Posted: June 01, 2012

More on the value of a futurist

It's a matter of taking control

Thomas Frey

(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read the first part.)

Here are more of the values a futurist has to offer:

5.) Find Your Future Competitive Advantage – French novelist Marcel Proust once said, “The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes.” The most successful companies don’t just out-compete their rivals, they redefine the terms of competition by embracing one-of-a-kind ideas in a world heavily steeped in “me-too” thinking.

6.) Take Control of Change before the Changes Take Control of You – Are you changing as fast as the world is? Change is inevitable, but how you deal with this change can vary greatly. In a world that never stops changing, great leaders can never stop learning. How do you push yourself as an individual to keep growing and evolving? Does your company do the same?

7.) The Future is Where Our Children Live - Our desire to leave a legacy is a uniquely human attribute However, our legacy becomes meaningless if we don’t have new generations of people to pass it on to. To many this may sound like an obvious statement, but to those in the business world, there is a constant battle being waged over the needs of the present vs. the needs of the future. It’s very easy to place short-term profitability ahead of long-term problems.

8.) Every Avalanche begins with the Movement of a Single Snowflake. Our ability to tap into and leverage the power of the future is directly tied to the number of times we think about it. The more we think about the future, the more we expand our understanding of it. And the more we understand the future, the easier it becomes for us to interact with it.

The Reaction Paradigm

Most companies operate within a paradigm of reaction. When bad (or good) things happen, they continue to forge ahead. They may or may not adjust their way of doing business. This unswerving reaction paradigm occurs, frankly, because it takes all they can muster to keep the doors open, make payroll and turn a profit.

It’s a tough world out there, and one widely held belief is that we’re all just trying to chip away at the world to make a buck. In this line of thinking, when things happen, you just do your best to hang on and hopefully do better next time around. These are companies that are always preparing themselves for the next disaster.

Other companies plan for the future. They understand that markets shift, technology evolves and unexpected waves of mayhem occur. These companies often do better than the previous ones because they have the resources and foresight to weather this type of storm.

Their leadership has given some thought to the murky future ahead of time, and allocates resources to various strategies for adapting to the ebb and flow of these natural occurrences.

In the end it becomes easy to see that the greatest companies are those that take control of their own future. As a futurist it is my job to help these forward thinking companies weather through or simply avoid these stormy trends and achieve a more profitable, vibrant and successful future.

Final Thoughts

Famed author Jim Collins often asks the question, “If your company went out of business tomorrow, who would miss you and why?”

Can your customers live without you? If they can, they probably will. So then what?

The researchers at Gallup have identified a hierarchy of connections between companies and their customers — from confidence to integrity to pride to passion. To test for passion, Gallup asks a simple question: “Can you imagine a world without this product?” One of the make-or-break challenges for change is to become irreplaceable in the eyes of your customers.

The future cannot be our only priority otherwise we lose our ability to function in the present, and here is where it gets confusing. Near-term futures invariably take precedent over long-term futures, but our ability to prioritize importance is directly tied to the context of our own future thinking.

Our thinking about the future cannot be made against a simple black and white, right vs. wrong backdrop. Every microcosm is a part of a larger microcosm, and I tend to agree with Futurist Mary O’Hara-Devereaux when she says, “Beware of conventional wisdom because it is usually wrong.”

 

Thomas Frey is the executive director and senior futurist at the DaVinci Institute and currently Google’s top-rated futurist speaker.  At the Institute, he has developed original research studies, enabling him to speak on unusual topics, translating trends into unique opportunities. Tom continually pushes the envelope of understanding, creating fascinating images of the world to come.  His talks on futurist topics have captivated people ranging from high level of government officials to executives in Fortune 500 companies including NASA, IBM, AT&T, Hewlett-Packard, Unilever, GE, Blackmont Capital, Lucent Technologies, First Data, Boeing, Ford Motor Company, Qwest, Allied Signal, Hunter Douglas, Direct TV, Capital One, National Association of Federal Credit Unions, STAMATS, Bell Canada, American Chemical Society, Times of India, Leaders in Dubai, and many more. Before launching the DaVinci Institute, Tom spent 15 years at IBM as an engineer and designer where he received over 270 awards, more than any other IBM engineer.

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