A Futurist is someone who… intentionally builds the capacity to see and understand the implications and meaning of change.
This is the definition that our team at TomorrowToday prefers. And we believe that you need a lot of them in your business: futurists, futurologists, future-focused people – whichever label you prefer – are necessary at every level and every point of our businesses these days, to help us, well, “build the capacity to see and understand the implications and meaning of change” in their part of the organisation.
We should all be futurists.
How do you do this?
We have created a “future-focused toolkit” to help people develop some practical tools and skills in order to be able to bring the value that futurists can bring to your organisation. Very simply, here they are:
- Switch Your Radar On: See – A radar looks beyond what we can see with our naked eyes; it looks beyond the horizon. In business terms, we need to spend some time with our teams looking not just at what comes next (our current reporting period and our next budgeting and planning cycle), but at what happens after that as well. In companies we have assisted, many teams have started a “five minute from the future” segment in their weekly team meetings. On a rotation basis 2 or 3 people give bullet-point insights into key trends that could impact your organisation in the near to mid-term future. After even just a few weeks, teams report a much higher engagement with trends and disruptive change, and indicate that their teams have a heightened awareness of the world around them and an eagerness to contribute to innovation and change management conversations.
- Be More Curious – Ask Better Questions: Seek meaning – Management guru, Peter Drucker, said: “If you don’t ask the right questions, it doesn’t matter what your answers are”. We have a view that leaders are the people who have the answers. But actually, leaders today need to be much better at asking the right questions. In fact, we all need to be better at doing this, and our organisations need to encourage and enable us to do so.
- Collect Frameworks: Understand – To make sense of a complex world, we need to develop shared vocabulary and frameworks with our teams. For example, in “switching on your radar” we suggest using TomorrowToday’s TIDES of Disruptive Change framework. This framework identifies the five most disruptive forces that will shape our world in the 2020s: technology, institutional change, demographic shifts, environmental issues and social values. Using these five areas as a lens to look at the future provides focus, intent and understanding. Other frameworks that we find useful include the Enneagram for understanding personality diversity, Dator’s Laws of the Future and a framework for Adaptive Intelligence taken from micro-biology.
- Experiment more: Intentionally builds – We believe that building a culture of experimentation is one of the most important building blocks of success right now. Companies that do not experiment will not be here by the end of the 2020s. We need to create a culture that experiments – not huge big experiments that could blow your business up, but a culture where everyone in the business is experimenting all the time with small things. We need to encourage and require our staff to experiment all the time. They should be looking for things that are frustrating, irritating, time-consuming, baffling, and they should try other ways of doing them. This obviously means we have to become more comfortable with failure. Some experiments will produce great results, others won’t, and we need to be happy with that. More than merely accepting it, we need to build systems that actively encourage it.
- Embrace Diversity: Implications – An important aspect of innovation culture is having lots of different opinions and lots of different viewpoints on the same issue. Organisations that are getting innovation right almost always are also doing well in creating diverse teams, and in developing leaders and their team members in their ability to manage and get the most out of diversity. Diversity is not just about race and gender – it’s also about personality, experience, academic achievement, age, language, ability/disability, sexual orientation, religion and more. The more diversity you build into your system, and the more confident and competent people feel in expressing their unique viewpoint and insights, they more likely you are to build a fertile soil for innovation to grow in.
- Unlearn: Change – It was the futurist, Alvin Toffler in his seminal book, “Future Shock” who wrote (way back in 1972 by the way): “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” He’s absolutely right.
This toolkit is just a start, but it’s a good start. We all have to develop a new set of skills to help us contribute and navigate the future successfully. For more information on how our team at TomorrowToday can help your team develop these skills and mindsets, please contact us now.