Hello, and welcome to Gracie Meets…! Is your favorite part of the Super Bowl the funny commercials that get played by companies like Mountain Dew and Doritos? How do companies figure out how to appeal to large audiences like the Super Bowl viewers? Well, today we’re going to find out. I’ve invited Ms. Laura Schlehuber, a futurist, to help inform us on how companies keep their customers interested and entertained. Go ahead and take a listen and tell me what you thinks by tagging me on Instagram (@gracie.meets)!

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Gracie Meets...

Show Music: 2019 07 25 cello pizz 01 and 250109 rhodes 02 by Morusque used under Creative Commons License CC BY.  No alterations were made to the original composition. 

Cover Art: Kyleigh Kinsey. Instagram: @ato._.noodle


Gracie Solomon  00:10

Hello and welcome back to Gracie Meets… If you’re like me, you don’t know what you want to do in the future. But have you ever thought about how a business knows how to stay relevant? How do they plan for branding to keep customers interested? Well, today we’re going to find out. I’ve invited Mrs. Laura Schlehuber, a futurist, to tell us about how all of this works. Tell the listeners a little bit about yourself, Miss Laura.

Laura Schlehuber  00:34

So my name is Laura Schlehuber.  I’m 36 years old and I live in Houston, Texas, and I’ve been a professional futurist for close to 10 years. I travel a lot. I foster dogs, and I have my dog with me now. She’s a big pitbull.  I love the movie. I love TV.

Gracie Solomon  01:01

So how would you explain your job to a teenager?

Laura Schlehuber  01:05

So as a futurist, typically what it is that I do is I’m hired by companies that are having a hard time planning for what’s going to happen, you know, like 10, 5-10 years out. And so as a futurist, it’s my job to come in and kind of help them figure out like, what future will impact them and how they can start planning today, to be ready for that future and all of the changes.

Gracie Solomon  01:40

So does it take like a certain type of person to excel in being a futurist or can just anybody do it?

Laura Schlehuber  01:48

What I have found, so it was actually pretty interesting. I went to school to become a futurist. I’ve got a Master’s degree in it and everyone else that I was a student there when we went around and we talked about, like, what we had been interested in in the past what we have majored in, almost every single one of us had changed our profession or our major, like three or four times. And what we found is that everyone that’s a futurist, is incredibly curious. We just, we have all of these questions about how the world works, and all of these different topics, and we just want to know everything. So futurists are curious about almost everything. And another thing I find with futurists is that you have to be okay with change, because the future is gonna change a lot of things for us. And so you have to be kind of comfortable with that, that yeah, like things are going to change and change is hard.

Gracie Solomon  02:54

So you mentioned change, and that just happens to go along with the next question. So you’re a futurist, so you ought to have thought about this question a little bit. What changes are on the horizon for your career?

Laura Schlehuber  03:08

So, for my career, okay, so first of all, I’ll just say when I’m asked a question like that a lot of times what my mind will go to is I’ll think about, like technology coming in and taking over jobs for a futurist as that is many years out, because we have to use a lot of like critical thinking skills and things that machine and artificial intelligence are just not close to being able to do. But within the profession, one thing that I’m really glad that I’m seeing is that there’s a lot more young people, women, and just more diversity in this set of futurists. I think when Foresight became something that was like, you could get degree for it or if there was a little more rigor around it, it was mostly just your typical white male. And that is still, it just seems like that was the camp, for most, you know, for most of the Foresight history, it’s been typically white males. And now there’s a lot more women and younger people that are coming in and being like a big, big part of and big contributor to this field.

Gracie Solomon  04:31

Yeah, usually whenever I asked this question to people, they usually talk about the technology and all how that will change it. So this is the first time I’ve heard someone talk about the people changing it. I like that.

Laura Schlehuber  04:44

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, technology certainly you know, is changing everything but I think maybe just because I’m a futurist it’s like yeah, of course you know, will change just like everyone else does, but nothing is kind of a cool specific change that’s happened recently.

Gracie Solomon  05:04

Yeah. So what does your workspace look like? Like do you work in office?

Laura Schlehuber  05:09

Well, I’ve had many different, I’ve worked with a few different companies since I’ve been a futurist. My first job was with Ernst and Young and I was definitely up at the office for all of that. The second job I had as a futurist was with an innovation consulting firm, they decided to be completely virtual. So that was my first job where I was able to work from home and, you know, just kind of lived that life. However, I had to travel a lot. So I was on the road 80% of the time. So that meant my office was airplane, hotel, and the client site. And now I’m working at University of Houston and it still work from home, but there’s a little less travel as well. So my workspace is kind of, you know, here at my house when I want it or coffee shop, or we still travel for specific meetings.

Gracie Solomon  06:09

We touched on what your job is. So do you plan things for pandemics for businesses? Like what happens then? Or is it like the future of the business?

