Thinking usefully about the future
The latest issue of Business 2.0 has an interesting piece on how the Institute for the Future (IFTF), one of the oldest future-watching organizations, is creating “artifacts from the future” – physical manifestations of things that may come to pass – to help its clients understand the convergence of current trends and their impact. The article says that IFTF’s clients don’t have the time or mindspace to trawl through the annual 10 year forecasts that are its trademark, thus the creation of more tangible outputs. Alex Soojung-Kim Pang of IFTF believes its clients’ supposed lack of inclination to read reports is overblown, but there is no question that some of the IFTF’s outputs are pretty cognitively dense, and we can all see the attention span of senior executives whittling away year by year. Future Exploration Network will be applying a wide variety of ways of engaging our clients with new ideas. Richard and I, in a project last year helping a major bank develop long-term strategies, used newspapers mocked up with possible headlines for 5-10 years hence to stimulate discussions and new ideas. If we’d had the budget, we would have created one or more “bank branches of the future” that executives could experience for themselves. There is no question that rigor is needed in exploring fundamental trends and how they might play out, but time-impoverished executives often need a more direct approach to provoke them out of their everyday pressures.