When I think about people’s response to future thinking, I often divide the world into 3 kinds of people:

  • Wing It People – These are people who wake up every morning and take it as it comes. They make do with what they’re presented, and do what they must to make it work.
  • God It People – These people believe a higher power is in charge of their destiny, and they live via a combination of divine insight into what’s coming next and/or an acceptance of what actually comes.
  • Create It People – These people think the future can be seen/guessed and build multiple scenarios in order to create/prepare for the coming world.

When it comes to future thinking I’m not certain any of them are better off than the others, and it probably makes sense that at different times, it’s easier to be one than the others.

I’m a ‘Create It’ kind of person. One of my influencers is William Gibson, who according to Wikipedia:

is an American-Canadian speculative fiction writer and essayist widely credited with pioneering the science fiction subgenre known as cyberpunk. Beginning his writing career in the late 1970s, his early works were noir, near-future stories that explored the effects of technology, cybernetics, and computer networks on humans—a “combination of lowlife and high tech” — and helped to create an iconography for the information age before the ubiquity of the Internet in the 1990s. Gibson notably coined the term “cyberspace” in his short story “Burning Chrome” (1982) and later popularised the concept in his acclaimed debut novel Neuromancer (1984). These early works have been credited with “renovating” science fiction literature.

He first got my attention with his well known quote,

The future is already here – it’s just not evenly distributed.

I instantly grabbed hold of it. It suggests that our ‘near future’ world already exists. Somewhere, someone is currently tinkering away in a garage, or a secret lab, or working closely with a visiting Alien, with things that are going to influence our world. it just hasn’t been rolled out, or as Gibson says, isn’t ‘evenly distributed’.

Every now and then I’m asked to speak at a conference around future thinking and scenario planning. Somewhere early on in my presentation, I pull this Gibson quote out. It’s an important mental foothold. If you can embrace it, then our job isn’t even to wildly guess at plausible alternate futures, it’s simply to do the work of finding those weak signals emanating from that garage, that lab, or finding the invisible relationship someone has with a visiting Alien.

The Future Thinking Organisation

In the 90’s, Peter Senge and colleagues coined the term, ‘Learning Organisation’. It’s defined as:

A learning organisation is a company that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself

I’m an advocate for everyone being empowered to think about the future. Their own future, their company’s future, their country’s future, and the world’s future (perhaps we wouldn’t be in such a global mess if we did a little more thinking about the future we’re currently ‘evenly distributing’?)

I often why we don’t spend more time teaching people to think about the future? What if we did? What if we created Future Thinking Organisations? What might happen if we empowered more people with frameworks, techniques and tools to think about the future we’re going to meet? Surely it’s always better to have more people thinking about the future than less people?

It’s 2018 and if it hasn’t been done yet, I’d like to coin the term ‘Future Thinking Organisation’.

A future thinking organisation is a company that facilitates the future thinking of its members and continuously transforms itself

It sounds like a smart move to me.

Barrie is a business keynote speaker, specialising in Future Thinking, Change, Disruption and Generational Theory