Today’s resources are brought to you by my colleague, and future of work expert, Graeme Codrington.
Unprecedented, unimaginable, unbelievable… these are words we’ve all heard (and probably used) a lot over the past few years. From Covid to climate change, politics to business trends, it seems as if we are living in chaotic and disruptive times. We can often feel overwhelmed by unexpected events and forces, but there are ways to prepare yourself and your team by anticipating better.
This is a key part of the work we do at TomorrowToday. We can’t predict the future (no one can), but we use a variety of tools to stretch our minds to imagine what’s possible and what might happen. This allows us and our clients to build the capacity over time to get better at anticipating disruption, to be less stressed when it actually happens, to be able to focus on opportunities when change occurs, and to respond to change with resilience, adaptability, and innovation.
Our team (Keith and Graeme in particular) are writing a book about the toolkit we use, provisionally titled “Thinking Like a Futurist” (due for release in late 2022, but you can get them to do a workshop on this topic for your team right now).
Here are three deceptively simple, but very powerful tools you can use to get your team to imagine the unimaginable and spark some creative ideas for adaptability, resilience, and innovation today:
- Future-backwards scenarios
Instead of starting with the world, we are in now, with all its limitations and constraints, this technique invites us to jump into the future and imagine a very different world. My favourite example is driverless cars – not that they become legal, but rather that they are compulsory, and then add the extra layer of sharing of cars, so that all cars are basically driverless Ubers. How would that affect different industries and the way we live? Here’s a workshop we do with our clients
Invite your team to imagine they’re now living in the year 2052. What things will be very different about the world? Now invite them to look back at the world of the 2020s, and think about what’s “crazy” about that world (just like we might look back at the 1980s and wonder how we survived without cellphones and what the office was like when we still used internal mail, for example). Finally, get your team to consider which of these crazy things about our world today might be worth starting to change already.
- Ridiculous Ideas
Another approach is to get people to consider what frustrates them in their world right now. The “smaller” the issue, the better. So, it could be rush hour traffic, not having cash for a quick purchase, or overflowing email inboxes, etc. We then try and imagine the most ridiculous solutions to these problems. We then ask which of these ridiculous ideas might not be that ridiculous in the year 2050. And we then use a similar approach to future-backwards scenarios to work out what we would need to invent in order for the solution to be practical, and how likely that is to actually happen by 2050. Because of the way our brains work, most of the “ridiculous ideas” we can imagine are actually more likely than we think.
A good example of this is how long it takes to fly from Johannesburg to Europe. Wouldn’t it be great to do this in just half an hour? See this video: This was in 2017. By 2020, Space X had developed all of the technology required to do this. We can actually do this now. Not that ridiculous after all!
- Throwforward Thursday videos
Every Thursday, our team releases a video called Throwforward Thursday. It’s around 5 minutes long, takes a look at something that might happen in the future, and invites us to imagine how it would affect us. You can use these videos to prompt both of the above sessions.
Earlier this year, we put together a series of short videos called “Watching the Future” which explains these tools in more detail, and how to use our Throwforward Thursday videos. The series of videos are free for you to use – click here to access them.
For extra credit…
We highly recommend Jane McGonigal’s excellent book, “Unimaginable” (2021) if these ideas interest you.
You can listen to her being interviewed on the Next Big Ideas Club podcast: Listen here
If you’d like some help thinking like a futurist, just reply to this email and let me know.
Author of today’s tip, Graeme Codrington, is an internationally recognized futurist, specializing in the future of work. He helps organizations understand the forces that will shape our lives in the next ten years, and how we can respond in order to confidently stay ahead of change.
For the past two decades, Graeme has worked with some of the world’s most recognized brands, travelling to over 80 countries in total, and speaking to around 100,000 people every year. He is the author of 5 best-selling books, and on faculty at 5 top global business schools.