Repeating the Present
Wall Street Journal recently asked six luminaries to spout off a few lines about the future. They asked a psychic, a screenwriter, and a chef, but they also asked people with greater insight on the future–at least from a technology perspective–an engineer, a biologist, and the most popular astrophysicist since Carl Sagan, Neil deGrasse Tyson.
“[Society is] getting excited about the next app, but that’s different from awaiting revolutions in technology. …if we stop dreaming about the future, then tomorrow is much more likely to be the same as today.”
–Neil deGrasse Tyson
If you don’t know your history, you are doomed to repeat it, and the reverse is also true–according to Tyson–if you do not imagine the future, you are doomed to repeat the present. That present is a world that is increasingly difficult for organizations to predict, and organizations are at the mercy of disruptions from every sector of an expanding global economy. Some influential businessmen even believe that these disruptions have led to the death of strategy or at least strategic planning.
Death of Strategy?
Rick Smith is the founder of World 50, and he recently gave 7 reasons why strategic planning and even MBA degrees have been severely diminished if not made irrelevant. His primary point is that the future is unpredictable, even less so than ever before. Whether this fact is any truer today than 10, 20, 50+ years ago, Smith does not provide an argument. Instead, he points out that large scale strategic planning initiatives are increasingly less relevant and organizations need to focus more on the rapid transactional learning of its employees.
“In the end, your company’s strategy is nothing more than the collective actions of all of your employees, and these actions are being guided less by strategies thoughtfully crafted within wood paneled conference rooms, and more by speed, unpredictability and sweeping change occurring on a dynamically evolving battlefield.”
The future is unpredictable because of complexity–the same reason we have such difficulty predicting the weather. It is also the same reason organizations need to focus on training employees to make their choices by strategically considering the future of the organization. These minor choices dictate the real direction of the organization in the face of oncoming competition and innovation.
Then again, it could just be that organizations are doing it wrong. Harvard Business Review says organizations too often fall into a comfort zone with strategic planning by focusing on the planning aspect through cost-based thinking. When they do attempt legitimate strategic planning, they use the unpredictable nature of the future as an excuse to avoid real strategy and simply follow their competitors during times of uncertainty.
Get the Gist?
In 2015, Shaping Tomorrow will be rolling out a series of innovations that will help you and your organization discover opportunities and mitigate risks faster and more conveniently. One of the first such services will be a new type of trend report which we are calling a Gist. The Gists will help your team get on the same page faster–in less than 10 pages–to encourage rapid transactional learning. To get you out of your comfort zone, we will provide a framework for imagining how your organization will respond to the future. And the best part is they will be less expensive so that organizations of any budget can remain fit for the future.
The first Gist, on wearables, is free, and it illustrates the basic format of these new reports. So, get the Gist, and get your team on the same page.