Dr. Connie Reimers Hild has always had an uncanny ability to see the future. CEO of Wild Innovation, she now helps entrepreneurs, business owners and leaders leverage fast-changing trends, technology and attitudes for business growth and mission-driven social impact. She works with fast-growing 7 and 8 figure startups and F100 corporations, as well as nonprofits, and we discuss a $7.6 trillion opportunity for women who she believes are best placed to profit from the future.
Melinda Wittstock: Welcome to WINGS. Connie.
Connie Reimers Hild: Thank you Melinda. I am just absolutely super jazzed to be here.
Melinda Wittstock: I am super jazzed to talk to you because you are a futurist and I love that. I just, I get so excited personally thinking about the future, and what it all means and the great potential and the opportunity and there’s so much that’s exciting about the future. But how does one become a futurist?
Connie Reimers Hild: I actually think I was just born this way. I have always in my whole entire life I’ve been able to put strange things together and make sense out of them, but I can also see what’s happening in five to 10 years. And I thought it was something everybody did, when I was in high school, and this was many moons ago, I could see bottled water was going to become a big phenomenon and I told my parents this and they’re like, “What are you talking about?” And sure enough it did. And they’re like, “Oh, we really wished we would have listened to you.”
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Did you start a bottled water company? Come on Connie.
Connie Reimers Hild: I know, well and that’s the kind of thing, the challenge of being a futurist, is you see it happening, that doesn’t mean you always take the right actions to make dime off of it.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, I think it’s so interesting because I think when we have the type of brain that can connect the dots, it’s like pattern recognition. Is that how your mind works, that you can get to this kind of future where you think, well A plus B well, if that’s happening, it’s sort of like a calculus class or something. You get to the point where you think, “Yeah, okay, that’s likely. That’s probably going to happen.”
Connie Reimers Hild: Absolutely. I feel like I’m just a sponge and so you can take in a lot of data and information, but you can also see how science fiction really translates into science fact and many times it’s on the fringe that you can see how the future is shaping. When you talk, I know on your podcast you talk a lot about energy and flow and those types of things. Those used to be very woo-woo.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh God. Yeah, I know, right? And it’s kind of normal. I mean you can have these conversations with a lot of people and they actually understand what you’re saying. I for one, for the first time in my life, don’t feel like a weirdo anymore. Right. So that’s pretty cool.
Connie Reimers Hild: Yeah. It validates your world. And the first time I presented at the World Future Society, I mean there are professional organizations, there’s professional education around becoming a futurist. I thought, oh my gosh, I just found my people. Everybody’s out there and they’re talking about things other people aren’t understanding. The trick has been really to help people understand it like you’re saying. It’s not just you over there talking about it to yourself, but who are the people that help support this and how can you also explain it to others?
Melinda Wittstock: This is true. It’s interesting that there’s actually a course for futurist because I was curious about that because often women, we tend to be playing the waiting game. We’re waiting for someone to anoint us. I don’t know if you’ve watched The Crown. The really, really popular, the actress won the Emmy and everything. Right. So there is Queen Elizabeth and she’s being literally anointed and okay, so now she can be queen and I think we as women do the equivalent, we play this waiting game that someone’s going to come along and acknowledge us at this certain point. Yes, you’ve done the work. Yes, you have the credentials. Yes you can be all these things that you already are. So why do we need people to tell us? That’s why I love that you’re just like, “I am a futurist.”
Connie Reimers Hild: Yeah. And we actually made up that title, and in addition to being an entrepreneur, with my own leadership and strategic foresight coaching and consulting firm called Wild Innovation. I also am the now, Interim Executive Director and Chief Futurist at the Rural Futures Institute, which is part of the University of Nebraska. And literally that was a made up title because I’m like, I don’t know how you’re doing this without a futurist. And that’s the talent and skill I bring.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes, it is. Well, it’s necessary to be a successful entrepreneur I think because you need to see opportunity, right? So the opportunities are in these little intersections where, I don’t know, different trends are colliding or where there’s lack or where there a problem and figuring out a way to fill those, those gaps or just seeing connections that other people don’t see. So I think most entrepreneurs have this kind of intuitive ability to at least see some ways into the future or at least we think we do.
