The global pandemic disrupted everything; the way we live, our health and wellbeing, the way we view work and the way we integrate technology into our lives. More disruptive change could come from anywhere and at any time, how could you prepare for the unexpected?
It makes sense to have a guide to help individuals, communities or organisations map out that unexplored terrain and create a preparedness that helps them weather future trends and changes, whatever they may be.
Futurists are people whose specialty is the attempt to systematically explore past trends and possibilities about the future and suggest what that might mean for industry commerce or society as a whole.
A futurist explores the possibilities of what might happen using a systems thinking approach.
Clients usually include major corporations, investors, educational establishments and governments who need to forecast what their industry or sector will be like in the future.
Futurists use tools to analyse complex factors and variables then offer suggestions of what that might mean in order to help leaders and businesses make decisions and lay out strategy. They map the future.
They do not have a crystal ball or tell fortunes, but they can suggest what is likely based on their analysis. They help people to think through scenarios to consider what their response might be. By exploring the possibilities and opportunities that exist in future scenarios, clients develop the capacity to handle the unknown without falling apart. If plans that can accommodate a number of scenarios exist, then they don’t need to worry about the future. They can rest assured that they have enough in place to prevent catastrophe, maybe enough to get ahead of the disruptive change and make it work for them.
Most futurists work a decade ahead (although some exceed that significantly). Ten years is the sweet spot for a futurist in terms of the value that they offer. Generally, business sees that as the optimum long-range planning. It is a safe space to thrash out the big grid references of change and it is easier to gain a consensus because people are not too wedded to concepts that far into the future.
“The future is already here, it’s just not very evenly distributed” William Gibson Author
In 1995, eBay first appeared on the horizon and created a lot of excitement. Strangers began to trade with each other. You trusted somebody you'd never met to sell you something, and you agreed to pay them! The significant signal here, the critical innovation of eBay, was the creation of a reputation system, for both the seller and the buyer. The creation of this online reputation system enabled strangers to conduct economic transactions easily. This idea could be carried into many different arenas, and it was. Today, all online transactions rely on some sort of a reputation system. Online reputation has become a new kind of currency. The question futurists were asking at the turn of this century was how will this change the way that people buy in 2020?
The businesses that have really capitalised on this trend have been the ones that made a seamless transition and took their business online at the beginning of the pandemic. Those agile enough to adopt and adapt the technology to serve their clients without a break in service. The ones still struggling to keep their heads above water will have done little or nothing about future-proofing their business.