Insights · August 8th, 2023
Thinking about ‘the future’ has been framed as a creative exercise with technologies promising change – the future of industry X is generative AI or the metaverse or humanoid robotics etc. We see our social media channels full of opinion and conjecture. It gains our attention as we crave for change, more productivity, reduced expenses and increased business.
The truth is that the futures work we need to do is not quite that simple. Our futures are complex and broad. There are cultural shifts and societal evolution ahead of the structural and technological dynamics we expect to see. Thinking about our futures and exploring possibilities is an essential capability for executives and creative leadership in 2023.
Futures work – or foresight as it’s more widely known – helps us strengthen strategic planning and become aware of the unknown risks and opportunities that lay 10+ years out. In fact, studies have shown that organizations that recognize that the future might change the very foundation of their business are 33% more profitable and achieve a 200% higher growth rate than the companies that do not.
Today we are now seeing more leaders stepping up to ask fundamental questions about what might come in the next 10, 20 and even 30+ years and how they might exist in those futures and how they may respond to how those speculative worlds will operate – either with new services and products, new ways of working, or new strategic approaches. They are also using this as an opportunity to get more creative and curious when setting out a bolder organizational vision and undertaking strategic planning that delivers benefit in the long term as well as closer objectives relating to growth and revenues.
With this in mind, Badminton encourages business leaders to shift their mindsets from what is to WHAT IF… That is a strategy superpower that drives curiosity to help fuel thinking about what comes in 10, 20 and even 50+ years. This is something that Nikolas Badminton mentors organizations to do, and he outlines how in his book ‘Facing Our Futures: How foresight, futures design and strategy creates prosperity and growth’ (link).
In futures work there are 5 foundational activities that you must learn to embrace in the modern business if you are to integrate futures work into your strategic planning and upgrade your thinking:
- Signal scanning – look for distinct pieces of information, statistics, stories, activities and/or events that indicate an impending change or emerging issue may become significant in the future. The strength of signals are determined through research and observing the amount of R&D activity, practical and useful ideas that solve real-world problems, levels of continued investment and predicted growth – in terms of US$ + Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) figures. Signals are the most useful when they are weak – i.e. in early stages but show incredible promise. They are speculative and experimental by nature. There’s also a high chance that many of these solutions proposed will not come to fruition. However, we know that from a sea of ideas some world-changing ideas emerge as we investigate and connect the dots.
- Trend identification – from the signals we identify trends. These are the general directions in which our world is developing or changing. They inherently have momentum and are created by existing conditions and environments. They are part of the reshaping of how we see the world and/or how we operate within it.
- Scenario building – the signals and trends give us the reference points for what might come next, and scenarios explore how people will be affected. Building multiple scenarios with many, varied groups of people from differing backgrounds and demographics (age, gender, sexuality etc.) is so important. It’s then we can see a bounty of great ideas, and equally, the gaps that we need to fill to ensure we cover a decent amount of ground on which to base our speculations.
- Speculative fiction and experiential futures – beyond scenarios, we can travel down the rabbit hole into more emotional and visceral explorations of our futures through fiction, filmmaking, the creation of media and art. Speculative fiction and experiential futures are an invitation to experience the feelings, smells and shapes of our futures. For me, this is one of the most exciting and useful parts of foresight work. (We will explore this in further detail in Chapter 7: Igniting Imagination.)
- Linking out futures to our world today – is not easy, and involves taking abstract and speculative ideas of what our futures may be in 10, 20, and even 50+ years. These then ignite action to take today to track and prepare for them, even though they may not come to pass as envisaged.
There’s much to learn and master here. Make sure you engage professional futurist speakers that work with many world-leading clients in the field. Nikolas Badminton can help you shift your mindset and unlock ideas of our futures through signals scanning, trends exploration and scenario development through his incredible futurist keynotes and workshops.
Of course you can continue with your strategic planning without considering our futures at a deeper level of inquiry, but remember – your strategic decisions made today create the futures ahead of us as much as those that do this important work. The difference is that those that actively undertake futures work and integrate it into their strategic planning have an active part in shaping those futures vs. those that are bystanders and at the mercy of future dynamics that change our world.
Reach out, let’s talk.
Learn more in Nikolas’ Futurist Keynotes
Nikolas takes the crowd at the Future Tense conference through these steps and shares thoughts on the greatest tech futurist you’ve never heard of, data and artificial intelligence, and key signals and trends that are changing and shaping our incredible world.
About Nikolas Badminton
Nikolas Badminton is a world-renowned futurist speaker, consultant, author, media producer, and executive advisor that has spoken to, and worked with, over 300 of the world’s most impactful organizations and governments.
He helps shape the visions that shape impactful organizations, trillion-dollar companies, progressive governments, and 200+ billion dollar investment funds.
Nikolas Badminton’s book Facing Our Futures: How Foresight, Futures Design and Strategy Creates Prosperity and Growth has been selected for 2023 J.P. Morgan Summer Reading List, and featured as the ‘Next Gen Pick’ to inform the next generation of thinkers that lead us into our futures. Please reach out to the incredible team at GDA Speakers to discuss your engagement.