Connie Reimers Hild: No, I think that’s critical. And we see that “futuring” is becoming essential part of leadership of organizational culture. You have all those types of things, but there are methodologies you can use like, looking at your future user, what are the trends out there and do you go with the trend or do you make sure the counter trend is where you’re going? There may be more market value in that, but at the same time it’s also about listening to what you just said, using the tools at hand, your intuition, that inner voice, the longing that you feel and really tapping into those energies as well. So there’s a mindset to it.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, that’s very, very true. And so how do you right now apply your futurism? Tell me a little bit about your company and what you’re doing and I know you’re doing a lot of work in the area of rural, like our rural society.
Connie Reimers Hild: Yeah, absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: What’s the future for rural areas?
Connie Reimers Hild: I love that question. Well, when we look at rural, we look at, of course people think small communities and that’s part of it and there’s a lot of different definitions and we don’t get too caught up in that, but one thing we do know is that our rural communities need some help. I mean they’re shrinking in population and that’s not necessarily totally bad, but we need to know what that future does look like and what does it mean to be thriving and also be small. Because there’s also quality of life factors, in places like the United States, most of our food comes from rural, water comes from rural. The clothes we wear come from rural. So it’s also blending rural and urban together for a more sustainable future for everyone.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that’s so interesting. Well, I mean, I think of the rural areas and where there have been, a lot of challenges like just access to broadband for instance.
Connie Reimers Hild: Absolutely.
Melinda Wittstock: Access to healthy food even though ironically you’re right on farmland, but can’t get a fresh apple, right? Education, resources, hospitals, all these kind of infrastructure things that we need. And yet there’s this lovely simplicity and certainly with entrepreneurialism and with the web and Wi-Fi and all these different things, we can be digital nomads. We can be anywhere, we don’t have to be in big cities anymore. We can be wherever we like.
Connie Reimers Hild: That’s exactly right. So, if the life you want is in a rural setting or an urban setting, we want you to be able to get there and build the life you want. And we’ve been working with partners, for example, like Microsoft, who now have an initiative to connect rural places through broadband and white spaces technology. So, we’re exploring with partners like that what might that look like, to have higher connectivity, but then, what’s the next step?
And entrepreneurship is a huge part of all of this, so we appreciate people like yourselves building these platforms specifically for women. We need more entrepreneurs out there that are female in our rural communities to empower them, and to help them support their families and their communities, because women entrepreneurs do that, and we know that, the research shows us that. And we need to make sure they are fulfilling their dreams and their destiny.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Now, this is really, really true, and I love this journey, or how you’re connecting this, in a way, because I think so many women in business, and certainly generationally, right, for those of us who are in midlife, there were no female role models, there were only male role models. There were, like, just this, I don’t know, this idea that “This is the way it’s done, so fit into this.” And now it seems, what’s so exciting, particularly for female entrepreneurs, is there’s this ability now to just change all that up, and create a business around the life we want to live, rather than us trying to fit into someone else’s life.
Connie Reimers Hild: Absolutely. Yeah, I mean, I’ve been trying to get rid of all my suits with shoulder pads in them.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, I ditched a few of those. Actually, it was very, very funny, because, many, many years ago, in the late 1990s, I was a news anchor, and so, if you remember back on the anchor desk, and you had to have, like, the shoulders with the shoulder pads and all that stuff, so I had like hundreds, like, because, literally, like, being on the air every day, I had to have hundreds of these jackets. I really had to have a funeral for them, you know.
Connie Reimers Hild: That’s a lot of shoulder pads.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, right? I mean, really. I had a lot of them, and they all had to be bright colors and stuff, as well. It was pretty funny.
Connie Reimers Hild: Well, it is funny, and it’s funny to think about that, and, you know, actually women in midlife, that’s really become a new passion of mine, because I’m in that era myself, and I’ve found that, it’s interesting how I think so much of our world focuses on boomers and Millenials, and there’s all these people in the middle, all the Gen X’s, late bloomers, early Millenials, and like, okay, so where’s the help for us in terms of growing our future? What does the next path look like? What does the next step look like?
