An interview with Yvette Montero Salvatico, co-founder and Principal of Kedge
Yvette is one half of Kedge. She met Frank Spencer at a conference and finding they were like-minded on foresight and seemed to be in the right place at the right time, they decided to set up a company with a mission to ‘democratise the field of foresight’. For them foresight is not an activity, not a department but a way of seeing the world – it’s a competency that describes, and creates, a culture: ‘Foresight is the operating system in everything we do’ says Yvette’.
It’s not surprising that Yvette describes foresight in this way when you understand that she comes from a Human Resources background. Actually, she started in finance but following a reorganisation she found herself in the HR/Future of Work field within Disney. Strategic planning had existed on excel spreadsheets and models worked on historical data. She knew the planning process was too focussed on the past. So she brought to the company a new way of thinking, a new future perspective and spent years doing outreach to other departments and introducing them to usefulness of Foresight.
Eventually she left Disney to pursue a more entrepreneurial path. Disney had started her off on this road but as so often within corporate structures, below the diversity of the employee base, there’s still a lack of real diversity of thought. She still works with Disney and is incredibly complementary about the organisation, the people and the culture there. But working on the outside, as an external partner, she thinks helps her help them leverage external partnerships to increase diversity. Why is this important? “Because Bill Frew and Andy Bird started this work at Disney not as an initiative, this is about culture change”.
Since Yvette and Frank set up Kedge they have trained 500 leaders across the globe and have embedded foresight into the culture across numerous businesses. The impact is already visible. The team they worked with in Russia completely revamped their 5 year planning process. In Latam, within a politically volatile environment, foresight practices revealed that Disney needed a Govt relations position, and the strategic foresight process which evidenced why, helped persuade the Executive to sign off the budget for a hire. Now they are working with HR and People teams to work out what the future of HR looks like. And in China, the team is developing an internal training programme with the ambition to train every leader in Disney.
It’s clear to see that what Yvette does with her strategic foresight skills, and the foresight skills that she creates in others, is to effect real change and achieve impact organisationally and culturally across businesses.
One of the interesting developments her work has lead to is the power of personal foresight. Training people in foresight in a corporate environment inevitably leads to people using foresight to explore their own career development. As she says: “You can’t think of organisational competency until you support the leaders for this shift”, and “If you ask of the organisation, ‘What are the desired outcomes?’ the reply has to be ‘How are you measuring success?’ that has to come down to your true potential and the value of it. We’re creating individuals who are creating the future”
“Standing behind a podium and showing how clever you are is not foresight…the job is to help other people understand the assumptions and biases they hold. To really move the needle we’re giving individuals a new perspective, showing them that the future is something you can control and direct”. She uses the example of a Disney employee who she has trained in foresight and who went onto research the future of food and has now started up an urban food planning business of his own. His mission? To reimagine the future of food in India’
This is powerful stuff.
And it’s damn useful. Clearly, Kedge identified a gap in training programmes: the practical application of foresight is where the rubber hits the road for corporations.
The Kedge Futures School offers a 3 day programme, they make the foresight tools accessible and usable and take the participants through from theory to making it practically work. There is so much demand for this, that Yvette is looking at licensing the training, especially to female futurists. She talks animatedly about Wilhelmina Linell, an entrepreneur, whom she is just about to jet off to meet in South Africa. In the true spirit of ‘democratising the field of foresight’ she is aiming to replicate the work across more diverse regions or demographies, to reach out to as many people of all colours, ages and gender as possible.
Yvette is inspiring in many ways but perhaps the most impressive thing about her is the way that she helps others be inspired and inspiring: how she helps them find their future paths and future passions. Yvette spots potential, and then helps others find potential in themselves and in the world around them. It’s a gift that is as magical as Disney itself. And one that is clearly passed down in the family through her mother and her grandmother.
Before we depart, she tells the story of how her Grandparents were thrown in jail in Cuba and how her mother came to the US on her own when only 15, with nothing but an overnight bag and a flamenco costume. Her mum’s her hero and you can see from where she gets the gift of unleashing potential. Equally, her daughter is channeling this gift in a future-focused way through her passion for sustainability.
Yvette’s gift is that she recognises that the future is nothing external, the future lies inside an individual and seemingly it is her role to release it. And in a 21st Century automated world whose impact is yet to be really felt, Releasing The Futurist Within feels like a pretty future-proofed skill to have.
You can connect with Kedge at Kedgefutures.com or follow @ysalvatico and @frankspencer