Are you prepared for the unexpected?
"We will never be able to solve the problems of tomorrow with thinking of today" - Albert Einstein
In one of Steve Jobs key notes, he said something that has stuck in my mind ever since. He said that if he asked consumers what they expect, foresee or like a phone to do, Apple would never had invented the iPhone!
This is very true. If you reflect on the past century, the disruptive technological change has not been developed within the technology sector itself, but it was the result of other factors that driven change, from education, demography, politics, environment, media and wealth. Therefore, you can't build tomorrow's digital product and experience based on today's or yesterday's information only.
In my several years working within the IT strategic and portfolio development arena, I have relied heavily on my own as well as other market specialists in understanding and anticipating technological trends as well as impact of other social, consumer, environmental and other factors. I always wondered what to call those whose sole work is to anticipate, predict and think of possible future outcomes of human technological, social and environmental developments.
As you might have expected, in recent times they have been officially coined as Futurists and Futuring/Futurism is even now taught as an academic discipline across many universities, academia and trained on within organizations.
As it can be tought, Futuring is not for the few with a special talent but it is a knowledge that can be very beneficial to all Digital Consumers. Why?
As mentioned in my previous blog on the "Digital Intelligence", to succeed in the digital world, we all, as digital consumers, need to have the cognitive flexibility and critical thinking to understand and of course better to anticipate change and embrace it. This is where Futuring can help by providing you a systematic way to be able to anticipate future change and ensure you have sufficient time to prepare mentally, physically and of course organizationally and technologically to ensure you as a consumer or producer of technological products are riding the wave of that change as a early adopter and maverick rather than a laggard.
So, what are the steps you need to make you a "Futurist" and be prepared for the unexpected?
Based on my experience, research from the market place as well as the recommendations from the World Future Society, I suggest the following 5 steps:
1- Open all your Windows: The idea here is to start looking at the present world with its events, trends and experiences as the window to possible future outcomes. Therefore, you should be scanning and monitoring it more closely and capturing information that you may be previously overlooked. An option is as well to "experience hitchhike" with someone allowing you to see the world also from their windows, experiences and views.
2- Take as many showers as you can: The idea here is to perform as many brain showers as you can across few months to come up with as many hypothetical futures / assumptions as you can in order to prepare for more or less anything. These can be done alone or even as part of group of friends, family or coworkers.In these showers, just write the future and/or assumption. Don't try to analyze the future/assumptions or their consequences at this moment in time.
3- Direct your own Movie: The idea here is to create various scenes or scenarios that can be created based on the futures/assumptions you wrote before then test them rigorously through living every scenario / scene and capturing all the information you can while experiencing the scenario / scene. Ensure to cover different variations, from ones that have the current status quo continuing in the future, to things getting considerably better or stunningly well, to things getting considerably worse or terribly wrong. You can use models such as gaming, modeling & simulation or visioning to help you in this activity (if Movie is not your "cup a tea")
4- Build your ultimate Domino: The idea here is to build from the information and variations you have directed the different scenarios/scenes that compound and rely on one another. Each different sequence should be captured as a possible future.
5- Be your own Enemy: The idea here that as a futurist you need to relentlessly critical of your assumptions and assume that if you were your worst enemy, what would you find as wrong with your assumptions, scenarios and futures accordingly. Once you’re done coming up with wild-eyed scenarios, try to tear apart your own work. This will make your predictions stronger and more plausible.
Preparing for the unexpected is not anymore just for a small number of people. Futuring can be learnt, acquired and practiced by anyone. In the digital world, doing it at on an individual level or at scale in an organization is key to be able to make better decisions, greater innovations and discoveries and an improved future.
For the next 100 days, as a digital consumer, why don't you choose 1 or 2 events, trends or problems in your digital world, capture the possible futures and start building scenarios to guide your future in these areas. As an organization, identify a product that you like to see its future, and develop effective foresight through Futuring to challenge the possible, understand the future and guide your digital product's future to potentially better fit the future needs, challenges and possibilities.