So, I really, in my work, I’ve created what I call the Inner Leading Coaching Ecosystem, because I do believe leadership comes from within.
Melinda Wittstock: Yes.
Connie Reimers Hild: You know, I just think we need more of that. It’s not the industrial era anymore, where we should want somebody to create a vision for us, and we just all fall in line and we go in that direction. And, you know, in particular, women in midlife, I think, have so much to offer, and they may have been staying at home, they may have been in the workplace, but there’s untapped potential within that space that we really need as a society to wrap our minds around and unleash.
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah, it’s true. When you think of a lot of women who’ve really succeeded big in business, as entrepreneurs, they’ve invariably seen something, like, maybe they were struggling with a problem. Like, I’m thinking of someone like Kara Goldin, who with Hint water is now at the billion dollar mark, which is amazing, in like less than a decade. But in her case, she had a Diet Coke habit, and she was drinking all this Diet Coke, but she was wondering why she felt like she was overweight. She was getting adult acne. I mean, right? She talks about this quite openly, and she was on the podcast talking about that on Wings.
And then, sets out to drink only water, and suddenly, all the weight disappears, everything kind of completely changes for her. She gets bored of drinking plain water and decides to drop fruit in it, and, suddenly, she decides she wants to do this, but she wants to do it in a really healthy way, without any preservatives. So, she figures out how to pasteurize water, when everyone was telling her, like Coke and Pepsi and everybody who were in the water business, right, saying “No, you can’t do that.” She was like, “Watch me, I’m just going to figure it out.”
Right? But that comes from a really personal kind of issue that we’re solving, and I think there’s so much room for innovation like that, that women can really spearhead that, because we see opportunities in industries that men don’t even see, because it’s not their life.
Connie Reimers Hild: That’s right. And there’s just so much simplicity and brilliance in that process, right? I mean, she solved her own problem, but she did it with this helping others mentality. And so, she’s trying to help others live a better life, as well as herself. And I think, you know, creating a very purposeful business that’s driven on purpose like that is the way of the future.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, I think it’s the secret, actually, for women, but also for men, for lots of reasons. I think women gravitate towards businesses where it’s a higher purpose, because I think we struggle with things like asking for money and speaking up and charging our value, pricing ourselves accordingly, all these sort of things we struggle with, but if it’s in the service of a higher mission, it’s much easier, because it’s bigger than ourselves. And so, for women in particular, and I think this is kind of, we’re more often than not, kind of wired this way, we don’t just build businesses to flip and move on without an emotional connection to that business.
So, having a mission, I think, is really big. But, increasingly, it’s good business sense, as well, and men are gravitating this way, because, honestly, you make more money when you have a mission. Your customers know, like and trust you more, and, honestly, they want to buy from companies that have a mission.
Connie Reimers Hild: Absolutely. And I think having that sense of personal fulfillment, I mean, research bears this out. My own research has borne this out. It keeps you motivated. It keeps you on target and on track through the good times but also those challenging times, which we all have.
You know, I remember the first time I went for a five-figure contract for leadership development and coaching to help supplement and grow the strategic foresight of a company, and, I remember just looking at that number for the longest time and thinking, “Okay, can I really ask for this? Is this really…” But I’m looking also at all the work that’s going to go into it, and all the intellectual property and everything else, and like, “Yeah, I’m going to do it.” So we sent it all, and you’re like, “Okay, let’s see how it goes.” You get the phone call back, and you start going through that process. But, I just remember that number getting accepted without even a question, then you’re like, “Oh, I probably should have asked for more.”
