Strategic Futurists; Value Systems Specialists

Events

Keeping your Future, grounded to Reality

Monday 18 November 2013

About once a week I get a call from a client or a media group asking if I can tell them what the future will be like. The conversation usually goes something like this - Me: can I ask what you're trying to discover? Journalist: Oh you know, something really catchy, about how the world is changing and how we're all struggling to keep up, that sort of thing'; Me: Is your audience interested in knowing how to check whether their assessment of the future is grounded in reality, or what they can do to make it reality?'; Journalist 'Um, I guess but I was really after a few interesting facts...'. With the client calls the request can often be couched in a need for a 'prediction' of the future. The challenge is over the difference between a theoretical future and a strategic future.

With a Theoretical future, you get the big, exciting, techno frenzy world where everything is really cool, or disastrously bad. Journalists are ringing for a view of the future, they're ringing to get you to do the creative thinking they couldn't be bothered doing. With clients though, it's more down to a misunderstanding between the difference of the theoretical future v Strategic Future approach.

The Strategic Future is about keeping your assessment in contact with the actions you are going to take tomorrow, to make the future you envisage more (or less) likely. It requires a different tool kit and a need for the Project team to be open to an answer they weren't expecting.

A case study of sorts involves one client I worked with across a four year period. From the outset they told us what answer they were looking for. From the outset I kept saying 'let's see what the research uncovers'. In the end we identified three core opportunities for them. One was well outside what they expected and it was the single biggest opportunity that existed - it STILL exists a couple of years later, as an untapped one. The second was an opportunity that was the OPPOSITE of what their other internal research (from HQ overseas) had advised. In looking at much of the same data but adding one extra filter, we exposed the mythology. What was proposed was a theoretical future idea but in order for that to be a plausible one, almost all competitors would need to have vacated the market. The final one, and one they acted on, led to them NOT pursuing an idea that was well underway. It saved them any, many millions of dollars chasing a pipe-dream.

Strategic Futures is about taking action toward the world you want to create. It doesn't offer a guarantee, yet through testing your views of the future, you can make a much wiser decision. Theoretical futures are often entertaining and eye opening. They just don;t lead to much change in behaviour. That's why I don't do them - I prefer working with people who want to make it happen, not just dream about what might happen. Journalists, please keep that in miond next time you call :-)


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