I attended the Innovate-Columbus event recently and the speaker Bob Johansen, from Institute for the Future, struck me as particularly interesting. He is a ten-year forecaster and author of Get There Early – Sensing the Future to Compete in the Present, and Leaders Make the Future – 10 New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World. A forecast is a provocative story from the future that provokes insight in the present.
He offered the following process to help us understand how to use the work of a futurist:
- Gain Foresight by sensing provocative futures
- Gain Insight by making sense of the foresight to inspire strategy
- Take Action
Because we live in a time of extreme uncertainty with the rate of technological change combined with the level of global interconnectedness, following a futurist gives me tools to prepare for different possible futures. I generally create 3 – 4 scenarios, a best case, a likely case, a worst case, and possibly a wild card or highly unlikely event happens. A skilled futurist will take a specific approach to scenario creation that is a combination of art and science and well beyond the scope of a blog post. Understanding future forecasts is a key skill for an innovative leader.
Following are some of his forecasts:
- Digital natives will create a very different world (young computer savvy kids)
- Reciprocity based innovation in “the cloud” will be the biggest faith and innovation opportunity in history
- Technology is just an amplifier. What is most important: they kind of organizations and super organizations that will become possible
- New large scale commons will kindle more innovation and more people will get engaged
- The more connected we become, the safer, the more powerful, the more free we will be – but the more dangerous it will be
- Reciprocity based innovation will require faith in the future: You will have to give things away in the faith you will get more in return
- The next big economic driver will be biology and the global well-being economy
I would like to respond to the item in the list that struck me as most interesting personally, reciprocity based innovation. While I have not used this term, as he described it, I do this in my life in a small way. This blog is a reciprocity based tool. I am providing information free of charge with the hope that it leads to future business for me. Additionally, it is a way to return value for value in that I get a great deal of information from credible blogs. So as a person who runs a business, I need to ask the question, how will this trend impact my business? Can I gain an advantage? If I do nothing, will I be hurt? What scenarios will I build to incorporate this concept into my business? One thing I know, a colleague writes a very successful blog and he recently got a book deal based on his writing. He gave the information away and is now also able to sell it. If you have not seen it, check out the thoughtLEADERS blog. I write and publish papers in an online leadership journal, Integral Leadership Review. One possible scenario is that I will get great exposure and this will help meet my business goals.
In an era where many people struggle to find the larger meaning in life, beyond work and family and building a retirement account, the idea that reciprocity allows me/us to create a greater sense of meaning. The flip side, what if the investment of time and talent does not come back to me in the way I want it to? That could be one of my scenarios – people read my articles and think I do not know what I am doing or that I am too academic.
To keep the example short, we will work with these two scenarios. Given what I have written, I realize I need to gather the feedback of my readers and learn from their opinions to ensure my investment in writing papers creates a positive impact on my business.
Do you see any trends in this list that resonate with you? How do you use the data to make better decisions in your personal and professional life?
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Photo credit: Hobo
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