Fearless - Ep 23: "The Futurist" - Faith Popcorn

Faith Popcorn headshot.png

"The Futurist"

Faith Popcorn has spent almost half a century living in the future. She has predicted everything from the inevitable to the unbelievable. Her company, Faith Popcorn’s Brain Reserve has been instrumental in unlocking what comes next for many the world’s largest companies and most iconic brands.

I met Faith in her townhouse in Manhattan and she talked about the importance of conflict…about why companies hate change…..and about the future of the human race.


Three Takeaways

  • A relentless curiosity for the way the world works and the ability to see patterns and things, which comes from an open-mindedness to see what’s actually happening instead of what people want you to see.

  • A deep interest in humanity and the human condition and what motivates people and what moves people.

  • An unabashed willingness to tell people what you think.


"FEARLESS CREATIVE LEADERSHIP" PODCAST - TRANSCRIPT

Episode 23: Faith Popcorn

Charles:  [00:00:30]

The Futurist.

Faith Popcorn:

I think we’re going to be robot replaced before we get to change.

Charles: [00:01:00]

The great Peter Drucker once said, management is doing things right. Leadership is doing the right things, but what are the right things, more of the same or radical change? Successful companies are built on a series of s-curves, they climb the mountain until they reach the top, at which point leadership really, really matters. [00:01:30]

The human temptation is to let it ride to enjoy the success. Convince yourself there’s more where that came from and that the future will mimic the best parts of the past. The status quo already a beguiling temptress becomes almost irresistible when success is all around us, but the status quo is a siren’s call and that light you see is not the end of the tunnel. It’s a runaway freight train called the future and it’s coming right at us. [00:02:00]

Fearless creative leaders meet the future, eyes open and head on. They don’t deny it, they embrace it. They don’t turn away, they step forward and they meet it on their terms. They’re willing to see past the first wave of what’s next, to see beyond the fashionable easy predictions and to understand what’s driving fundamental change in human expectations and behavior, and how does that apply to their business? The future is where the greatest leaders live. It’s an exhilarating, but lonely place not for the faint of heart or the easily swayed. I encourage you to buy a ticket and to get on board. It’s coming faster than any of us can imagine and its potential is limitless.[00:03:00]

Faith Popcorn has spent almost half a century living in the future. She’s predicted everything from the inevitable to the unbelievable. Her company Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve has been instrumental in unlocking what comes next for many of the world’s largest companies and most iconic brands. I met Faith in her townhouse in Manhattan and we talked about the importance of conflict about why companies hate change and about the future of the human race.

Faith, thank you so much for agreeing to do this.

Faith Popcorn:

Welcome.

Charles:

Great to meet you.

Faith Popcorn:

You too.

Charles:

I always like to start the show with the same questions, so I run the risk that someone will gain this, but I’m going to take the risk. What’s your first memory of something striking you as creative? When does creativity first show up in your life?  [00:03:30]

Faith Popcorn: [00:04:00]

I can’t remember when I didn’t. I was always trying to create another place than where I was, so I was telling you I grew up in China. I was a little Jewish girl, went to China. My mother and father put me in Sacred Heart Convent, because of the kidnapping there, but she said, don’t let her pray, don’t let her kneel, don’t give her any medals. I was always like this outsider. I was standing in the back. I was always figuring out. My creativity comes from, how do I get out of here? [00:04:30]

Building little scenarios or stories, also about how you get to people or how you get noticed. How do I make the nuns like me or how do I get a pink ribbon? They give you these pink sashes. I would write poetry. I’m not a good art person particularly. I was a writer, I would write poetry. I wanted to be an actor still getting out, escaping. I went to performing arts when I got back. I really was serious about being an actor.

Charles:

How long were you in China?

Faith Popcorn:  [00:05:00]

I was in China until I was seven and then we left just with the communist coming in. My father got all the nuns out. We were the last to go with the nuns. Then they took me around the world and then we went home to East Village where I reunited with my grandfather and grandmother who lived there, who I adored. My parents were both attorneys. My father was a criminal lawyer; my mother was a negligence lawyer out of NYU. They went to work in the Woolworth Building. I just grew up. I was this kind of street kid.  [00:05:30]

My father, my grandfather, I thought he was my father. My grandfather had a store in the corner of 5th and 2nd a haberdashery store. We used to sit there. He would say, “Watch your real estate.” He was being realistic. He meant, watch it, take a chair, put it on the curve and face building and watch it. He’d watch the building and then if people didn’t go into the store, we’d rearrange the windows. That’s called repositioning, right? That’s how I learned repositioning. He put the shirt here and a tie there, and the cuff links there, suddenly it looked better. [00:06:00]

Charles:

Actually, it’s a real world evidence, you’re actually tracking consumer behavior even back then.

Faith Popcorn:  [00:06:30]

At 6 and 7. Then because I was crossing myself in front of every church and saying Hail Marys, my grandmother who was Orthodox Jew put me in Hebrew school five days a week. I said, “What is she doing?” I went to Hebrew school and it was very, very uninteresting. I was always bored. I went to public school P.S.63, but I was really ahead of the game, because the Catholic schools are very much ahead of the New York Public School. I was so bored, by the time I wasn’t bored. It was so behind. I’m sure I had ADHD and every other thing and I just like going, “Oh my God, how do I get out of here?”  [00:07:00]

I went to junior high school public school and then I got into performing arts. That was kind of a nice escape. I studied acting and playwriting. It was the first playwriting course at performing arts. Then I wanted to be an actor and my parents said, “Don’t be ridiculous. You’re going to college.” I don’t want to go to college. I hate college. I hated school. I went to college, but I was an English major, so I did get to read a lot, which I loved.

Charles:

Did you write plays?

Faith Popcorn:  [00:07:30]

I wrote plays, but playwriting was not my form. It was too constricted. Everything had to come through the dialogue, really. I was more interested in stories and poems and readings. I like to get in trouble.

