Thursday 16 May 2019

Focus On Anne Lise Kjaer - Futurist

Inspirational Woman Anne Lise is a Futurist her company is Kjaer Global which she has built over 30 years - I saw Anne Lise speak at Pure London earlier in the year and knew then and there I would like to tell you her story. She has an amazing presence and energy, she is a powerhouse. She was there hosting other speakers like Katharine Hamnett (who she has always admired). 
In her own talk she told us about her amazing job and how she encourages big business to think People, Planet, Purpose, Profit as their working model. How 'The Future Is Now' and discussed the past, present and future of sustainable fashion. Some people say they would like their superpower to be the ability to time travel and in a way that is exactly what Anne Lise gets to do with her job. She helps big business look forward 10, 20 years into the future so they can plan for what is ahead. Here is her story it is quite a journey. Enjoy.

D: Take us back to the beginning.
A: I grew up in Denmark, I was born in one of the west coasts biggest fishing ports. Dad was a fisherman. Mum an entrepreneurial homemaker, on a recent visit she said “although we had a house, I never felt we had one as I rented out most of the rooms”.  I said “yes Mum, you are the type of woman that if you could have rented out the loo you would have rented that too”. She agreed.
I am the eldest of 3, I have 2 younger brothers. We were a very ordinary family. When I was 5 we moved to a much smaller town. We would ride our bikes to school every day. It was bloody tough because in the morning I would be cycling against the wind, then in the afternoon the wind would have changed direction and we would cycle against the wind going home too. This is probably why I wear my hair in plaits. We built resilience you know.
In the winter there would be about 3k people which would swell to around 75k in the summer when the German tourists arrived. The summers made me long to travel because of all these people in their amazing clothes. This was the 70’s , they would arrive in their colourful red, green, yellow cars with bumper stickers which read “Nuclear, No Thank You”. The people would be wearing vintage army coats, with flags and flared trousers. Our winters were very protected and in summer we had a free rein and went to the beach. The contrast was like day and night.

D: How did you feel about your Dad going off to sea? Are You a Sailor yourself?
A: I think it’s a very strange thing to be a fisherman. A while ago I gave a entrepreneurial talk in Donegal and the 2 big things that came out of my job from there was Fishing and Fashion and it reminded me so much of where I came from.
Many of the fishermen couldn’t swim. They said it wasn’t worth learning because once you are out there, what’s the point you won't survive anyway. They were very tough. When Dad was out at sea there was radio wave so we could listen to him. When he spoke to us he would say 45321 Stanley 198.  Dad inspired my love of maps and atlases.
I am not a sailor. I had a love of creating things, Mum had a desire to teach and encouraged learning I was drawing a lot, making paperdolls and stitching things together for my friends. When I was 14 I stared making clothes for them, but then, my parents divorced. In the same year feeling very grown up I left home and moved to the east. I lived with my boyfriend, I was stitching, working in a delicatessen and still going to school.

D: Did you go to courses to learn stitching?
A: It was obligatory to go to school for 24 hours a week, but I did the maximum 29 ½ to learn art and stitching I then made that into a business. I was making clothes for people. I had 3 designs I kept repeating; one was a special gypsy skirt.
I also restored furniture, I liked painting and repairing them, I have always been a maker of things.
All that creativity made me want to become a designer. At 17 I realized I didn’t want to get married just yet and went to University, college foundation for 2 years then 2 years for the main course, 1 of which was work experience. Work experience was where I really got to learn about the fabric and full production lines, you learnt exactly how to put things together. 

D: After Uni where did you work?
A: I went to France for 3 months. Like an actor would go to Hollywood I went to Paris. When I got back in the September I went to work as a full-time in a knitwear factory until I was 25 when I set up on my own. I wanted to create young fashion while I was still young. So I went freelance, first in Denmark for a short time then I moved to Hamburg and later in London with Sterling Cooper and French Connection. While working for them I worked alongside Lynne Franks PR so a lot of the work appeared in the pages of Vogue, Elle etc. Working for high street brands was really not my scene though, I found it boring. Because I was a freelance designer I started building colour, I became a colour expert, it was my thing. Now I am 29.
At 30 I moved to the UK. At 32 I met my 1st husband who was/is a conceptual artist and I started to learn and work with conceptual thinking.

