Push and Pull of the Future

Aug 12, 2021
Are you creating the future you really want? Are you allowing circumstances to push you towards an uncertain future without a plan?
Don’t wait to be pushed into the future by circumstances outside your control. Learn how to pull the future towards you through the decisions you make in the present. While we can’t predict the future, we can map possible and even provocative futures; determine our preferred future; and then create strategies to pull that preferred future towards today with each decision we make.
The Push of the Future Is Reactionary
In today’s fast-paced world of constant information bombarding us, it is understandable why many are living a life or even running an organization in reaction to what’s happening around them versus actively working towards a vision or plan. What sort of future are we creating though if we are so consumed by “putting out fires” and the immediate concerns of day-to-day operations that we never put effort towards determining and working to achieve strategic, long-term goals or vision? No matter the industry or job, dedicating resources to futures thinking is often a challenge for many. Putting out fires and quick wins often trump long-term thinking and solutions. The quickening pace at which the world moves is only making it more difficult to focus on 10 or even 5 years into the future, thus making it even more important to carve out time to set our sights on preferred futures we have mapped. Only then can we shift from being pushed towards something we may not even want to pulling ourselves towards what we know we want.
When we do plan, we can still experience the push of the future through the use of trends. Annual trend lists are common in most industries and societies. They are fun to some extent because it makes us feel like the hard work has been done for us. (Even a lifelong learner like me appreciates a good set of cliff-notes sometimes!) Trends are often thought of as one of the main ways an organization prepares for the future. Trends are not the future! A trend is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a general direction in which something is developing or changing [1]. Trends are already happening in the present. Planning only around trends is planning with blinders on. Underlying the trends are value shifts that need to be discovered and explored. The trends themselves and the value shifts they represent have implications that reach far beyond any one industry or short set of circumstances. Exploring these value shifts and potential implications both within and outside of one’s industry or realm of thinking is a must in order to remove blinders and see the big picture.
“Trends tend to keep us connected to what is immediate and surrounding us but fail to stretch us to see what is changing, what is emerging, and what is possible.” [2] - Frank Spencer
The Pull of the Future Is Intentional
The future can be created by the decisions we make today, thus, pull the future towards us. For the pull of the future to truly be intentional, two things are necessary, identification and creation. First, discover what the desired future looks and feels like so there is a clear destination. Second, create strategies to get to the destination working courageously and diligently to move towards the desired future.
Strategic foresight principles and tools guide the discovery and exploration of what is possible, creating a preferred vision with resilient, adaptable strategies to achieve it. Giving people and organizations the power to explore the diverse possibilities for the futures builds strong foundations and aides in both managing risk and leveraging opportunity in our complex world to achieve successful outcomes.
Push and Pull on a Continuum
Both ends of the spectrum are important. Sometimes it’s necessary to feel the push in order to experience an urgency to act on the pull. The duality of the push and the pull brings diversity of perspective and engages full use of the imagination to develop future possibilities from the exciting and hopeful to the cringe worthy and frightening. It can be as important to know what is not desired as to know what is.
Trading fear for curiosity opens the opportunity for more possibilities, innovations, and creativity. A great example of this is taking a wicked problem and turning it into a WICKED opportunity. Check out The Wicked Opportunities Podcast as Futurists, Yvette Montero Salvatico and Frank Spencer turn one wicked problem into a wicked opportunity each month.
In the meantime, pay careful attention to reactions, recognize the push, and allow it to engage a desire for the intentionality of the pull. That desire for and anticipation of preferred futures can pull us Forward with hope and maybe even more Joy!
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