What we do wrong when trying to predict the future


In 1988, Kodak, the leading film company at the time, hired Faith Popcorn to tell them about the future of film. Based on research and over a decade (then) experience with BrainReserve, her marketing consultancy, she told Kodak that the future of film would be digital. But Kodak’s vision was narrowed by success and specificity. “We didn’t ask you that,” the team told Popcorn. “We wanted to know the future Movie.” They abruptly showed her the door.

Faith Popcorn is a futurist, a specialist who uses a wide range of signals, trends, forecasts and other models to project plausible future outcomes. Organizations often call on these experts to help them plan their long-term strategy and prepare for the changes that are over the horizon. For most people, trying to see the future is like trying to peek around a corner: you won’t know what it looks like until you get there. However, there are practices that futurists use – and that you can develop – that improve your accuracy in understanding what the future is likely to bring and allow you to move with agility as it arrives.

Three prominent futurologists and thought leaders — Amy Webb, Faith Popcorn, and Rita McGrath — offer a three-step process to avoid pitfalls that many experience when trying to plan for the future and come up with a range of strategies to help in a Variety of cases to take action scenarios.

Don’t study your industry. Broaden your perspective

Most future trends reports are oriented towards an industry: top ten trends in fintech, top ten trends in healthcare, etc. This is a mistake.

Amy Webb is the founder of the Future Today Institute, one of Thinkers50’s top management thinkers for 2021, and author of the newly published book on the future implications of synthetic biology. The Genesis Machinee. She teaches an MBA course in Strategic Foresight and Future Forecasting at NYU Stern School of Business. Her method of quantitative futurism uses data to model possible, feasible future scenarios and to develop strategies based on them.

Your approach begins by creating a “boundary map” of the emerging trends that may be relevant to you. She advises organizations to broaden their perspectives. “When people think about the future, they tend to Focus on one thing” she explains. “For example, if you’re trying to figure out the future of the car, you really have to think about the future of mobility. If they only look at the future of cars, that limits us to a future where we only have cars.”

As with Popcorn’s visit to Kodak in the 1980s, you can see that sticking to a narrow definition of your industry can be disastrous. By widening your opening, you open up a range of possible scenarios and likely futures. This will help you refine a variety of strategies that you may have in your back pocket.

Rita McGrath is a global expert in innovation and business growth strategies, known for her ability to help businesses.see around the corner‘ to avoid interference. She suggests, To assess which of the broad, cross-industry trends are most important, you should detail your assumptions and develop ways to quickly and inexpensively test them:

With more data you can then take the next step. It breaks down your monolithic plans into addressable checkpoints, retrieves the results of your experiments, and replans. That’s the magic.

Based on your insights, data, and continued questions, you begin to separate the signals from the noise and identify which potential trends to watch for, allowing you to begin formulating your plans.

Don’t talk to experts. Explore the edges

Futurism isn’t just about spotting trends. New technologies do not determine the future. Rather, futurists begin by spotting trends that are emerging concepts and language around these technologies. For example, the idea of ​​a taxi service wasn’t new, but Uber’s concept of coordinating uncoordinated riders and drivers revolutionized ridesharing. Not long after, we heard about the “uberization” of industries.

McGrath suggests that big changes are happening at the edges of organizations and marketplaces, where you’ll discover emerging customer problems, ways to solve those problems, and different perspectives.

To contact these edges, McGrath recommends finding your “helpful Cassandra’s,” as Andy Grove, Intel’s late CEO, would say. She explains:

These are people who often have no decision-making authority, but have a deep insight into changing phenomena. listen to them It is even more important to detach yourself from everyday life on a regular basis to see how the faint signals of future changes are developing. Lots of things are noticeable, but not if you’re not careful.

Talking not only to formal experts, but also to people on the fringes who are working to solve problems, you have to leave your comfort zone and your bubble of personal networks or experiences. Organizations can facilitate this by empowering small, agile teams and encouraging employees to bring up uncomfortable or conflicting insights.

All three women agree to identify trends on the fringes of society and organizations. Popcorn’s BrainReserve is based on the insights of 10,000 visionaries and future thinkers from all industries. A quantitative futurist, Webb’s approach uses a team to develop a “boundary map” of signals of change in technology and society.

Don’t create a timeline. Throw back instead

Popcorn shared the #1 mistake people make when trying to predict the future interview:

I think the biggest mistake people make. . . tries to extrapolate what will happen from what has happened in the past. That’s a big mistake. The way to figure out the future and become a futurist overnight is to look ahead.

When you try to predict the future based on what is happening now, you limit your imagination to the companies, mindsets and trends that are already in play today. This leaves little room for new standards, technologies and ideas that will evolve over time. Popcorn suggests taking the opposite approach using a technique called backcasting: Look 10 or 20 years ahead, visualize an imaginary future of your industry, and then create a chronological roadmap of what it takes to get there.

Webb and many other futurists also use backcasting to work backwards from an imagined future state. You however warns against the temptation to set deadlines. Webb argues that there is a need to think beyond the typical strategic planning horizons of one, three, or five years, as our industry’s evolution is impacted by multiple technologies and concepts that will evolve at different speeds. It is not difficult to predict the future in a decade or a decade. But the timing of when the milestones will appear into that future is difficult to predict. Trying to follow a rigid linear schedule leaves organizations vulnerable to disruption.

The ancient Greeks used two different terms to describe time. who we know best Chronos, refers to sequential (or “chronological”) time. your second word kairos, refers to the time marked by an opportune time to act. Chronos is quantitative; Kairos is qualitative. Chronos tries to tell you the date and year when something will happen. Kairos wants to tell you under what conditions something will happen.

Effective backcasting requires kairos, which goes against traditional planning methods.

McGrath offers a convenient way to plan without a schedule. After identifying the critical trends you want to track (Step 2), define the critical indicators that will determine if a trend is changing now. For example, “when the cost of solar power falls to less than 10% of the cost of fossil fuels” and “when insurance claims for floods and wildfires increase by 30%,” then we will see an acceleration in the mainstream adoption of alternative energy. This point in time is not defined by a date but by a status.

Kodak (and others) recognized that the methods of experienced futurologists become increasingly important as companies across all industries face unprecedented speeds of change. In the past, disruption was sporadic — a company built economies of scale, found a strategy that worked, and relied on the same strategy for years with minimal adjustments.

Today, the future is accelerating faster and faster, causing mass chaos. This requires a different approach. By broadening your perspective beyond your industry, exploring the frontiers of the fields you explore, and looking back without a timeline, you will start thinking like a futurist. You will be better able to anticipate disruptions and be prepared to thrive in an uncertain world. What we do wrong when trying to predict the future


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