Anthony Onesto, Future Strong Hero, tells us how
Anthony Onesto, Future Strong Hero
Anthony Onesto Anthony Onesto is an HR futurist, an advisor to
startups, and Vice President for Razorfish, focused on global strategies
for both technology and data science practices
Future Strong Hero Series: Insights from top leaders,
change makers and thought leaders who are creating better,
• • • • • • • • • • •
How do you stay Future Strong? It may sound like a cliché, but it’s being
a people person. I care about people’s needs. I’m empathetic. That’s the
thread through everything I do. It’s the ability to always care, always
have empathy. Always have good intentions towards others, always put
good energy back in the universe. For me, that’s a great foundation.
The second part is to always look for new ways to do things differently.
Keep disrupting yourself, constantly. Get uncomfortable in everything
you do. The minute I start feeling comfortable, I spin myself out of
that situation. That’s why I do a lot of advising for startups.
The third part is to always be creative. Try all kinds of different
things. You may fail at a lot of them, but you’ll learn a lot, quickly.
Do lots of side projects. Things you know nothing about. That’s why
I just created a comic book.
I coach fourth grade basketball. It begins with truly caring about
each one of them, and it’s more about them learning than winning.
That’s a hard balance for someone like me who’s competitive,
but to me, winning is how many of those kids have gotten better
throughout the year. When I see them completely transformed,
that’s incredible. And teaching disruption at a fourth grade level
is helping them see that there’s always many ways to look at things,
and having them learn each other’s positions.
What are the tough choices today’s leaders need to make to be
Future Strong? Leaders need to figure out what innovation means to them.
Tom Fishburne recently illustrated that there are eight different kinds.
At Razorfish, our innovation service, Proto, trains leaders on transformational
Often, when leaders ask for help in innovation, most want a hackathon —
they want an event. But true innovation needs to be built at the edge
of the organization. Most organization’s immune systems will attack
and destroy innovation. Leaders need to be aware of this because
they could quickly be Ubered or Airbnbed — where a disruptive
technology completely reinvents your industry. Like Google X was
built separate from the rest of the organization. Most organizations
are not prepared or willing to take risks completely separate from
an immediate return on quarterly earnings. They’re not developing
moonshots until it’s too late.
Leaders need to choose to be more comfortable with failure. Do you
have the grit to keep moving forward through a bunch of failures?
Leaders need to make more long-term bets, and be supported by their
boards and shareholders in doing so. And often, organizations like
Razorfish can help. Firms like ours can help develop the moonshots,
but they still need a strong leader sponsoring them and sticking
The biggest risk is in doing nothing.
Design thinking our way into a new employee/employer
relationship: About 40% of our jobs will be automated by 2025.
Not just manufacturing, white collar jobs too. Soft skills are going
to become even more important — the things machines can’t do.
The people with those soft skills will be tomorrow’s leaders.
For many years they weren’t. The connections between creativity,
innovation, empathy, and collaboration will increasingly become
more important. I don’t see a difference between people skills
and ops skills — they’re symbiotic.
We need to reinvent engagement within companies, and everything
associated with it. For decades, we’ve been doing annual
performance reviews knowing full well that they created no
increases in productivity, that cost a lot of money, and that
no one liked doing it.
We have to take a new approach to human resources and talent —
more like design thinking, where we design from the needs of the
people doing the work. We’ll design better experiences for
At Razorfish, we reinvented our performance management without
HR people. We began with designers, UX experts. People who
provide solutions for our clients are now turning their microscope
inward, toward ourselves. We’re prototyping a new app that isn’t
ready for sharing yet, but we’re already implementing some of
the methodologies behind it.
If you want to be and stay Future Strong… Continue to reinvent
yourself, disrupt yourself. Do things that make you very
uncomfortable. Stop thinking outside the box. Burn then box!
• The Troika: Empathy, Disrupt Yourself, Creativity
• Build innovation at the edge of, or outside of, the organization
• Burn the box!