learning piece that we’re going to move through. The reason why is because assembly line logic does not apply in an AI landscape, and most of what we’re dealing with and what we deliver in the marketplace is rooted in assembly line logic. It’s what drove our economy for a long time, but the game has changed. This is why we need to upgrade our own leadership so we can guide ourselves, our organizations, and our teams.

Future-Proofing Is Futile, Be Future-Prepared

I used to talk a lot about being future-proof. How can you future-proof your career or your business strategy? That’s actually a futile exercise. What we want to think about is future-preparing. And future-preparing means that we make a shift from a world that was driven by expertise into a world where we learn as leaders how to do what I call “piloting the emergence.” This is the ability to immerse yourself in the present moment and lead confidently from the cutting edge of disruption. In other words, you become the ever-evolving eye of the storm.

AI as a Human Empowerment Technology

Artificial intelligence is a human empowerment technology, full stop. We can use it not only to remove some of the more mundane tasks in day-to-day work, but we can use it to truly unleash who we are as human beings.

Additionally, AI combined with advances in robotics will mean that human beings don’t need to do jobs that were physically dangerous in the past. And so, when I say human empowerment, that also means saving lives.

In the past of work, economists would talk about these general-purpose technologies like the cotton gin, the assembly line, electricity, the computer, or the internet, through a binary lens. They either replace jobs or they enable jobs. But one of the big shifts that we’re moving through as the future of work unfolds, is that we’re moving away from a binary world and into a world of subtlety and nuance, where many, many things can be true simultaneously.

Yes, some jobs will be replaced. But then when you look at the balance of the spectrum, jobs are also going to be enabled, augmented and created. They’re going to be human empowerment accelerators.

“We are in a time of great transformation. And there are very few people talking about the upgrade in leadership that needs to occur. I’m thrilled to join this conversation at Fusion and explore the possibilities and opportunities of a world characterized by disruption.”
Elatia Abate
Elatia Abate Futurist | Entrepreneur | Future of Work and Strategy Expert

Walking the Path From Chaos to Clarity

What happens when we read most headlines about the future today? We feel fear, we see chaos, and we sense that we are alone. Big, scary change is happening, and it can feel like the world is coming to an end. This is not the case. Right now is the most exciting time in human history – if we can learn how things are changing to empower ourselves to thrive amidst the disruption. So together, we’re going to walk that path from chaos to clarity, from fear to fearlessness, and from isolation to connection. Any one of those roads on their own is going to help people thrive, upgrade their leadership, and create greater impact. But, when you combine the three together, they’re unstoppable. People are going to learn how to become what I call the ever-evolving eye of the storm. The chaos can feel crazy out here, but we’re centered, we’re empowered, and we’re ready to take the next step. We can either be captives of our circumstances and let this fear drive us, or, we can make the shift into the captain’s seat, and ask ourselves, “given that we’re here, what do we want to create?”

This interview has been condensed and edited.


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Written by:

Melinda Wilson

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Table of Contents

  1. An Introduction to Futurist Elatia Abate
  2. So, What’s a Futurist Anyway?
  3. Riffing on Fusion 2024’s Theme: Our Learning Transformation
  4. Future-Proofing Is Futile, Be Future-Prepared
  5. AI as a Human Empowerment Technology
  6. Walking the Path From Chaos to Clarity