Inspiration for the Future of Work
is only a walk away!
Happy Wednesday! I hope you are having a wonderful day. Today I want to answer a reader question:
where do you find inspiration for your articles and keynotes?
To be honest, it often comes out of the blue. I hear someone say something that triggers me to look at a topic in a completely different way. Or I read an article that offers food for thought. And as you know, I often find inspiration in data that is being abused. So read on to find out which podcasts and newsletters I use for inspiration. And hit Reply to share your favorite ones.
With summer approaching, conference season is coming to end and it’s time for me to work on new keynotes for the second half of the year. I’m thinking about writing another book. I have one more public event this month: the Fontys IT Festival on May 23 in Eindhoven, where I will speak about AI in the Future of Work. See you there!
At the start of the pandemic my gym closed, and I started to go outside for a walk after lunch. I live close to a lake, and we have many nice paths in our neighborhood. Every day is different. I enjoyed the exercise, and it became a habit. Today, I still block time in my calendar so I can go on a walk. Rain or shine.
Some days I just walk and watch the water, the flowers, and the birds. Other days I listen to a podcast. Most days I do both. Even when I am traveling, I try to find an hour in the day to walk around the city. It’s also an excellent way to release stress and see some of the sights, even when you have a busy schedule. Tip: early mornings are great!
And so, inspiration becomes an unconscious effort: I listen to the conversation, my mind starts to meander and an idea pops into my head. It is often completely unrelated to the podcast I am listening to. And when you break it down, it’s really the movement and the exercise that gets me thinking. I have the same experience when I go for a run: it provides me with fresh insights and solutions to challenges I am trying to figure out. Usually without even thinking about the problem. Ideas just come to me along the way.
Not every idea is great - some I discard right away, but sometimes I end up with an intriguing question. I always jot them down in my Notes app, so I don’t forget. Not every day is like that. But even when I come home without new ideas, I’ve still had a great walk. So, there’s that.
I have no idea how many podcasts exist, but there are so many, that it’s easier to listen to one you learn nothing from than to one that’s thought provoking. And it took me a while to find the ones I enjoy. What I look for in a podcast is that they present new perspectives, innovative ideas, and intriguing debates, all of which influence the way I think about the future of work.
I specifically look for podcasts where the hosts have conversations with guests. Guests bring new ideas and initiate a conversation that can fuel our imagination and expand our horizons. Some podcasts recycle the same guests over and over again - skip those - while others are really skilled in finding people we don’t hear a lot from but have great perspectives and really contribute to the conversation.
What the hosts of the Future of Work Podcast from the International Labor Organization have in common is that they all work for the ILO, and every episode is hosted by someone else. And that leads to insightful conversations on a wide range of work topics: from safety at work to productivity, from grief to happiness, and from social injustice to artificial intelligence. The hosts and guests are knowledgeable on the episode topic, with proven track records and credentials, and that makes these conversations thoughtful and balanced, while offering a quick route to what really matters.
Listen to Bubble Trouble for conversations between economist and author Will Page and independent analyst Richard Kramer. They have an uncanny ability to explain difficult macro-economic and financial topics and break them down using real-life examples. so you easily understand them. Occasionally, they invite a guest. I enjoyed the recent episode with Kurt Andersen, one of my favorite authors since I read Turn of the century.
The Greymatter podcast explores the question: How do tech startups go from idea to iconic? They interview founders, VCs and entrepreneurs about their successes and failures. Their current focus is - surprise - artificial intelligence, but if you go back a bit, you’ll find all kinds of other topics as well, such as the lack of funding for women-led startups or an analysis of the cloud ecosystem. The hosts are well-connected and that shows in the great line up of guests. The conversations meander into a variety of topics, from leading a company to recruiting to what makes a company great.
In Have a Nice Future Gideon Lichfield and Lauren Goode from Wired Magazine speak with top technologists, thinkers, and creators that are shaping the future. I started subscribing to Wired in the last century and never stopped ;). The magazine offers a fascinating mix of technology, culture, and science. This podcast recently rebranded and they are off to a good start.
What Future bills itself as “a heady mixture of fugue-state monologues and spontaneous, irreverent conversations with experts, weirdos, and big thinkers.” And that’s exactly what it is. Because of the wide variety of guests, from actors to writers to podcasters to creators and everyone in between, you hear things you don’t hear anywhere else. Not every episode speaks to me, but that’s why they’ve invented the Stop button.
Kara Swisher is a leading journalist who has her finger on the pulse of the tech industry. And when I was searching for a good podcast, the Pivot Podcast, co-hosted with Scott Galloway, was the first one I subscribed to. I enjoyed the banter and the frank conversations between them. I’ve noticed that I don’t pick up each episode anymore, simply because they are rehashing the same opinions over and over again. But if you’ve never listened before, this podcast offers great insights in American tech, business, and politics.