So my first 10 years of work was design thinking, what does it take to make great design. Then I started to think about trend forecasting.
Got my first trend forecasting job for Ecco shoes (even though I was pregnant). It was hard forecasting 10 years into the future. I worked with them for 4 years, they are innovative and don’t follow trends. Back then they were already using 3D printing and nano technology. It was great being at the forefront of that, good to create something original and not just knocking off something else.
My ex husband taught me a whole different way to think about things and how to look into the future. He really was a mentor, he would pull things out of the newspaper and say “you should see this” – recommend books to read – he said “Artists do not create answers, they ask questions.” I think being a Futurist is similar to that. How do you create amazing questions. If you have the right questions then you will find the answer but if you don’t know how to ask the right questions you will be all over the place.
             At this point I was already creating trend books, it had been my initial plan to work with other people. So I went to Paris with my trend book and was really unprepared for the feedback I got. They all said “You want to work for us? But you are our competitor.” I was a bit taken aback by that and didn’t know what to do. So I came home and went to my freelance clients to see if I could sell the book to them. Their response was “but this is the sort of thing we buy in Paris.” I simply gave them the books.
Next season though – by then I had read a book by Stuart Wilde – he says “when they show up bill them.” The book is called ‘The trick to money is having some.’ I was freelancing again, when this guys asks me “how much for one of those books?” I told him the figure, he said “Oh that’s a lot.” I said Yes – that is for 6 months, it is double for the year. I still got the job. It was really good.

D: After your 1st trend forecasting client how did you move forward to build your business?
A: So Paris didn’t want me, which was a blessing in disguise. The same year
(1997) Lady Diana died my 1st husband and I divorced. Over the next 4 years I built a big company we worked over 3 floors and became quite big creating trend books. During this time I felt we needed some agents so we had one in the UK and another in the US. My trend books were loved by Nokia. I went to Paris every year to the exhibitions to show them. In the US Nike loved the books and bought them, then Adidas and Walt Disney. Almost as soon as I stared to feel I was paying too much on commission for my agents, clients started to approach me directly. We worked with IKEA, then Herman Millar (designer furniture) who had scanned the world and found us. I did colour forecasting for them along side Li Edelkoort, she is a really big forecaster, basically she is THE Guru of the world in forecasting, she is also very good on trends. I took one look at her and said I want to be like her. I even used to look a bit like her with blue eyes and scarped back hair.

In 2001 we had 2 crises. Firstly, overnight we lost 50% of our clients then the flight hit the twin towers – I really felt that – So I let everyone go.
Then suddenly I expanded.
It was around that time I re-read “The trick to money is having some.” I went from a big office and almost always being skint, to money coming from unexpected places. Someone paid me twice for the one job. When I made them aware they said ‘we never make mistakes.”
Then the next door neighbours were refurbing their basement. There was a problem and my stock was damaged which at the time was actually a good thing for me.
Suddenly I was standing with 25K I wasn’t expecting. My luck had turned, again, ‘the trick to money is having some’. I won a big project with Toyota to forecast 20 years into the future of the automotive industry. I got my first big loan and bought my first home. It was a big double fronted house with a garden. The garden flat was the work space, first floor the showroom and I lived on the top floor. It was amazing. By 2002 I had 16 people working for me again, from almost losing it all, to going to that. 