Melinda Wittstock: Asked for more, right. That’s so interesting. I was in a Mastermind recently of a bunch of top podcasters, we were all icons of influence at a thing called the New Media Summit, and we were talking at the end of this big conference as part of this Mastermind about what our number was going to be for 2019, and I noticed that all the women, for the most part, were really tentative and stuck to the five and low six figures, whereas the men said, “Right, I’m having a million-dollar year. I’m going to make $2.2 million or like, $3.19,” or like, whatever it was, right? And there were only two of us that were in the seven figures in terms of what we were going to manifest for next year. And I remember being struck by this and saying something about it, like, “Hey, you know, we’re playing too small, come on, you can all do …”
Not from like an ego or competitive kind of thing, but just like, wow, let’s dare, let’s dream bigger, let’s realize, in terms of being futurists for ourselves, right, that we have the ability to manifest much, much more. And I think we’re more comfortable with money when we know that our money, we’re accumulating it so we can do good for people, so we can do good for our families, but also do good for society as a whole.
Connie Reimers Hild: Absolutely. I mean, part of my futuring model is an infinity symbol.
Melinda Wittstock: Ah, nice.
Connie Reimers Hild: Yeah, because it never really ends, right? You’re creating your future, but at the same time, you’re living your present, and so, it never really ends. And one of the pieces of it is that dare. Dare to take that inspired action, go boldly and go big, and don’t be shy about it. We do tend to play small. I think, you know, many of us have been socialized to play very small, and to play a supportive role, you know, so you have to be a bit of a rebel in your own life and your own future, and say, “You know what now? I’m going to go big here, and I’m going to go bold, and I’m just going to do this. You know, if I make it, awesome, and if I don’t, I’m going to come close.”
Melinda Wittstock: Yeah. Oh, gosh, that’s so true. So, I want you to put on your kind of, I don’t know, I’m going to be silly here and say your sci-fi hat, but what do you see as some of the big future trends that we should be looking at right now in our society?
Connie Reimers Hild: Well, I think one thing we’re seeing more and more of is home healthcare. And I don’t mean just somebody coming to a house and taking care of an elderly parent, but more like, Big Hero 6, if you’ve ever seen that, like, your personal healthcare assistant. What might that look like for a robot to be living in your home to tell you, “Are you feeling good today? What’s happening? Here’s what you should be eating.”
You know, you had mentioned earlier, business models are being created around these types of things, so as we get into personalized nutrition, personalized medicine, you know, things like epigenetics, where we know there’s a mind/body connection. We’re no longer tied to our genes, for example, but our thoughts and beliefs shape our health and who we are. What we even look like will be part of this, that micro biome, so, instead of drinking soda, what might it look like to drink water? How does that help our inside, you know, so we are healthier and have that energy? So, I think we’re seeing a lot more of that.
This growth of entrepreneurship and sort of the decentralized marketplace will continue. We have big players, of course, like Amazon that’ll continue to grow in the foreseeable future, but a lot of people are able to build their businesses on platforms like that. And people are wanting this type of experience, right? They’re like, “Hey, you know what? I don’t need to work for a jerk anymore, I can actually take my talent and I can monetize it in different ways.”
And, you know, people aren’t just living to just work, they’re working to live, and it’s a different philosophy around life. And personal fulfillment, health, longevity are all huge marketplaces. AARP recently came out with a report around people 50-plus. That’s actually a $7.6 trillion market right now.
Melinda Wittstock: $7.6 trillion.
Connie Reimers Hild: Trillion, $7.6 trillion. And, you know, you can see some of this growth, right? So, while a lot of marketers have gone to, “How do we engage Millenials and even people younger than that,” you know, a lot of the boomers are the ones buying stuff, or Millenials, children, grandchildren. And, if you think about all the personal care products, and things you do for your well-being and health, you spend a lot of money in that space, if you have the resources.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, my goodness, yeah. And, it’s such an exciting time, actually, in the health space, when you think of the innovations in, say, integrated medicine, right? Like, combining this philosophy of epigenetics, looking at, you know, traditional, but also ancient, or new age, or whatever, and combining these different things. Then, you look at stem cells, and what can be done with those. And you think of all the advances. Then, you compare that, you combine it, rather, with the $7.6 trillion, right?
Connie Reimers Hild: It’s pretty amazing, isn’t it?
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, my goodness. I mean, I’ve been at Masterminds with other entrepreneurs where we’ve literally had this conversation of how long do you want to live? And people say 100, and it’s like, why are you being so limiting? Like, come on, like, we can be 200, right?
