Welcome to Throw Forward Thursday. We’re in the middle of a mini holiday series, and in the fourth of the series, we’re going to be talking about future backwards thinking. If we want to get everybody in our team thinking about the future, thinking about the way in which the future might be different from now. One of the biggest problems that we face is that when we look at the future, we always look at it through the lens of what’s possible now. And what we don’t do is we don’t jump into the future and ignore the constraints of the present and then see what’s possible.
So we always constrain our thinking. One of the ways that futurists get over this is that we ignore how we get to the future. We try and jump into the future and then look backwards on our present reality. One of the fun ways to do that is to pick a date in the future. I like to pick 2050.
We are closer to 2050 than we are to, by the way, but it’s sort of far enough in the future to be a long way away, but not that far. If you actually look back at the 1980s, many people can remember them. If you’re too young to remember them personally, you at least have got the picture listening to your parents or watching movies. And what you can ask is what was crazy about the world of the 1980, the world in which you only had three or four TV channels and no remote control.
When you used to go to the video store to rent movies.
And you also rented a video machine as well where you didn’t have mobile phones and all the phones were tethered to the wall via a cable. When your parents went off to work, you couldn’t contact them during the day, and certainly not while they were commuting. I tell my teenage and young adult daughters that they will never know the pain, the absolute horror of phoning a boyfriend or a girlfriend. And the dad answers because there’s only one phone in the house. Of course, if we think about the workplace looking back to the 1980s, that was the era of Fax machines.
And when photocopy machines were just coming in, some of you will remember the Romeo stat, and you can then begin to realise just how far we’ve come with desktop, laptop computers, mobile phones, the Internet, the World Wide Web. All of that has happened in that time period. Now jump forward to 2050 and look back on ourselves and ask the same question. Do the same exercise. What might be crazy about the world that we live in now?
And of course, you might want to ask that question about the industry in which you work. What’s crazy about the way in which you work right now when looked at from the future, that future backwards perspective does two things. The first is it gives you a good place to start when you’re wanting to think about innovation and change and disruption. And maybe where you should focus some of your efforts. Some of the things that are crazy about here’s a good example.
We look back from the 2050s and we think rush hour traffic that must have been one of the dumbest things that human beings ever did. We know from covert experience now that many of us can work from home. And even if you’d like to go into the office a few days a week or maybe a few hours a day, don’t let all go in at exactly the same time. What’s rush hour traffic about? Let’s sort that out.
Right? And looking at the perspective from the future backwards, we say, well, that’s an easy thing to fix. Create flexible hours. Get your people coming into the office in a staggered way. We sort the traffic problem out.
So there’s one way of thinking about it. The other reason to do this thinking is that what it does is it removes the constraints of current reality. It gets you to stop saying, well, we can’t do that. Our industry won’t let us. Our bosses won’t let us.
We don’t have the infrastructure. We don’t have the technology. It won’t work. You ignore those conversations and you push yourself like we spoke about last week to have ridiculous ideas, ideas that open up your imagination. And, yes, maybe they’re not right this year possible.
But you open your imagination to what could be, and then you begin to see what you want to do in slightly different ways. So future backwards thinking is something that we’re trying to do in our throw forward Thursday studio by throwing you into the future. Not really worrying how we get there, but sparking your imagination about what’s possible. We hope that whenever you watch our throneful with Thursday videos, you are transported into a world that opens up your thinking today about what might be possible. And it might be more than you thought.
Thanks again for watching. Throw Forward Thursday. I hope you’re enjoying this miniseries next week we’re going to talk about don’t just rebuild. We’re going to tell you what’s to do. Instead, I’ll see you next week.
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Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change. Chat to us about booking Graeme to help you Re-Imagine and upgrade your thinking to identify the emerging opportunities in your industry.
For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.