D: Is this when you stared building the ‘Trend Atlases’?
A: Yes exactly I created the trend atlas for Toyota to help them make a map of trends. 1.0 design thinking and multi dimensional thinking.  Then Sony came along, Samsung and everybody starts buying my trend book. At the time it was the most expensive in the world. The book also included a talk. It was my first on Global Influences.  
 As time moved on and the world became more digitized the need for trend books changed. People stopped wanting to buy them and my business completely changed again I sold my last consumer book in 2006.    
By then I had already begun to scale down and change direction. The business completely changed into more conceptual thinking projects. Around this time I had a huge project that didn’t make a lot of money but it created the foundation of everything I have done ever since and in a way co-created and developed the tools I use now, the Trend Toolkit and Trend Management Tool Kit.
In 2012 I was approached to write a business book, then in the same week 2 more came through.  When I first started writing it took me a whole day to write half a page. I co-authored a book called ‘There is a future” and one for T-Mobile. Eventually I started to write my book called “The TrendManagement Tool Kit” ‘A practical guide to the future’, which I managed to write in 10 months and was published in 2014. I got up every morning at 6am and would write until 11am for 4 days a week. Friday and Saturday were full days. I would write 2 chapters and send it off to my editors/the publisher to make sure it would be acknowledged. At the time I had thought I would do a PHD, people said well if it’s between doing a PHD and writing a business book, write the book. I took their advice and haven’t looked back since.  
I gave my first talk in 1999, since then I have spoken to over 100,000 people worldwide. My Trend Management book has been great for getting talks. I speak a lot about leadership and my futures 4.0 is ‘Never Stop Learning.’
One of my biggest learning’s with writing  was in 2003 when I finished a report for Toyota they asked for an A4 summary. This taught me the importance of summarizing which I now do for everything. As Albert Einstein said “ If you cannot say it simply then you don’t know what you are doing.”
When I create my summary I make a little map (inspired by Dad), really this is when my mapping work took off again.

D: “How to think work and play like a futurist” is that the next step?
A: We started to build the Trend Atlas as a library and course, it is the Futures 4.0 ‘Never Stop Learning’ and it has been 3 years in the making. We have been figuring out the best way to build it and have been looking for the right tools to create the online platform the way we want it. We have now found the person with the right build knowledge and the build is happening now.
How it works - To have a conversation you log in, print out your questions. You have some reading to do and then you feedback. In that forum ‘How to think work and play like a futurist’ you become geared towards taking control of your future and understand that you can become a change maker and co-creator.

To test it we had a CEO with a very short attention span and I knew he would never do the workshops, so I decided the way to do it would be to get him to go online and work with 15 min tasks that would be faster than reading the newspaper. So I had to come up with something to get him to do it. Although in the end he didn’t really take part, everyone else in his team did. This way we knew it was working and was a success.
With advances in technology our team now all work remotely and as a result we have offices in Copenhagen, Amsterdam and London. It is a good network that allows us to be agile creating what we believe the agency of the future will look like. We are now about educating people and teaching them how to become Futurists themselves.
Companies cannot keep outsourcing expertise, you have to have that on the inside, otherwise you are not geared for navigating the future.
A lot of people are offering design thinking, but what is the point of that if you don’t have a design team. You don’t need a lot of futurists but we have found that the online teaching will be a great way to show people ‘how to think work and play like futurists.’ When companies come to us we co-create bespoke programs with them in mind.
Recently we taught 30 people in one company. We took them through visioning, strategy, trend mapping, and making a compass of the future. A trend compass is a circle that contains trends which we plot together making sure that all is fine.

Then they worked on the online exercises on their own which they fed into the system so when we came together again we were able to work through scenarios together, telling stories about the organization and themselves in 5 to 10 years. It was very successful. We came up with 25 concepts all of which were implemented.
We have learned is that ‘the think work and play’ tool can be turned into something anyone can use. An individual, a team, a leader and this is what we will be doing with our online course, learning that thinking working and playing like a futurist is an ongoing process, it is a journey, not a destination, it is something you keep learning – it is whole idea behind the course.
I was really inspired by The School of Life in London and its passion for life long learning and emotional intelligence. You really feel that in life in the technology age, you have to activate your left brain more so that you have whole brain thinking.
Living in this digital age has made me feel we have to go more analogue. Again big changes in my personal life focused change, my son had a life changing accident 4 years ago. I realized something had to give. My husband Harald, is an architect started looking for an alternative place in Denmark which turned out to be an amazing find. My husband hated it at first and my Dad said we should pull it down and rebuild but I could feel the energy coming through me feet and knew this is the one. Two weeks after we received the keys Dad passed away. It took me all of 2018 to rethink myself but during that time we also had great projects for the BBC and Hawei and I stared to teach at Heck business school in Paris, with talks at Cambridge and Oxford universities too. This was the turning point education wise. Coming back, I now enjoy every day, I fill each day with good energy and love. I am focused on ‘you create your own reality’. It isn’t esoteric but I know that as a futurist the future isn’t somewhere you go, you create the future. This is where I am heading now. Into the future, making it happen because I can see it now.

The ‘How To Think Work And Play Like A Futurist’ course will be online soon.



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