Wouldn’t it be great to be able to see around corners, to view the future with the benefit of hindsight, and to anticipate the next big thing? Unfortunately, time travel is yet to be invented but the very fact that we can imagine its existence suggests that someday it might. In the meantime we have to make do with our imagination, creativity and intuition to create future landscapes worthy of becoming the foundations to works of fiction. In our spare time, many of us devour the creations of such literary geniuses as Douglas Adams, Margaret Attwood, Orson Wells, Ursula K LeGuin and Stanislaw Lem (to name but a few), and marvel in hindsight at their, sometimes chilling, predictive accuracy.
And then we go to work … our creativity shrivels, our imagination stays at home for a duvet day, and our intuition is placed through a self-inflicted polygraph at every turn. Our organisational planning processes march on in a predictable battle formation of objective, sequenced activity; evidence based analysis, limited quality dialogue, and future outcomes based upon historic benchmarking.
We produce an extended and augmented view of the as-is – and we all know that stability is an illusion – don’t we?
Where we do genuinely consider the future, we typically take a narrow slice of it (around an emerging issue that we are already aware of) and attempt to predict outcomes, forecast impact and mitigate risks. All being well our prediction turns out to be ‘nearly right’ although typically we’ve focused on the wrong narrow slice in the first place! To add insult to injury, our strategic response to the prediction is often fear driven – let’s not lose sight of the fact that the creator of the first prototype of a digital camera, Steve Sasson, was told by his employers to keep the technology under wraps – Kodak had its own ‘Kodak moment’ and missed it!
I’d like to invite you to your very own futurological congress. Suspend reality; imagine the future, play in its sandpit and perceive the strategic choices potentially available to you. Move away from predicting and forecasting (for some of the time) and ponder plausible, challenging futures … interrogate them for the opportunities they potentially present. Children learn through play and, through playing in the future, you and your colleagues can learn lots about one another, the context within which you operate, and the possible paths that context may take. The insights generated drive a far deeper and more meaningful strategic dialogue and shift individual and team thinking forever. And who knows, you might just stumble across an insight, a ‘Kodak moment’ if you will, with the courage and insight to create the future!