Monday, September 19, 2011

How to Predict the Future

Don’t try to predict it.  Create the future!

Some people spend a lot of time and effort trying to predict the future.  They study all kinds of data and trends to try to figure out what the future is going to look like.  And then they create a vision and goals that they think will fit with their future prediction.

Instead, I suggest that organizations start by identifying their aspirations.  I ask questions like:

*What would your organization be like if you could have it any way you wanted it?

* What difference do you want to make? 

*What goals do you want to set to pursue those aspirations?

Use your answers to these questions to Create Your Future.  Then do your analysis and see what is going on in the environment.  Work to adapt the environment to your vision and goals.  George Bernard Shaw once said that this approach is the source of all progress.

When you do your analysis, consider trying out Scenario Planning.  While you cannot accurately predict the future, you can come up with some ideas of what the most likely future scenarios are for changes to your environment.  Identify these and take some time to discuss what actions you will take so that you can prepare for each scenario ahead of time.  If you are facing severe uncertainty about the future and feel you need a more advanced approach, check out the book 20/20 Foresight: Crafting Strategy in an Uncertain World, written by my friend and our Vice Dean at the Smith School of Business at Maryland, Hugh Courtney – a former McKinsey consultant.

Create a future vision for your organization and those you serve based on your aspirations and what you care about.  And then do some analysis to help you to be best prepared to make even more of a Mission Impact.

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