Charles:  

You like to get in trouble.

Faith Popcorn: [00:08:00]

I still love to get in trouble. I was a troublemaker. I would engage improperly with professors. I would date them all. I dated all my bosses in advertising. I went to advertising and I just wanted to be in trouble by dating mechanics. I had a Jaguar. My father had a Jaguar at that time, Mark IX. You need to date a mechanic if you have a Jaguar. I dated mechanics. I like street people. I like firemen and policemen.

Charles: 

Where did you think that came from?

Faith Popcorn: [00:08:30]

First of all I love power, but real power. My father was CIA. He was a criminal lawyer. He got people out of jail. I love the police, they have a gun. I like that. Firemen are so brave and so fabulous. I feel safer around what I call real people that had real jobs. I like blue collar better. I’m more comfortable there. I grew up that way.

Charles:

You studied English in school at college.

Faith Popcorn:

Yeah.

Charles:

Then coming out of college what did you focus on? [00:09:00]

Faith Popcorn: [00:09:30]

Well, I was headed for law school. My father in my sophomore year in NYU died mysteriously, CIA, remember, in an automobile crash. Then I was just left there with my crazy mother. I thought I am not going to law school. I would have gone, probably, because I wanted to be a criminal lawyer. I thought that would be fun, like a trial lawyer. That’s acting right. At the end, I took a course of visual arts and my teacher said, “Would you want a job?” Now I never had a job in my life. I said, “A job, really?” My parents, we did not work. That was considered not the thing to do. She gave me a job as copy chief in a small agency that she knew. She found me a job  [00:10:00]

I thought I was Holly Golightly. I really thought I was Holly Golightly. I wore organza. I wish I had pictures. Organza coats with linen dresses and big hats. I smoked like a chimneys big cigarette holders and just romped around the Four Seasons and driving around New York in this Jaguar. I was living somewhere else, not on the planet particularly. Then as things went along, I worked in several agencies. I didn’t like agencies. I thought they were corrupt. They always made people buy stuff that they shouldn’t have bought, like I don’t mean the products, but I mean like commercials, and they’re just so money driven.

 

 

Also, I didn’t think it was fair, because they were solving "now" problems, when the problems these clients would have, Fortune 200 would be next problems. I was very interested in what’s going to happen. I was also very good at that. People thought is that psychic, it was not. I don’t think so. I think I can put strings together. Make sense out of things and then see direction.

 

[00:11:00]

When I was about 28, I opened Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve, which is a group of really creative people, because I didn’t like to work alone. If somebody said, I don’t even take a shower alone. I like a squad with me. I had this team group that would just brainstorm, BrainReserve. We became sort of a futuristic creative agency and then it developed into what it is today.

 

Charles:

You went from working for ad agencies?

 

Faith Popcorn:

Yeah.

 

[00:11:30]

Charles:

 

This is what, the early 60s?

 

Faith Popcorn:

This was early 70s.

 

Charles:

Early 70s, okay. You went from that to recognizing that you had this ability to see the future or such, looking to the future.

 

Faith Popcorn:

It seems so obvious.

 

Charles:

It seems so obvious to you.

 

Faith Popcorn:

Totally obvious.

 

Charles:

When you talk about next problems, how do you define that?

 

Faith Popcorn:

 

[00:12:00]

 

 

 

[00:12:30]

Well, like if you look at a food company, here’s an example of how I got fired from a job. You’d go to a factory. It was a hardware factory, they made pots and pans. You see these people at the factory doing repetitive pulling the pot down over a mold in those days it wasn’t. I said to the head person, “If they keep doing that all day, aren’t they going to get in accidents.” You could see how blank they were. They said, “Get her out of here.” I could always see. I saw automation coming. I saw chips coming, insertable chips. The SUV was like, duh. We knew Coke was going to fail, because they didn’t ask any, but new Coke, who wanted new Coke? A few executives, I guess.

 

 

 

 

[00:13:00]

It just seems very obvious to me. Driverless cars now, all the Detroiters, they’re dabbling now, but they go, “No, people love to drive.” I go, “German men like to drive. That’s who likes to drive. Nobody likes to drive. All they do is complain about driving. You take a mother with three kids; she wants to drive, really? She wants to play with the kids and do the homework in the car, do her nails. Young people have sex in their cars, all kinds of things. They can start a business in a car, but they don’t want to drive.” It’s very, very, very obvious.

 

 

 

[00:13:30]

 

 

 

 

[00:14:00]

Home delivery, we’ve been talking about home delivery since 1975. Who wants to go to the supermarket? The supermarket said, “We’ve been socializing this supermarket.” I go, “Who told you this? This is so not true. Supermarkets are filthy, we don’t socialize in them and we don’t really want to go there and the stuff is heavy, the repetitive purchases of Pepsi, let’s say, it’s heavy. Why not home? We would like the Pepsi or the Coke or whatever to come out of a faucet.” We predicted water would be a big thing, because we knew, we have 10,000 futurists. At that time, I didn’t have 10,000, I’ll be at a couple of hundred.

 

 

 

 

 

[00:14:30]

They were telling us blue is the new green. The water is disappearing. Now this is 70s, late 70s. We said people are going to be very nervous about drinking water and they’re going to cherish water and they’re going to want bottled water and bottled water with different things in it. Then we said and they’re going to hate the plastic and then what? It’s just very easy to see.

 

Charles:

Before you started bringing people around you to help you do this, what were you paying attention to in the world as you walk through it to give you that insight?