Laura Schlehuber  06:20

That’s a really good question. So a lot of the work that I have done recently is like working with a specific client on a specific product, in helping them think about their product and how it will still be relevant 10 years in the future when you have augmented reality, and the internet of things and all of these other, you know, new technologies and social political revolutions. So essentially, and one thing that I’ll say about Foresight is that we do not predict the future. So if there’s any futurist that says that they have the answer for the future, that’s not right. In fact, we’re in a profession where it’s literally impossible to do like a perfect job. We can’t predict the future. But what we do is we are able to get to like a really good set of plausible scenarios. And then in each of those scenarios, the company kind of has a plan of action. So they’ll say, okay, if it looks like we’re headed in this direction, for the next 10 years, we have these steps, these action steps to take for it. So a lot of times again, it’s been for a certain product, but it’s interesting lately since the coronavirus, we’ve definitely been getting a lot of requests for people to help them come up with like what’s on the other side of the pandemic or how they can still be profitable during this time. So a lot of a lot of companies are kind of thinking more broadly, like how can we make sure that, it’s still around in 10 to 20 years from now?

Gracie Solomon  08:06

What kind of schooling did you need to become a futurist?

Laura Schlehuber  08:09

I think that this is kind of interesting because I, I am, I love that like you even found out what a futurist was. Because my story and it wasn’t until my mid to late 20s that I even figured out that there was a field called Foresight, I found it through the University of Houston offers a Master’s degree of Foresight. And so I started going around and I was interviewing futurists that were well established and in the United States, I decided to go back to school and get a Master’s degree in Foresight. There are, we kind of joke in the Foresight world that all it takes to become a futurist is just to put it on your business card. And that’s what a lot of people do. But I think it was really important for me to go to school. So I had classes where like, each week, we would have a topic, like poverty, or climate change or something like that. And then we just, you would just do all of the research, you know, have all these great conversations with other smart minds. And just kind of get a baseline, you know, on what’s going on in the world, we would have so we would have classes like that. But then we also have classes in like forecasting and how to develop scenarios and studying how society reacts to change. You know, like one of my favorite things I think that has happened in the past few years was with all of the wearables. And so as a futurist, I said, if I’m going to be a futurist, I have to be like a crash test dummy for the future. I have to invite all of these technologies in and let me play with it so that I can tell my client, you know what I think of it. So with the wearables, there was one time where I used to wear like, you know, 5 to 10 pieces of wearable jewelry every day. And I hated it. I hated it. I did not like being connected. I had these rings that would buzz every time I got a text message, and it was just awful. And so people would talk about all these wearables, you know, all of these options for us to buy. And I was like, yeah, I’m, you know, I’m not really sure that they’re going about this the right way. Like it’s, it’s a little too annoying right now. They haven’t completely got it figured out. You know, I was able to just talk from human experience just because the technology is available, doesn’t mean that people aren’t going to jump on board with the technology and make it mainstream.

Gracie Solomon  10:49

How early could someone start this job?

Laura Schlehuber  10:52

Well, I mean, this is definitely something that you can start as young as possible. I mean, there are futures that, you know, from a young age, they just were very curious. And you’re just finding things out about the world. And then I’ve actually seen on LinkedIn, and I’ve connected with some people that are like teenagers, and they have joined some of the professional organizations that are futurist, like the Association of Professional Futurists, and the World Future Society, kind of as like a young member. So I don’t know about like, you know, actual work that they’re doing. But I’ve definitely seen people much younger than you that are like already, you know, I want to join Foresight, I want to learn about this area, so you can start now.

Gracie Solomon  11:40

Yeah, it’s cool that you can start that early, because I don’t see many jobs like that at the moment in my interviews. So this is one of the few that I have done where teenagers can start them early.

Laura Schlehuber  11:53

Absolutely. Yeah. I mean, again, like it, go back to like the characteristics that are a good futurist. You know, exercising your curiosity now, exercising your, there’s a big element of Foresight that you have to be creative. You know, when we write these scenarios, they’re not they’re based on actual data, but you have to kind of imagine this world. And so I find that that’s a skill that you practice. So the earlier you get started on that better you’d be

Gracie Solomon  12:27

Thank you for being on the show, it means a lot to me.

Laura Schlehuber  12:31

Thank you so much, Gracie. I really enjoyed this.

Gracie Solomon  12:33

Our world is always changing. Every day, new music and entertainment is being released. So the populations interests are always changing. Because of that, it’s mandatory for brands and businesses to constantly evolve their sales and marketing tactics, just to keep their customers interested in what they’re trying to sell. That’s where futurists come into play. You have to be creative and constantly up with the trends of today. No normal person could come up with AR/VR advertisements or special marketing tactics. But then again, show me a normal teenager. Thanks for listening. Thanks for tuning in. If you like Gracie Meets… subscribe so you can listen every time a new episode is dropped. And follow Gracie Meets… on Instagram at Gracie dot meets (@gracie.meets). Tune in next Saturday for an enjoyable interview two flight attendants.