Connie Reimers Hild: That’s right. I’m actually on a leadership exchange to Japan later this year, and I’m really excited to go, and part of what I’m going to study there is midlife, but also, longevity. You know, because we know in places like Japan, people are living longer, they’re healthier as they age, so what are they all doing? We have work around that, but that’s not happening in the US as much as it’s happening in other cultures.
Melinda Wittstock: Well, we’re not setting up the infrastructure for it. And certainly, our institutions and political culture are not quite up to that task, right? I mean, when you think of just even where’s the regulation for driverless cars? You know what I mean? Right, these 85-year-old dudes sitting there in the Senate not really right up to speed with a lot of these things for sure, right? So some of these other societies are more kind of long-term thinking, but when you think about it, when you think of your life, living so much longer and much healthier, it’s means you’re going to have multiple careers or be able to do multiple things in your life. There’s going to be all these different seasons and all these different things you can do, so there’s tremendous abundance. You don’t have to do it in any particular order any more, and our economy more and more and more is yes, you’re right. It’s becoming this gig worker economy where we all sort of have to be entrepreneurial in some way.
Connie Reimers Hild: That’s right, because we’re also seeing a decline in those traditional big places to work, large companies, and so as the number of those start shrinking, people do have to live in that gig economy, and what does that look like? How do you make a good life out of that and a good living? And how do you also live your purpose through that lens, because people are now, if you think of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, many people have their basic needs met, so as you move up to the top of that triangle and self-actualization, what if we have a society that lives more in that space?
Now some of that of course depends on the natural resource space, right? What does it look like to make sure we have clean water? If you think about a 20-ounce bottle of soda, it took three times that in the amount of water to make it, so water is a huge space actually. I’ve seen a lot of quotes around. There’s no Silicon Valley for water, so what does that look like? I think women in particular, like you said earlier, they have a unique lens around solutions or these challenges, and entrepreneurship is a great pathway for them to bring those challenges to the market, and to help society at the same time.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh gosh, yes. No, this is so true. So when women show up kind of as entrepreneurs and when you’re thinking about your career and you’re thinking about all the innovation that say is going on in the real space and all these different industries, some of which we’ve touched on, what do you think remain our biggest challenges?
Connie Reimers Hild: I think really listening to our own voice and making sure our voice is bold enough that other people are hearing it.
Melinda Wittstock: Right.
Connie Reimers Hild: Sometimes I think we have such great ideas and there’s such a collaboration that happens, but I feel like we still have a lot of cultures that aren’t embracing that voice and helping it get to the table, but also we need women who are bold enough to kind of shed their traditional norms and go sit at that table and do what they need to do, and ultimately take the leap when they need to take it.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Right, right. I mean, what makes us hold back do you think? Do you think it’s that we fear what other women think about us? Is there something like still in the ether or are we more able to just be in our truth?
Connie Reimers Hild: I think there’s still some of that. I think there’s, the culture still somewhat supports them. I have a daughter and a son, and to me it’s still interesting to see how they’re socialized very differently, and if they go out of the norm of what the expectation is, people start sort of questioning that, right? But I think even gender roles are changing as people don’t even identify with one gender or the other and are more open and fluid around this. It will be interesting to see that all shapes, but there’s some interesting challenges too around the culture in terms of men staying at home, for example, instead of a woman.
Connie Reimers Hild: When I was pregnant for the first time, people would ask me, so do you have to work? Are you going back to work? I loved working. I loved making a living. I loved doing all those things, but no one ever asked my husband that, but I also know women whose husbands have stayed home, and they feel out of place. Who is my network? It’s kind of odd for me go hang out with some other moms. I think it’s helping everyone create that life together and shutting what other people think and not being afraid to go against the grain.
Melinda Wittstock: Mm-hmm (affirmative), mm-hmm (affirmative), yeah. Oh gosh, that’s so true. I remember there used to be this, yeah, this used to be this either or choice, and then it morphed into have to do it all.
Connie Reimers Hild: Yes.