 

Faith Popcorn:

 

 

[00:15:00]

Yeah, everything, some very ADHD. I go in a supermarket and I say, “Why are all the candles everywhere, candles stores, candles?” That’s how I came with various trends that I test out. One was called atmosphere, one was fear of what’s out there. One was called vigilante consumer, you could see people getting very angry. You’d see the oncoming of Buddhism and religion with these candles. People are building altars into houses, (S.O.S) Save our Society and other trends. They built this architecture of 17 and then probably have too many let’s say collapse on each other.

 

 

[00:15:30]

They’re like, 17 little fighting children, they don’t agree with each other. You have like pleasure events where’d you want to like go out and splurge on pink hair and nails, and drink tequila. They’d be out there and then on the other hand, you want to be good and you want to give, and you want to cleanse and purify fitness and fatness in the same body at the same moment. You go run. [inaudible 00:15:51].

 

 

[00:16:00]

The conflict, I’m into conflict. My whole family is conflicted, where and how I grew up was conflicted and people run from conflict. I don’t know who taught them this. Make everything nice, the little giggles. Everything’s good, all good. No worries. When people say no worries, I may have to kill somebody. I say, “No worries! Who are you talking to? What?” That’s how they’re trying to live. No worries, every things good, fine. Just follow me; everything will be fine and good.

 

[00:16:30]

Charles:

 

Are you drawn to conflict?

 

Faith Popcorn:

 

 

[00:17:00]

I observe it more than most people. I try not to create it. I try to actually appease it and try to get people together. Conflict is noisy. It’s hard not to be drawn to it. I see it. People get very annoyed with me, especially my children, because when I’m in a supermarket. I love supermarkets by the way. Costco, I love Costco. Me and the other small restaurant owners, it’s like a joke have a pallet. I come back and people go, “What did you buy?” I don’t know I have to. I hear a baby crying or a kid crying. My kid said, “Mommy, please don’t do this.” I’m like, “I have to, I’m sorry. I have to go over there.”

 

 

[00:17:30]

 

 

 

 

[00:18:00]

I say, “Hello, I’m sorry to bother you, but I’m a child psychiatrist.” See this is called acting. You know how they roll the strollers and the kid is screaming. I go, “Get in front of the stroller, watch me madam.” I get down and talk to the kid. The kid stops. I just can’t stand it. Times just did an article about that we’re wired when we hear a small animal cries from humans or animals, we have to go. Not just humans. Did you read that article? It’s like vindication. Anyway, drawn to conflict, I notice it. I don’t skip it, because at a conflict, you’re seeing the real issues to problems. We should see that.

 

 

 

 

 

[00:18:30]

I like to hear the little voices. We think everybody is poisoning us. The food companies should be listening to this a little better. We’re starting think, they’re poisoning us, the courts don’t grow up, judges are lying, governments lying, everybody’s lying. We’re going to get blown up. We won’t have any water and then the earthquake start. Now how come nobody is really saying, “Hey, two hurricanes, one earthquake, and a little tornado, does that mean anything to anybody?” That’s what I mean by the strings. You say drawn to conflict. That’s a conflict, like a lot of noise and destruction.

 

Charles:

Yeah.

 

[00:19:00]

Faith Popcorn:

 

 

 

[00:19:30]

 

I’m very drawn to that. I go like, “Well, excuse me. What is going on?” Put the string between them. Is that the earth kicking back? Is it what? It’s something. That’s when I try to look and project or look out and project back. This is called backcasting in the futurism. You go all the way out, which is easy. You go to 2040, 2045, 70% of workers will be replaced by robots probably. You can see. It’s going to be minimum wage. We’re going to pay people. Hook them up to pleasure machines.

 

 

 

 

 

[00:20:00]

Have robotic companions if we can afford it, which will be enormously satisfying, because they’re going to look really cheap, not like they look now and they’re going to know everything we want. Just like Syria, you hear people yelling in Syria. Syria, that’s the beginning. We have little replacement parts in our bodies already and people are taking drugs to enhance them, boost them. Provigil, Concerta, all these. Micro-dosing of the hallucinogen is big just to go to work.

 

Charles:

This sounds like somebody who’s paying a lot of attention. I mean this sounds like you’re paying attention to multiple inputs, multiple sources.

 

Faith Popcorn:

[00:20:30]

We are, I mean it just takes more than sometimes one person. Janet Siroto here, our TalentBank Director would like to talk to all those people in TalentBank and watch over the trends and say, “Hey, this looks left, this is going right.” We have just about 50 people watching, just watching and trying to make sense of it. Then trying to advise or consult with clients that say, “Is it important to be organic? Is gluten-free a fad?” These questions we had, “Marijuana, is it really going to become legal?”

 

[00:21:00]

 

 

 

 

[00:21:30]

Facts about marijuana: marijuana a great anti-inflammatory. That’s why the drug companies do not want it legal, because what happens to oxycodone. If you look whose fighting marijuana, parents might be worried. That’s ethical and wonderful and the truism and good. Fine, I can understand, but if you see in the lobbies to keep help away from people, they’ve found it to be very helpful for veterans who have had bad experiences and they can’t prescribe it in veteran’s hospitals. It’s not legal. That’s annoying. That’s ridiculous.

 

 

 

 

[00:22:00]

 

 

 

 

[00:22:30]

I think people are getting angry, you see it. A lot of angry people voted for Donald, they were pissed off, but not nearly how pissed off they’re going to be. What’s going to happen then? Where are those marches going to go? Where’s the destruction going to go when they realize, “ Hey, it’s not true. Hey, Cole is not coming back. Hey, everything isn’t. No worries. I’m going to be cool and you’re going to have your job at the factory that makes cars when there won’t be any cars, because kids don’t want cars, because they have Uber.” “Hey, your job over there, GM is not going to come back.” “Maybe a little while.” “No, it’s over.” It’s brutal. I’m worried about post Donald when people wake up and realize.

 

Charles:

When you’re looking to bring people towards you that do this kind of work, we go to the 70s and you’re starting to attract people, what are the characteristics of people that you were looking for?