And in case anyone understands Dutch (and really, who doesn’t ;) take a listen to the Podcast Filosofie. Each episode is focused on understanding a different philosopher and how they approach the difficult questions of their age and time. The host interviews a different guest per episode, and because it’s an hour long, the conversations reach a level of depth you don’t typically find in podcasts.
Because my newsletter often has an HR Tech focus, I assume most readers will be familiar with HR themed podcasts and subscribe to them. If you don’t, Sapient Insights recently published a list of Top HR Podcasts for you to check out.
As with podcasts, there are more newsletters than anyone can read. And that’s a good thing, because it gives you options. It also makes it hard to find the ones that really offer inspiration for the Future of Work. A great newsletter should contribute to your personal and professional growth and not be boring.
One of the best ways to discover inspiring newsletters (or podcasts) is through recommendations from people you know. Seek recommendations from friends, colleagues, or online communities that align with your interests. An online search will get you lists of the best newsletters across the industry. These curated lists can be a goldmine, providing a starting point for your exploration and introducing you to hidden gems you might have otherwise missed. But usually, they point you to the most-read newsletters, and fail to uncover the true hidden gems.
I recommend you don’t go for the obvious ones, with a mass following. Instead, find a couple of thought leaders and see if they write a newsletter. As with podcasts, don’t limit yourself to the industry. It’s usually the newsletters that focus on other topics that give me unexpected inspiration for the future of work.
Here are a couple of newsletters I subscribe to:
Dense Discovery is a newsletter about design, art, urban planning, culture, technology, sustainability, and many other things. It’s a weekly surprise, written by Kai Brach, filled with topics that you don’t find anywhere else. Each issue features a DD friend (aka subscriber) who answers five questions. Shout out to the Aesthetically Pleasing section that includes breathtaking art and pictures. I found a lot of hidden gems through this newsletter.
The Marginalian appears in my Inbox on Sunday, and that’s the perfect day to read these thoughtful essays on anything from books to history, philosophy, poetry, arts and culture. Written by Maria Popova (formerly Brain Pickings) this newsletter always offers something to broaden your thinking. Alternatively, you can subscribe to the Wednesday newsletter to receive an essay from the archive.
Thomas Otter's Acadian Ventures newsletter and blog still doesn’t have a catchy name, but then, it doesn’t need one. Because everyone in the industry knows Thomas, and if you don’t, you are missing out. The newsletter isn’t on a set schedule (which I like!) and you’ll receive a new edition whenever he finds a good topic to write about. Thomas has a background in tech and product management, and the articles reflect that. His writing is always thought-provoking, full of research (with links) with insights into cutting edge technology, HR Tech and the Future of Work.
A little over two years ago I wrote an article called How APIs will revolutionize HCM & Payroll. The inspiration for that article came from Fintech Takes, a newsletter about fintech and the future of financial services, written by Alex Johnson, that I often use to think through the future of pay. Back then, it was a Substack but today it’s a twice-a-week newsletter accompanied by a podcast (current series: payroll connectivity). The newsletter typically offers three topics, two content recommendations and one question to ponder. And what I really like is that Alex responds to reader emails!
Fintech Brain Food - Simon Taylor writes this weekly newsletter about companies in the financial and banking sector. I read his newsletter because everything that happens in Fintech happens in HR Tech. Just a little bit later. And because fintech and payroll tech are moving ever closer, and it’s an excellent way to stay on top of e.g. regulations. I often read these articles while in my head replacing the word Fin with HR. Try it with this article: The Co-Pilot Revolution: How ChatGPT Changes Fintech. Pretty sure you’ll immediately get the idea.
And in case you missed the announcement, I am writing a new newsletter called Paying People in the Future of Work. The second issue will be out next week.
Try before you buy
Once you've narrowed down your choices and subscribed to a few podcasts or newsletters, give yourself time to engage with the content. These publications vary in frequency, format, and style, so it's important to give them a fair chance. I often find an interesting podcast episode or article, subscribe and then come to the conclusion that the one I liked was really a one hit wonder. And sometimes I unsubscribe from a podcast for a while, only to return a couple weeks later because I miss it.
Just because you subscribed once, that doesn’t mean you need to continue. Try several episodes or editions and see how they resonate. Consider factors such as the quality of the content, the style, the relevance to your interests, and the value it adds. Refine your subscription list based on this experience and retain the podcasts and newsletters that consistently inspire and captivate you. Don’t forget to check for new publications ever so often, just to keep the inspiration fresh and get exposed to new ideas. And let me know what you think are podcasts worth listening to or newsletters worth reading - just hit Reply to share your favorite!
Finding inspiration for the future of work is a never-ending journey, and for me, I enjoy the physical movement while listening to podcasts. The combination of walking outside and immersing myself in thought-provoking conversations allows me to explore new ideas and tap into a world of innovation and creativity.
So, if you can, I urge you to grab your headphones, go outside, and find some inspiration for the future of work. There's a world of ideas waiting to be discovered, and it's just a walk away.
Have a great day, Anita