A story about how we think about ‘the future’

A little story about two ways to approach thinking about futures.

A story about how we think about ‘the future’

A quick note. I have a particular aversion to the term ‘the future’ because it infers there is a single future, a linear future that is going to emerge no matter what we do today. We forsake our agency, we assume a single pathway to the future and then wonder why nothing changes. This is the easy way to think about futures.

There is always more than one future — and accepting that is the biggest challenge we have in anticipating and preparing for the futures that are emerging today. Accepting multiple futures means hard work though, a whole new way to think about what’s coming and what it means for you and your organisation.

This is a story about why we need to forget about ‘the future’ and all the things we do today that lull us into the false sense of security it provides.

The future is coming. It’s watching you. You can’t see it, but you know it’s there. You can feel it.

Every so often it pops up to remind you of its presence. It says — look what I can do, look how I can surprise you if you’re not looking for me, if you don’t care about me.

It chortles: I can change your nice, comfortable world overnight.

And then it reminds you: You really ought to pay attention to me before it’s too late. You have been warned.

So are you the future’s victim?

Too busy, overwhelmed with the short term, caught up in the run around of conventional business thinking, stuck in the status quo? Comfortable in your comfort zone?

Every time the future comes into your world uninvited, do you look like this? You might be heard to mutter: I didn’t see that coming, or that was a surprise.

And when you’ve recovered from your surprise, you go back to doing what you’ve always done, trying to manage the surprises with old thinking. You continue to ignore the future, hope it will go away or assume the future will be more of today, with more technology.

The alternative to this business-as-usual mindset?

You know the future well, you’ve studied it since you found out it was watching you. You don’t like being watched. You know its weaknesses and its strengths. You are prepared for its coming.

You know there are many paths to the future, some good, some not so good for your organisation. You know that your decisions and choices today matter. You recognise and accept your agency for understanding the range of futures that might emerge.

You can feel your brain hurting, but you know that’s a good thing. You know you are starting to see the world differently, to understand that looking for ‘the future’ is a dead end.

You want to help your organisation see the future in multiples too. You create a futures ready culture for your people so they can escape the tyranny of strategic planning to imagine possible futures.

And you care about the long term. You care about being a good ancestor to future generations. You know every decision you make today has an impact downstream into the future.

You are ready for the future, prepared.

Together, collectively, you are the ones who will help us avoid becoming the future’s victims.