 

Faith Popcorn:

[00:23:00]

 

 

 

 

[00:23:30]

I have refined my search ability. There was always someone that didn’t fit, had to be very uncomfortable. They didn’t fit in agency and they didn’t fit in the work place and they said what they thought. They had to be readers. I always ask them, “What’s on your night table, what are you reading, what are you thinking?” I love writers, because we have to express ourselves now less so, because we can express ourselves visually, which is kind of all the emojis, but then it was more like could you express yourself in writing. You look for that. I wasn’t very good at HR and interview. We just created a band of people.

 

Charles:

It was feeling as much anything else?

 

Faith Popcorn:

 

 

[00:24:00]

It was feeling, yes. Are they expressive and do they want to do this work? I was looking for people that want to do the work. Do you really want to change something? Do you want to change a company? Do you want to change the way people think? You want to bring new thinking, do you really want to? Amazing, I don’t know, I guess there’s that conflict question.

 

 

People don’t like to bring in a room something that people will disagree with our work and sometimes we call it marketing masochism. That is our work. We bring into a room something that people don’t know yet or if they know, they’re trying to ignore and it means that they’re going to have to painfully change something. It’s not that easy. Can you give me a tissue?

 

Speaker 3:

Yeah.

 

[00:24:30]

Faith Popcorn:

 

You can speak, am I leaving something out?

 

Charles:

No.

 

Faith Popcorn:

That pages of notes.

 

Charles:

Is your goal to create change, I mean obviously your ability to see the future is extraordinary, is your ambition that people would then change the behaviors would change, the patterns would change as a result of that?

 

[00:25:00]

Faith Popcorn:

 

 

 

 

[00:25:30]

 

There could be a hope, but I think we’re going to be robot replaced before we get to change. We’re seeing that robots are just plain jealousy like summer and fall. They are competing with each other. They’re not being programmed for that. It’s like the worst science fiction book you’ve ever read. What’s his name, in wheel chair, who I adore? Stephen Hawking. Stephen Hawking said the thing we have to fear is robotics, robots. He said it’s the biggest thing. Ridiculous, nobody is going to pay attention to that. They’re just going to like you developing them and it’s too late to stop.

 

 

 

 

[00:26:00]

We always think in America, if we stop, it stops. It’s not stopped. It’s just like we’re so fussy about creating a human being out of DNA and stuff and go, “That’s not ethic” Okay, maybe that’s here, but in Scandinavia, they’re probably doing it right now or in Russia. Making little human armies, humanesque, human whatever that means? What is human? We should be very thankful, I am, that we’re in the last human, one of the last human generations.

 

Charles:

Right now.

 

Faith Popcorn:

Right now, where we’re fully, pretty fully human.

 

Charles:

What comes next?

 

[00:26:30]

Faith Popcorn:

 

Boosters, man machine, already like even at, I think it’s Home Depot, the put a thing on the guys arms so he can lift heavier packages. That’s going to be on the inside. You want to learn French, chip. You want to know math, chip. School is like ridiculous, it’s not going to happen. You can just rent these chips and be enhanced, they’re calling it.

 

Charles:

This is true $6 million man kind of technology.

 

Faith Popcorn:

[00:27:00]

Yeah, $6 billion, but yeah. You talk about "have and have nots" is sort of sweet and soft and adorable the way we talk about it, but this is really going to be boosted and garbage, not boosted, not enhanced. That’s I think the way it’s going. I do think that. I think you would think that too. I think you could prove that problem.

 

Charles:

How does that change the nature of business when those kinds of attributes start coming to become reality for people?

 

Faith Popcorn:

Well, which, the customers or the makers?

 

[00:27:30]

Charles:

 

Well, actually, I think both. Also, I’m interested in your thoughts on how that changes the dynamics within a company?

 

Faith Popcorn:

 

 

[00:28:00]

We have a talk, which I can show sometime called The Future of Work. The Future of Work is telecom, communication, brain-to-brain robots doing all the boring work. The gig economy, which is starting to see where people have five, eight, 10 jobs, it’s going to change everything. How you manage robots, let’s say here a human or a part human managing robots, how do you do that? It’s interesting that Stanford, Harvard. They’re not teaching robot management, because they are saying, it’s all good, everything is fine, no worries.

 

 

[00:28:30]

 

 

 

 

 

[00:29:00]

That’s what the new kind of management will be. It’s not going to be just from a keyboard. I was laughing the other day, this pharmaceutical client says, “We’re tracking what they call the patient journey like how a patient goes.” What’s his journey to get to the doctor? “The patient journey, seriously, where’s the patient going?” “To the doctor.” “There are not going to be any doctors?” I said, “Are you crazy? That’s not the patient journey, because everything’s implantable,” so the doctor now we call him or the engineer of medicine will call him or her would do typing in, “Okay, release a little more insulin or do this or do that.” No, no doctors, offices.

 

 

 

 

 

[00:29:30]

Isn’t it easy to see? That is easy to see, but do doctors want to see that? Do medical schools want to see that? Do pharmaceutical companies want to see that? They would really have to change their model. What happens is they die. They’ll die off. Alan Murray, who I have a great deal of respect for, who is the editor-in-chief of Fortune magazine said, "50% of these companies will not be in existence in that long a time." He’s right, might be more. Have fun and drink a lot.

 

Charles:

Yes, don’t wait for tomorrow, because who knows what it’s going to look like.

 

Faith Popcorn:

Yeah.

 

Charles:

What do you think the role of creativity is in a world like that in a business, in the business world like that?

