Future-Proof Your Organization

Develop habits of anticipation, and they will stand by you in good stead for your entire career. For your entire life. ( JoAnn Alumbaugh )

By Bob Treadway, Consulting Futurist

No single set of skills and techniques will help you sustain your business more than anticipation. Effec-tive anticipation sees not just the obvious that’s ahead but the hidden, the hinted-at, the possible. The process need not be complicated. It must be persistent. Develop habits of anticipation, and they will stand by you in good stead for your entire career. For your entire life. 

I’ve taught “anticipatory skills and habits” for nearly 30 years. The material evolves from work helping clients “see around the corner” to anticipate what’s coming, notice clues of the unexpected, put flexi-ble strategies in place and take actions that sustain organizations.

Here is a “starter kit” for anticipation. Just a few things to do, ways to think and habits to adopt. They will allow you to see developments before they arrive, avoid nasty surprises and seize opportunity. 

Widen and Lengthen Your View
The most successful business leaders keep themselves informed. They see media, listen to view-points, mine promising sources and collect forward-looking contacts. They leverage time-saving sum-maries, look at sources with a future focus and employ technology to push information their way. They team with peers and associates to compare notes, discover unusual insights and gain novel perspec-tive.
See the Significant

Recognize information that will have the strongest impact on your future from three filters: 

  1. Be surprised. A surprise is new information, a departure from your current understanding and a signal of something to come worth monitoring.
  2. Determine “game-changers.” Keep an open mind, but be honest with yourself about factors, forces and innovations that could change everything. Robotics, artificial intelligence, generational change and social adoptions are current examples. Don’t hunker down in denial. Here is an opportuni-ty to adapt, ally or move in a new direction.
  3. Focus on implications. An implication is a consequence, result, impact, upshot or ripple effect. A development with high-impact implications is a blip on your radar. Your mind should jump to the question, “Since that’s happened (or will happen), then what?” Think like a futurist to create a range, a cascade of after-effects. 

Analyze Impacts
Organize implications into patterns. One quick technique to try is writing a trigger event, situation or scenario in the middle of a blank sheet. Next, ask “then what?” Write three to five impacts in a circle around the trigger. Go to each implication, and ask “then what?” to generate two or three more impli-cations. By the time you reach the third level, you’ll see entries and patterns that are actions and strategies for how to move into the future. 

Pull the Trigger
Anticipation leads to a forecast. Forecasts are valuable insights and prediction of future events. But scanning, thinking and analyzing are useless unless these activities lead to action. Doing something that protects or leverages an advantage, opens a new avenue or puts a proactive plan in place is what see-ing around the corner should accomplish.

Scanning Resources
Bob Treadway shares two free, well-curated, morning-delivered summaries. He suggests reviewing for 5 minutes to 10 minutes daily:
Morning Brew. Business-oriented news resource with useful dashboard graphics, a forward look and good writing. 

Quartz. The news email that took things up a notch. International in scope.