Our futures are not real yet, but we care deeply about them. Well, maybe there are different degrees of caring, but in her recent keynote address at the Dubai Futures Forum, Amy Webb reminded me that this is one of the reasons that draws people to Futures and Foresight work. She is right but for me, the need to accept responsibility for future generations was a more particular reason to give up one 28-year career to find my way in the global futures conversations. I wrote about this here.
We all care about our futures which is why we think about and plan for them every day. But what exactly does that mean for us, as individuals and collectively? In our lives and our organisations. And what does it mean for our planet? It's wonderful to care about our futures, but caring is pointless without some form of action - small, a bit bigger or really big!
If this was a speech or a workshop, someone would ask me to give an example of each type of action. And I would refuse and push it back to them, by asking them if they care about our futures, what action can they take now to ensure those futures are as sustainable, equitable and inclusive as possible? Are you happy to let our futures emerge, or do you want to ensure that our individual and collective action today generates a future that is not more or less a continuation of today, tweaked a little around the edges?
We need to ask ourselves the question - what do our futures need from us today? And the only way to answer that question is to begin to understand the power of our foresight when it is used consciously. The Futures field is now talking about impact, experience, and embedding futures work in our societies which is needed but this embedding begins with each of us realising we have an innate foresight capacity that is wired into our neural systems, and that we can surface and apply to the challenges we face today.
How? Understand how our worldviews work, make challenging assumptions a habit and actively seek to develop what is often called a futurist mindset - but I think that a more inclusive term is a foresight mindset, futures oriented, open and inclusive, seeking out new perspectives on how our presents can shape our futures. This is a mindset underpinned by that question: what do our futures need from us today?
This will take time, and it often hurts your brain, but I know the benefits of opening our minds to alternative futures through expanded and deeper thinking will help us find alternative presents where we identify new actions to take. It's worth the effort to find and articulate the futures we care about so that we can face the present with new thinking and new actions to move towards those futures.
I've decided I'm not going to use the term 'strategy' anymore. I think it's the new strategic planning, becoming too formulaic, directing people through a defined process, constraining our futures thinking and rejecting anything that is not data-based and measured, and that essentially reinforces the present. I'm going to simply use actions now. We can have a set of actions we want to take that help us to ensure that our present is what our futures need. Of course, there is a little more to it than just actions, but strategy isn't our goal. Working out what our futures need so we can act differently today is.
As always, comments welcome.