New Experiences

That's what we need in futures thinking, being ready to give the previously unexperienced ideas and images a go.

New Experiences
Photo by Nick Fewings / Unsplash

We are currently on a cruise in Norway to see the Northern Lights (deferred three times because of Covid), and to experience some other things this part of the world has to offer like husky sledding and meeting a Sami family and learning about their culture. These are experiences we don't have in Australia but like most travel, once your eyes are open to new experiences that you enjoy for whatever reason, the memories of them remain with you forever.

While I'm not totally sure of the comparison, the same is true when we think about possible futures in new ways. Sometime the thinking process is one you know, sometimes you are exposed to some things that are totally new. I didn't say 'well I've never been husky sledding before' and I'm not going to do it' because this new experience sounded pretty good and it was. I was ready to give it a go.

That's what we need in futures thinking, being ready to give the previously unexperienced ideas and images a go rather than immediately saying ' well, this experience of thinking different and using my imagination is different to how I usually think about futures, and I can't open my mind to let this new information in.'

Because that's what we are saying when these phrases are uttered and what I used to say in reply (summarised) when I heard them in workshops:

Imagining the future is hard work – yes, it is, and that's a good thing. Keep going.
We can't plan for a future without data – yes you can, it's called your intuition (knowledge + experience + beliefs). Keep going.
I can’t imagine the future – yes you can, it’s a basic neurological capacity. Keep going.
I can only project out from today; I cannot make myself believe I'm in a possible future world – that's because you haven't opened yourself up to using your imagination. Keep going.
I don’t want to do this – that’s because you haven’t opened your mind to the deeply held assumptions about futures you accept and those you reject. Keep going.

If you hear yourself or someone else say these words during a futures workshop, they have hit an assumption wall that needs to be challenged. You can read more about assumption walls here, so I won't go into detail here.

This openness to new experiences in the physical world is also critical in our mental world, in our thinking in general, and especially in futures workshops. While I don't say yes to bungy jumping (no, never), I do say yes to new ideas - to explore them and find out more and see how I react to them. I rarely accept my original reaction to an idea (except bungy jumping) until I've pondered why I react positively or negatively.

Some new ideas I dismiss but I don't dismiss them until I have got more information about them (it's called scanning) and only when I've challenged my assumptions about my negative reaction:

*Why do I react like this to this new idea?
*What can't I accept it?
*What assumptions do I need to challenge about this idea - both mine and the assumptions made by the people - or AI - who generated the idea?
*What would need to change for me to accept this new idea?

It is usually okay to say no to a new idea if you have considered questions like these four above - and of course if that new idea is likely to harm humans, society or the planet. Sometimes a new idea just conflicts with our deeply held values, and there are values that are better to maintain rather than let go of to be able to accept that new idea.

Let me know what you think: comment on the Foresight in the Present site if you are a member or on LinkedIn and Facebook where I also post (@mareeconway). Or email me.