 

[00:30:00]

Faith Popcorn:

 

 

 

 

 

[00:30:30]

 

Well, they use a lot of LSD for creativity originally and now they’re going back to micro-dosing, which is interesting. Our brain, they say, only use this 10% of its ability, so we don’t even know what creativity could be like. Maybe we could all paint, maybe we can all think out there. My daughter, it’s so funny, because she said the 19 year old rebellion moment where she doesn’t like fancy and she doesn’t like all this, but she wants to study the brain. I think it’s so interesting. BrainReserve wants to study the brain.

 

 

I think it’s a very interesting thing to do, because how we implant the brain, how the brain works, what is creativity, how we will, suppose you could interconnect without moving from your chair with other creative people. The CIA is doing this experiment now where you can fly a plane with your brain.

 

Charles:

Just with your brain?

 

Faith Popcorn:

Yeah.

 

[00:31:00]

Charles:

 

Sitting in the plane or sitting somewhere?

 

Faith Popcorn:

 

 

 

 

[00:31:30]

No. Well, that will be next, sitting in a plane. Kinetic energy, we just discard energy. You know how you get somebody right away and or you don’t, you go like, yeah. That’s a connection. How many times did people say, “I was just thinking that.”? You just took that out of my brain. It happens all the time. We just don’t know how to use it or develop it. Maybe dogs can talk, I have a little girl who is in my life who thinks that I can make, I don’t where she gets this, my chief-of-staff Kathleen’s daughter, Sadie, things that I can make a hamster talk. I love it. I’m not going to discourage that, but wouldn’t it be great if we could turn their vocalization into something we can understand like the Dog Whisperer.

 

Charles:

Yeah, absolutely.

 

Faith Popcorn:

I want to talk to my dog. I want my dog to live for a longer time. That will happen.

 

[00:32:00]

Charles:

 

Yes, I agree with that. I’m not sure we want to talk to our dogs fully, because I read an article the other day that said that the best you can hope for is that your dog loves as much as a hotdog. I’m not sure I want to know that, because I like to live in the fantasy that my dog is just simply adore me. If the parallel is you are a hotdog, well, actually the hotdog’s here so I’ll take that today. I’m not sure, but I take your point.

 

Faith Popcorn:

I hope that’s not true.

 

Charles:

[00:32:30]

I hope that’s not true too, because it would shatter a lot of us to know that. Yes. With that kind of potential, how do you lead a business that depends on creativity today towards a future that looks like that? How do you tap into all of the possibilities? How do you set up a company so that it’s actually capable of absorbing that kind of potential?

 

Faith Popcorn:

[00:33:00]

I don’t think you really can. My company is to some degree, because it’s work, but when we talk to companies, we talk about now, next, the future, three stages, probably 53 stages, but just not to be confusing. A lot of times we deliver now. They’re working in yesterday, so we’re delivering now. Then sometimes we show them to deliver next, but to work on future, even like in Apple, maybe the Tesla, guy.

 

Charles:

Elon Musk, yeah.

 

[00:33:30]

Faith Popcorn:

 

Musk, is working on a little more future, but it’s very hard to make money and live in the future, because nobody will pay you for it yet.

 

Charles:

You think most companies are living in yesterday?

 

Faith Popcorn:

 

 

 

[00:34:00]

Definitely, yesterday or the day before yesterday and they’re quite comfortable. Interestingly, they’re making a lot of money until there’s a disruption. That’s why they call it disruption, because there they are sitting in yesterday. Let’s say somebody comes along with this idea about Uber. I’m sure somebody in a cab company came up with that. They go like, what about if we had this Uber and like just like this and you can call from your phone and they go, “Could you just get back to your desk and do what you’re paid to do?” whatever that is. Those companies go away.

 

 

[00:34:30]

 

 

 

[00:35:00]

Most of the time, you can’t invent or disrupt from inside. Name me a company that’s disrupted? They made little changes. They constantly underestimate the consumer, which is a bad word. A consumer, it sounds like a big animal that just eats all that. The people that they’re providing product to, they don’t get them. I remember telling, it was the largest meat purveyor in the world. I said, “Vegetarianism is coming.” He goes, “Well, maybe you shouldn’t be working on our business.”

 

 

 

 

[00:35:30]

That’s a perfect story, a true story. He did not want to know that. He wanted to sell more calves. I finally got him to put chaplains on the kill line, because these people that have to kill, they have a horrible time. All the chickens, poor little chickens and you’re eating all that crap. It’s stressed. Anyway that’s another, but that’s my point, is people don’t want to know, they don’t want to hear that.

 

Charles:

How do they breakout of that? The companies that are successfully breaking out of that, how do they do that?

 

Faith Popcorn:

Who are those companies? I don’t know any companies. I know companies that replace, like Uber replaced cabs.

 

Charles:

Netflix replace Blockbuster.

 

[00:36:00]

Faith Popcorn:

 

 

 

 

[00:36:30]

 

Yeah. Apple replaced whatever or made something new, didn’t even replace. Do you know any companies that evolved? No, they don’t evolve, they usually die, slowly. We worked for Kodak and our assignment and I was so excited about this. I can even tell you. It was 1980 something. The future of film was the title of our assignment. We go up to Rochester and everybody looked like insurance salesman, but I was so excited, because I love America and I love an American company. I loved that. Getting input and doing our whole methodology. Just to shortcut it the way, we come back, look the future of film is digital. They said, “We did not hire you to tell us that.” They had digital by the way.

 

Charles:

They developed it, right?

 

Faith Popcorn:

[00:37:00]

 

 

 

[00:37:30]

Yes, but we asked you for the future of film. I said there is no future in film. It’s digital. Fired, gone and then they were gone. I don’t like [inaudible 00:37:06]. I don’t want Kodak to die. I don’t want Cadillac to die. I love Cadillac, but it’s not talking to females. It’s not talking to even boomers who still like them a little. It’s not listening, it’s just not listening. It’s like Detroit didn’t listen to Europe. I remember it was in a Danny Devito movie called the Tin Men maybe. He was in a Cadillac. He was stopped in a light across the windshield, remember came a Volkswagen. Do you remember this scene?

