No one can accurately predict the future. But that shouldn’t stop you from trying. Whether you’re a business owner aiming to create a long-term strategy (think 100-years-in-the-future type of strategy) or a non-profit organization eyeing distant longevity, you can benefit from thinking like a futurist.
What is a futurist? According to the preeminent futurist Nikolas Badminton, it’s all about “building anticipatory capabilities that explore the signals of change and impactful trends, strengthen strategic planning, and deploy foresight.” A futurist employs imagination, creativity and fearlessness to reach 100, 200, even 500 years in the future, exploring possibilities and crafting responses to those potentialities.
If you’re curious how that can help your business, organization or personal life, consider the following three reasons.
Prepare for All Potentialities
When the sky looks grey, you leave home with an umbrella. This is a typical example of short-term future planning, and most of us – barring those who prefer to wear rain jackets – do it intuitively.
Thinking like a futurist extends this impulse further, roping in your imagination, creativity and bravery along the way. An organization that thinks like a futurist can embrace the possible futures ahead, whether they include technological advancements, macroeconomic swings, disruptive global events or shifting attitudes in the workplace. Just like that umbrella, your strategic foresight will shield you from the worst impacts.
Benjamin Franklin once famously said, “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” That was roughly 300 years ago, but it will continue to be relevant 300 years in the future.
Be an Active Participant, Not a Passive Recipient
There are few “sure things” in business, but here’s one: the future will happen. While you can’t control the shape and direction of the future, you can control your relationship to it.
Essentially, there are two ways you can greet the future:
- As a Passive Recipient: In this case, you react to changes as they arise. A global pandemic (like COVID) might upset or unbalance your organization; an economic downturn might rip through your budget; a new disruptive company in your industry might render you an obsolete incumbent. In any case, you’re fighting on the rope, desperately trying to block punches.
- As an Active Participant: In this case, you lead the charge. Having envisioned and prepared for countless permutations, you spin a global catastrophe into a market advantage; you weather economic dips; you are the disruptive force in your industry, doggedly marching everyone into the future.
Which one do you choose? The answer is straightforward.
Make the Future Work for You Now
There’s a common misconception that futures planning only pays dividends down the road. By planning 200 years in the future, some might think, you waste precious resources right now. That’s simply untrue.
You can make the future work for you in the present. Part of futurism is prioritizing creativity, imagination and innovation in your organization by democratizing thought. You pull people up, giving them the space and encouragement to voice their ideas. These tenets of futurism can make you a competitive force in the talent market. They can boost your company culture. And the insights you glean from this open marketplace of ideas can hone your organization’s competitive edge.
If you’re interested in thinking like a futurist, consider working with a futurist keynote speaker at your next conference or hiring a futurist consultant.