We believe that futurists, futurologists, future-focused people – whichever label you prefer – are necessary at every level and every point of our businesses these days, to help us, well, “build the capacity to see and understand the implications and meaning of change” in their part of the organisation.
We should all be futurists, but how do you do this?
The team at TomorrowToday have created a “future-focused toolkit” to help people develop some practical tools and skills in order to bring the value that futurists can bring to your organisation.
Very simply, here they are:
Switch on your Radar
A radar looks beyond what we can see with our naked eyes; it looks beyond the horizon. In business terms, we need to spend some time with our teams looking not just at what comes next (our current reporting period and our next budgeting and planning cycle), but at what happens after that as well.
In companies we have assisted, many teams have started a “five minute from the future” segment in their weekly team meetings. On a rotation basis, 2 or 3 people give bullet-point insights into key trends that could impact your organisation in the near to mid-term future. After even just a few weeks, teams report a much higher engagement with trends and disruptive change and indicate that their teams have a heightened awareness of the world around them and an eagerness to contribute to innovation and change management conversations.
Be More Curious – Ask Better Questions
Management guru, Peter Drucker, said: “If you don’t ask the right questions, it doesn’t matter what your answers are”. We have a view that leaders are the people who have the answers. But actually, leaders today need to be much better at asking the right questions. In fact, we all need to be better at doing this, and our organisations need to encourage and enable us to do so.
Collect Frameworks: Understand
To make sense of a complex world, we need to develop shared vocabulary and frameworks with our teams. For example, in “switching on your radar” we suggest using TomorrowToday’s TIDES of Disruptive Change framework. This framework identifies the five most disruptive forces that will shape our world in the 2020s: Technology, Institutional change, Demographic shifts, Environmental issues and Social values.
Other frameworks that we find useful include the Enneagram for understanding personality diversity, Dator’s Laws of the Future and a framework for Adaptive Intelligence taken from micro-biology.
We believe that building a culture of experimentation is one of the most important building blocks of success right now. Companies that do not experiment will not be here by the end of the 2020s. We need to create a culture that experiments – not huge big experiments that could blow your business up, but a culture where everyone in the business is experimenting all the time with small things.
We should be looking for things that are frustrating, irritating, time-consuming, baffling, and they should try other ways of doing them. This obviously means we have to become more comfortable with failure. Some experiments will produce great results, others won’t, and we need to be happy with that. More than merely accepting it, we need to build systems that actively encourage it.
An important aspect of an innovation culture is having lots of different opinions and lots of different viewpoints on the same issue. Organisations that are getting innovation right almost always are also doing well in creating diverse teams and in developing leaders and their team members in their ability to manage and get the most out of diversity.
Diversity is not just about race and gender – it’s also about personality, experience, academic achievement, age, language, ability/disability, sexual orientation, religion and more. The more diversity you build into your system, and the more confident and competent people feel in expressing their unique viewpoint and insights, the more likely you are to build a fertile soil for innovation to grow in.
It was the futurist, Alvin Toffler who wrote: “The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn.” He’s absolutely right.
Take Home Value
Have a variety of practical exercises they can try and in doing so, develop leadership habits that will help ensure that they become future-fit leaders
Have an array of tools that can be implemented but that can also be passed on to others and experimented within a team / organisational setting
Understand the need for and how to become a future-fit leader and why this is so important at both a personal and organisational level
Feel motivated to experiment with some 'fun things' that can make a significant difference to their leadership mindset and practice