 

 

 

[00:38:00]

It was iconic. He said, “What’s that?” It’s a car that you can afford that doesn’t use a lot of gas. It’s adorable, you can have three. Whatever, “What’s that?” that’s it. Detroit maybe is changed a little, nobody from Detroit really talks to me, but they used to not let people drive other brands of cars. If you didn’t drive a Ford and you worked for Ford, or Chrysler and you work for Chrysler, that’s crazy, I would forbid them from driving our cars. Drive the competition, see what people like.

 

Charles:

Why didn’t people in Detroit told you? Why don’t companies in Detroit told you?

 

[00:38:30]

Faith Popcorn:

 

 

 

 

[00:39:00]

 

They say we have futures. They do. They have installed little futures everywhere and I take that as a complement. They don’t want to hear anything. Look, I’ll tell you why, it takes five, six years to do a new car. It shouldn’t by the way, it should take a year, but it doesn’t. It could, but it doesn’t. They don’t want to hear anything that would change that model. They are so done. It’s so scary. It’s so bad, it’s so sad. I love Detroit. I love the Detroit comeback. I love that, but they’re not listening. I’m an interesting speaker, but they don’t really want to do something.

 

Charles:

Too expensive, too disruptive, too emotionally challenging.

 

Faith Popcorn:

[00:39:30]

 

 

 

 

[00:40:00]

This is how they catch it. People that don’t work with you think you can’t, they say, they think, “You can’t do anything.” They don’t believe in it. They don’t believe in you. I guess that’s how they couch it, but I think under that is, what are we going to do with what she tells us? That’s it. Even though we can do now, next future and I changed my company to be now and next future, because future; future is so scary, they can’t really do anything about it. Just like we say, here’s a beautiful thing, women, we’ve been talking about women’s ascension for a little as … I wrote a book called Evolution 20 years ago.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[00:40:30]

Women hear differently, see differently, smell differently, everything’s different about them, don’t market to them in the same way. Now they have more college degrees, they make more money. It’s the largest transfer of wealth to females and where’s the woman’s bank, where’s the woman’s credit card, where’s the cot for females? They want something different and they want it served up differently. I go around. Here she is. Where’s the woman’s snacks, drinks, medicine, anything? It must be a suppression, a female power that every company somewhere psychologically has agreed not provide anything for them.

 

 

 

[00:41:00]

Tell me I’m wrong. Tell me, show me something. They go, “Well, women want the same thing in a bank.” I go, “No, they don’t.” First of all, they might come home from a job and they’ve got the kids. Well, that’s how online banking, but maybe if they take a loan, whatever, maybe they want you to come over and talk to them or pull up in a van, or maybe they want to know that you’re a nice ethical person, maybe they don’t want you to look past them, at their husband, if they have a husband. By the way, only 22% of families are what you call a family, husband and wife and two kids. It’s 21% then, but they still think the family.

 

[00:41:30]

They still think women are going to get married when Melanie is telling us they don’t want to get married. Home Depot still thinks people are going to buy homes, when in fact young people think they don’t want to be trapped in a mortgage and they like to move around. They think, “Oh, when they have a baby.” They don’t want to have babies. A lot of them don’t want to have babies. See, they’re serving the now, people in the houses, but they’re not talking to even next, even today.

 

[00:42:00]

Charles:

 

How does a company change that? If it wants to change it, how does it go about changing that mentality, that perspective?

 

Faith Popcorn:

 

[00:42:30]

We did this assignment once for G Capital. We saw this female revolution coming and that women, small business owners were growing much more than men. We created this seminar and we invited mainly females and even then they said, “Oh, invite men too.” I go, “No, I don’t want to invite men.” Weight Watchers knows if you have a man in the room, the woman doesn’t speak out. Everybody knows that, they speak differently with the opposite sex, probably both ways.

 

 

 

[00:43:00]

Anyway, we invited women and we helped them grow their small businesses, so you said, “What kind of copying machine do you have?” We’d have people come in and sell them copying machines that were good or car leases or accounting or a lawyer, and we were selling insurance, but our insurance person wasn’t commissioned, big difference. The insurance person was really helping them with getting the right kind of insurance, that business, I think, last I looked, grew from zero to $750 million, and they didn’t even put any money into that, because they just can’t believe it.

 

[00:43:30]

 

 

 

 

 

[00:44:00]

I was talking to somebody yesterday about Walmart. They said, “Walmart’s catching up, they’re going to have home delivery. They’re doing this and that.” I don’t think so. I see on commercials, they’re trying to make them friendlier, but we once said to the chairman of Walmart, it’s like really having to go to the bathroom on a highway really having to go and stopping it in a dirty bathroom, that’s Walmart. Yes, some of the stores are prettier and cleaner, but they’re not helping the people they serve. They’re not helping the people they serve or if they are, they’re doing it so quietly.

 

 

 

 

[00:44:30]

Help the people you serve. You serve the lower third, let’s say or lower half, lower third. What are you doing for them? What’s your thing? What’s your policy if you see a parent like [inaudible 00:44:23] a kid around at Walmart? I’m telling you they would never step in. I don’t to shop there. I don’t trust how they treat, they’re not advanced. They think they’re going to catch up to Whole Foods and Amazon, I don’t think so, I don’t think they are. They’re big. Sometimes that’s goes on for quite a while when you’re big.

 

Charles:

What do you think the implications of Amazon buying Whole Foods though?

 

[00:45:00]

Faith Popcorn:

 

It’s everything to me. Everybody trashed Amazon. It was not funny. Then he gets up and he buys Whole Foods, which says that we can deliver quality … and they cut the prices 40% the first day.

 

Charles:

Yeah, very quickly.