Melinda Wittstock: And then it was have to do it all perfectly, and then we were wondering why we were burning out and stressed and angry, right? And then I think it’s coming to the realization that you can have it all without having to do it all, because there’s this really cool thing called leverage.
Connie Reimers Hild: You know, I so appreciate that you brought that conversation to a global audience because it’s so true. You think about it. I think so many women in our generation were sort of like, okay, get that career, go big, get that education, do all these things, these are the steps you take, and really I think now we know it doesn’t work that way, but I have a lot of friends that didn’t get married, didn’t have kids, didn’t do some of those things. I almost didn’t have kids because I was so career focused, and then you get to this point in your life, you’re like, oh my gosh, I’m so glad I knew life was more than my job or my education.
Melinda Wittstock: Right. Yes, that’s it, so I think it’s such an exciting time. I just want to dial back a little bit as we start to get towards the end of the podcast. I want to kind of start at the beginning a little bit in terms of when did you first know that you were a futurist? Did you know this as a little girl?
Connie Reimers Hild: Actually, yeah, I did. I was a bit of a rebel. I think probably in junior high and high school, it really came out. I was always the person that was questioning a lot of things. Growing up in my town, we went to a church where women can only be secretaries, and I’m actually asking the pastor what is the deal with that? Why is this the case? My dad is standing there going oh my goodness, and I can’t understand this, and he’s like, well Connie, you could always just be a secretary and be helpful, and I’m like, I don’t think I’m wired that way. I was never very good at cooking or baking or any of those traditional things, but I was very good at helping other people and I was very good at seeing what their talents and strengths were, and I was also really good about just envisioning what would be possible.
I think that’s what that futurist mindset really brings. It’s not just one straight path, right? It’s all these different possibilities that are also very plausible, and so being able to help organizations, companies both big and small, and people, help them figure that out has been something I’ve been doing for a long time. It’s just now I’m getting paid for it.
Melinda Wittstock: Ah, that’s wonderful. Yeah. No, that’s really, really great. It’s funny the clues for all of us in terms of what our true super hero powers are often in our childhood. What did you like to do? How did you spend your time? When I work with entrepreneurs who are trying to figure out what’s the ideal business for them and how to get into alignment with their passion and purpose, sometimes the exercise that we do together is just really go back into childhood and see these things, so it’s so nice to see that you’re so connected with it.
Connie Reimers Hild: Yeah. I mean, the patterns are there. That’s just brilliant because they’re there. I was always a huge Star Wars fan. I was always a daydreamer. I was always drawing sort of the rainbows and unicorns of the future. I just didn’t know how to apply that in a way that made sense to me and to help others.
Melinda Wittstock: But you do know, which is wonderful. So tell everybody a little bit about what you’re doing right now, because I’d love to hear just an inside skinny of what’s going on with you and your company and where you’re going, what your big vision is from here.
Connie Reimers Hild: Well, right now I’m wearing two hats. I’m the interim executive director and chief futurist at the Real Futures Institute with the University of Nebraska, but I also have a strategic foresight and leadership firm called Wild Innovation, and I have a blog, Ask Dr. Connie.me that really focuses on women, and Real Futures are really helping rural communities and leaders, specifically in areas like health care, technology, think about what is their desired future and how do we help get them there, and how do we leverage the resources of the university and other partners to do that. I do that same thing in my private practice, but not just focused on rural, so working with a lot of health care systems, hospitals, female leaders in particular, and really thinking about I think empowering women through that lens and doing that, because organizations can talk about innovation and that’s wonderful, but ultimately it’s the people that innovate within those organizations, and so it’s not just about the corporate strategy or structure. It’s about helping people achieve their desired future within that system, whether that be a community or their own personal business.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, that’s wonderful. So Connie, how can people find you and work with you?
Connie Reimers Hild: They can find me on Twitter at Ask Dr. Connie, LinkedIn is also wonderful, or Ask Dr. Connie.me.
Melinda Wittstock: Wonderful. That’s great. Well, I just wanted to thank you so much for putting on your wings and flying with us today.
Connie Reimers Hild: Well, thank you for allowing me to fly with you, Melinda.