The Change-Agent CIO

Is it possible to know the future? James Canton thinks it is, and says if CIOs want to be successful, they’d better develop skills to figure out what’s going to happen next. Canton, CEO and chairman of the Institute for Global Futures, a San Francisco consultancy that helps companies forecast trends, is the author of The Extreme Future: The Top Trends That Will Reshape the World for the Next 5, 10 and 20 Years (Dutton, 2006).

In The Extreme Future, which ranked fourth on the Society of Information Management’s 30 must-read books for CIOs, Canton argues that the pace of change is quickening and leading to new challenges–and opportunities–for business. And, according to Canton, it’s the CIO who should be at the forefront of these changes, fusing technology innovation with business strategy and leading the rest of the company into tomorrow. Canton recently spoke with contributor John McCormick. This is an edited version of their conversation.

CIO Insight: In The Extreme Future, you say the 21st century is going to be lightning-fast, complex and driven by disruptive changes. But aren’t we already in this extreme future?

James Canton: We are to a certain extent. But the point of my book is that things are going to get even more disruptive, complex and competitive; things are not going to ease off, they’re actually going to accelerate. And the number of challenges CIOs will face is going to accelerate as well.

But people have felt the rapid pace of change before. Just go back to Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, which was published in 1970.

Yes. And Al was certainly a mentor. I worked with him early in my career.

Next page: CIO as Change Agent

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