 

Faith Popcorn:

Just wow, so you’re going to get great stuff home. You’re going to get everything home. I think that Amazon could look a little better. I think it’s a little bit awful.

 

Charles:

You mean the aesthetic of the experience?

 

Faith Popcorn:

[00:45:30]

 

 

 

 

[00:46:00]

Yeah, we could look nicer. I wish it was more friendly. I wish I knew more about the ethics and the beliefs of the company. I wish it wasn’t called Amazon, big jungle. Why would you go anywhere like just get it and now you can get Whole Foods with it. Why am I going to Walmart again? I said for years, look, you have a woman in the supermarket, this is before all this, pushing this thing. You have this case of soda like I was saying, are you helping her into the car? Simple shit, well, how would we do that?

 

 

 

 

 

[00:46:30]

We work for Jiffy Lube. First of all we had to inform them that most the people that drove in to change the oil were females. What male, man who works his time to change the oil? She’s changing the oil and what does she have in that backseat, a car seat and that baby’s screaming or finally asleep. She pulls in and what does the guy do? He puts his hand right over her lap to look at the odometer and all this stuff and says to her, “Get out of the car.” What? Has Hustler magazines and the seat up. We redesigned that whole experience, so I’m conscious, just I’m conscious, that’s all.

 

Charles:

 

[00:47:00]

If you are starting a company today or it’s advising somebody who wants to start a company today, who wants to build a company that has, that is future proofed for want for better description, how would you tell them to go about doing that? How would you tell them to build a company that’s capable of accepting and looking and embracing the future, not now, not next, but the future?

 

Faith Popcorn:

Well, what we do is very simple. We just lay 17 trends over at concept and say, “How do you futurize it?” The cocooning trend, people want to be home or they want to be comfortable or the filtration trend, atmosphere, filtering what goes in or the 99 lives, how do you get them to do a lot of stuff at once?

 

[00:47:30]

You just put that, it’s so simple, honestly, that blanket of the future over a concept and we make continuity with the future. This continuity trend analysis, this doesn’t work. Fix it and then go. Then ask real people and be willing to hear the answer. I don’t call that testing, because if testing worked, every product launch would be successful, wouldn’t it? It’s just another way to stall making a decision in my view.

 

[00:48:00]

Charles:

 

Interesting, talk to me about the gig economy and for the purposes of people who are listening to this who may not know what that is, can you just describe what the gig economy is?

 

Faith Popcorn:

 

 

[00:48:30]

You know how I got this gig, meaning a job, so gig economy is about when you have five jobs. You might be like on Etsy and do handmade stuff. Then you might be somebody’s assistant or maybe running errands. You have five different things going. First of all, I think it comes out not wanting to depend on something bigger than you. If one fails, you got five. They’re not loyal to companies, because they don’t believe in companies.

 

 

 

 

[00:49:00]

They saw their parents being fired from companies, abused by companies, their dad and mother never came home and played with them, all of that, so that’s the gig economy. I just laid the blanket of the future over a concept or use this blanket of the future to develop a concept. Then people go, but we can’t delivery it. It’s too expensive, it’s do this, it’s do that. Too bad that you can’t deliver it, somebody is going to do delivery it, maybe it’s not you.

 

Charles:

How do you leave people in that kind of economy? How do you get people to want to show up? If you’ve got people who are not to your point not interested in loyalty to companies in the way that past generations have been, how do you attract people, how do you keep them sticking around, how do you engage them?

 

[00:49:30]

Faith Popcorn:

 

 

 

[00:50:00]

 

Well, we’re noticing the people like to join companies that they believe have values. Most companies talk it, but they don’t do it. If they have children, you create child care. You do what? People, especially females are forever indebted to you if you help them out. Plan their future, financial planning, loan the money, be a good guide, like the great- aunt or uncle that you know you could always go to and they help you. You have to only do that for really talented people, because it’s expensive, so it goes both ways. I think that’s how you get people to stick. I don’t know, what do you think?

 

Charles:

Yeah, I think living by values is really important. I think to your point is a lot of companies that take a lot of time to write them down, publish them.

 

Faith Popcorn:

Oh my God, they spend time on that.

 

Charles:

Then immediately they’ve been published whether it’s on the website.

 

Faith Popcorn:

Nobody reads it.

 

[00:50:30]

Charles:

 

Nobody reads it and nobody lives by it, right?

 

Faith Popcorn:

Right.

 

Charles:

The companies that I see who are most successful, those are actually the ones who invest in explaining, educating, teaching, exemplifying what these values are and they run workshops around. We said we believe in transparency or whatever it is.

 

Faith Popcorn:

Yeah.

 

Charles:

 

 

[00:51:00]

They will start showing people this is what we mean, that’s a good example, here’s a bad example. Then some companies, not that many yet, but some companies I’ve seen and you’ve probably seen the same thing are actually tying part of the senior leadership team’s compensation to internal values measurements. We said this, the people in your group need to believe that. Let’s see where they are today and let’s see where they are six months from now. If the needle doesn’t move positively, you don’t get your full comp.

 

Faith Popcorn:

Good.

 

Charles:

That’s real commitment to values behavior.

 

Faith Popcorn:

[00:51:30]

 

 

 

[00:52:00]

Yeah, but like in a very large company I mentioned, but enormous company, we just can’t find women. We just can’t find women promote and everything. When we review them they just don’t do it, don’t come up to it. Okay, so we said, “Who’s reviewing them?” It’s men who have different standard. It’s not objective. I’m giving you the simplest thing. I’m not even saying black, young, old. If a man is reviewing a woman who’s a very different, they would give them low marks on various things like I had to leave early and my kid got sick. I know and it’s very annoying when you’re running a business. I say that as a female.

 

 

[00:52:30]

You will have no women. It’s not just child-friendly, it’s child dedicated, its child committed. You have to be. You have to give them leave, okay. When the robots come, it’s not going to be that much of a problem, because they’ll work 24 hours, no food, no kids.

