WILKES-BARRE — Futurist Jack Uldrich says the future demands “unlearning.”
Uldrich is the founder and “chief unlearning officer” of The School of Unlearning — an international leadership, change management and technology consultancy dedicated to helping business, governments and non-profit organizations prepare for and profit from periods of profound transformation.
Uldrich, 49, of Minneapolis, Minn., will be at the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center for the Performing Arts Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. as is part of the Allan P. Kirby Center Lecture Series in Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship & The Family Business Alliance.
Uldrich talked about his business in a telephone interview Tuesday. He said a futurist is someone who helps people “be the present more than they already are.” And, he said, the future is already here.
“We are living in an era of accelerating change,” he said. “I help people extrapolate these trends and explain how they will transform their lives. And I help business leaders with what is coming next.”
Uldrich said he tells people he “demands unlearning” because the future is changing so fast. He said many people can understand much of it and keep up; they have a more difficult time acknowledging what will be irrelevant.
“This requires us to unlearn some thing we know about our jobs or our industries,” he said.
Uldrich said one of his favorite audience-participation exercises asks people to turn to the person next to them and tell them what two colors make up a yield sign on highways.
“Most people respond yellow and black, which was the right answer up until 1971 when yield signs were changed to red and white,” he said. “It’s an example of how something that was learned years ago stayed stuck in their minds even though they have driven by red-and-white yield signs for decades. Many things you have learned yesterday are just not true today and your mind doesn’t recognize it.”
Uldrich said if he does his job correctly, people will leave his presentation with two distinct feelings: half will be very anxious and maybe frightened at the pace of change, and the other half, usually the younger half, will leave excited and optimistic.
“At the end of the day we all have to adapt to this changing world,” he said. “Some people are excited by this and attack it. But we all have to adapt to meet change. People are capable of adapting and I try to show them how much they have already adapted to changes.”
Uldrich said no one likes change, but when he asks people if they have lived through positive change, most say they have. “Maybe they don’t like it, but many changes have occurred and the end result is more often than not quite positive,” he said.
Uldrich is a frequent speaker on the technology, change management and leadership lecture circuits, and has addressed numerous businesses, trade associations and investment groups around the world, including IBM, Cisco, USAA, General Electric, Wipro, PepsiCo, United Healthcare, SouthernCompany, Novo Nordisk, Verizon, General Mills, Pfizer and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. He is also a regular guest on CNBC, MSNBC and CNN.
A former naval intelligence officer and Defense Department official, Uldrich also served as the Director of the Minnesota Office of Strategic and Long Range Planning under Gov. Jesse Ventura.