As we come to the end of the year, while fully embracing the party spirit, I, like many others, can't help but reflect on the strange happenings of 2016, and what they might mean for the years ahead.
I am sure that far wiser and more erudite people than me have already (or will be) sharing their thoughts on the outlook for the world from all manners of perspectives, and, as such, I pondered on what I could add to the picture.
With this underpinning my thoughts as I sat down to write this article, I wondered what new perspectives I could bring to the discussion. In my role as Managing Director of a leading speaker bureau called Speakers Corner, we have the chance to work with some of the best speakers across the world. On a daily basis, I am in the privileged position of hearing thoughts, opinions and stories from some of the most inspiring, thought-provoking and challenging speakers. These individuals constantly raise questions, pose dilemmas or set scenarios, not only about the state of the world, but also the state of the individual...
So, from this angle, I will share my thoughts on what I have seen happening these past 12 months. In previous articles, I have ruminated on whether we have lost the art of great oratory and also on the concept of style vs substance. These trends, noted earlier in the year, I feel have dominated most of the key political and business debates in 2016.
What is clear to me is that the role of the 'expert' and their ability to provide solutions or solve problems is fading fast. This issue has two angles. Firstly, if this year was a year of surprises and unexpected decisions, it is only in 2017 and beyond that we will start seeing the repercussions of these decisions. As it is commonly acknowledged that the two seismic occurrences in 2016, namely the election of Trump and Brexit, still have unknown outcomes, it is no longer accepted that experts have the answers.
Instead, what we are seeing in the world of speaking is that the role of the expert is to provide ideas, concepts, theories and scenarios. These may be based on history, trends, data or speculation, but one thing is for sure, they must not be taken as gospel. More than ever, there is a realisation that experts are masters of well-researched opinions, rather than in previous years when their knowledge was perceived as cold hard facts.
This leads me to my second point. As the experts are now stating opinions rather than facts, ownership and responsibility is handed back to the audience and, in a way, taken from the speaker. The individual is presented a viewpoint of some facts, and they need to take this and collate it with their other accumulated knowledge to draw their own conclusions. There are no right answers anymore. Each individual has the right and the imperative to decide on their views and draw their own conclusions from the information they have gathered.
Outside of the live speaking world, we are being fed information through all media channels which link into our personal beliefs. We saw this on Facebook newsfeeds during the US Election. These channels do not necessarily give us the balanced viewpoint that historically has been felt to be delivered to the individual. Therefore, we, as individuals are only listening to one side of a discussion (which is usually the side we are naturally predisposed to anyway), and, as such, the world is getting more polarised.
The role of the live speech is thus a chance for an individual to educate themselves so that they can form their own opinions. If the makeup of an event or conference is properly planned, it will allow balanced views and ideas from across the spectrum. This type of balancing act allows the delegate at the event to draw their own conclusions and, in turn, form their own ideas.
The ability to form one's own reasoned ideas is immensely powerful for any business. As we have seen over the last few years and will increasingly see through 2017, companies are realising their most important asset is their people. Employees know more about their daily business workings than any outside expert or consultant. By providing these people with the right tools and the right environment, the business will thrive through the drive, entrepreneurship and abilities of the employees as they strive to deliver fulfilment, both for themselves as individuals, and for the success for the business. Through making their own informed decisions and opinions, the employees will have the courage to take businesses forward as they understand the best way to do this as their opinions begin to lead to results.
My reflections of 2016 is that there are no right or wrong ideas or outlooks, and this type of thinking will have a marked effect on our actions in 2017 and beyond. The clear paths we have historically taken as fact in the worlds of politics, business, economics and current affairs are no longer clear, and the role of the expert is now to help guide us as individuals, companies and communities. It is up to us to couple the expert opinion with our own accumulation of information in order to reach our own individual ideas, achieve our own success and attain fulfilment in any area that we choose to turn our minds to.