 

Charles:

They’d be perfect every time, right?

 

Faith Popcorn:

Every time, they’re using them in hospital rooms. It’s amazing.

 

Charles:

Yeah.

 

Faith Popcorn:

No worries.

 

Charles:

Last two questions for you. What do you think is the future creativity in the business world? How will it show up? How will it be used?

 

[00:53:00]

Faith Popcorn:

 

 

 

 

[00:53:30]

 

New models. I think that we’re not recognizing creativity when it happens sometimes. Isn’t Bitcoin alternative currencies creative? We’re still looking. Is it a picture or a painting? It’s not like that. New economies, I think new communities. I think people, already there’s a bestie model where you’re moving with your best friend. That used to be called a neighborhood, but this is kind of cool, where you can feel secure. I think that creativity takes on a different cast. It’s not writing a song anymore. It won’t be.

 

Charles:

What’s the future of leadership? What does great leadership look like 10 years from now?

 

Faith Popcorn:

 

[00:54:00]

 

 

 

[00:54:30]

It looks like creating a community that can move forward together under one umbrella, a central belief system. Right now when you say leadership, isn’t that always punishing? It sounds that way, leadership. Why don’t they call it guidership, guiding, helping, embracing, lifting? Our mission is lifting ourselves and our clients into their best future. We sign everything best future. Helping them see their best future and actualize it. Leadership, that’s a male term, you know that? Management also, leadership, management, also how they do ranks in companies, you’re a one, you’re a three, you’re a nine, like get me out of here.

 

Charles:

Do you see a difference between leadership and management?

 

Faith Popcorn:

 

 

[00:55:00]

I do. If I had to use those words, I’d say leadership leaders are creative to figure out where they’re going and be at the head of the army, get their first shot maybe. If they get killed, then they’re in the front. Management is managing the people and back to get to where the leader is going. We are constantly going on these treks around the world. We’re looking at places where the future is leading into the present. Look at that. We brought herbs to Johnson & Johnson, 1972. We put herbs in shampoo.

 

 

[00:55:30]

 

 

 

 

 

[00:56:00]

We invited hot flu medicine, was that so hard? Put it in the microwave. They like, “Well not everybody has a microwave.” I go, “Okay, but they will.” Your grandmother didn’t give you something cold or a pill, she gave you something hot. They want it hot. Simple stuff like that. I think trekking around is really important, looking at stuff, talking to people, not sitting in an office, which is getting less, so people get less sitting in offices. Not working in rigid environments. These are all difficult things though, to accomplish in the old model. Where the old model, where if they don’t make Wall Street happy, and Wall Street is definitely not in this model, so anyway.

 

Charles:

 

[00:56:30]

I tried to wrap every episode with three themes that I’ve heard today. Let me throw these out, if you can tell me where I’ve heard properly or badly. The first thing that strikes me talking to you is obviously you have this relentless curiosity for the way the world works and the ability to see patterns and things, which I think comes from just an open-mindedness to what’s actually happening or rather what people want you to see or any of us to see. Two is clearly a deep interest in humanity and the human condition and what motivates people and what moves people in a real passion for understanding that and helping.

 

[00:57:00]

Third, I think is your unabashed willingness to tell people what you think regardless of whether that, I don’t think you try to offend people, but I think you’re clearly very willing to be honest and straightforward and I think that’s remarkably refreshing.

 

Faith Popcorn:

Thank you.

 

Charles:

I also think it’s the mark of some of the best, did you describe it guiders.

 

Faith Popcorn:

Guiders.

 

Charles:

I’m supposed to say leaders, but I will start to inject the word guiders. I think that’s really powerful.

 

Faith Popcorn:

[00:57:30]

 

 

 

[00:58:00]

Maybe you can come up with something better, but you know what I’m saying, Shamans, sometimes I write to people, “For me, you’ve been a shaman,” because they told me something very, very interesting and they helped me see, people that guide. This is a very difficult ask that we’re talking about right now. It’s impossible, actually. Some will, some won’t, most won’t, but it will not stop being true. It is the absolute truth. Everybody that you talk to, you know it, I know it, we know it, anybody in the room knows it, but then if it means that they have to give up money.

 

 

 

 

 

[00:58:30]

You see the expensive thing about telling the truth is expensive. You have to give up money lots of times. You have to be able to do that. You have to be oppositional in some way. You said, “Do I look for trouble?” I have to give up money. Sometimes people kick me hard. I have become much nicer since I have children, because everybody is a baby. Everybody wants a hug and to be loved. Now, I get that. I’m not so rough.

 

Charles:

We’re all fundamentally joined by the same needs and wants, right?

 

Faith Popcorn:

Exactly, to be approved of, supported, loved, taken care of.

 

Charles:

Yeah.

 

Faith Popcorn:

Maybe you’re going to adopt a kid soon?

 

Charles:

You never know.

 

Faith Popcorn:

You never know.

 

Charles:

Faith, thank you so much for joining me.

 

Faith Popcorn:

My pleasure.

 

Charles:

I really appreciate this fantastic conversation.

 

[00:59:00]

Faith Popcorn:

 

I love meeting you. I had no idea what you’re going to be like. I really had no idea. I don’t know why I said even … they told me. I go, “Yeah, I don’t know, yeah.”

 

Charles:

Well, I’m very glad you said yes.

 

Faith Popcorn:

I’m very happy to meet you. It’s my privilege and pleasure.

 

Charles:

Likewise, thank you very much.

 

Faith Popcorn:

Thank you.

 

Charles:

You’ve been listening to Fearless, The Art of Creative Leadership. If you like what you’ve heard, please rate us on iTunes, it helps a lot. If you want more information on these episodes or any of the others, go to fearlesscreativeleadership.com and thanks for listening.