4 Ways The Future Will Surprise You

Do you love or hate surprises? Is your love language an unexpected gift or do you start distributing your prioritized Amazon wish list well in advance of your birthday?  

If you enjoy being surprised, you probably embrace uncertainty and are open to considering different possibilities for the future. But if surprises make you cringe, then the future can seem unsettling.

We live in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world that will be full of surprises IF we don’t embrace futures thinking and apply Strategic Foresight skills and tools to our personal and professional pursuits. We can learn to use futures thinking to assist even the surprise-averse in growing more comfortable with possibility and embracing uncertainty. 

Futures thinking is about informed reflection on the major changes that may occur in the next 5, 10, 20, or more years ahead in all areas of life. Gaining the skills to consider the full range of events that could unfold – possible futures, can lessen the sting of the VUCA world.

Strategic Foresight allows us to consider alternative possibilities by using models like the Natural Foresight® Framework to work systematically to discover, explore, map, and create different scenarios of the future. We can then use these scenarios to look for threats and opportunities, test our strategies, create innovations, and determine where our pivot points might be. 

Instead of being averse to surprise, those who embrace futures thinking and foresight can actually become more hopeful about the future regardless of the scenario because they are able to see through not just one, but multiple lenses, into multiple futures, knowing where to pivot and where to seize opportunity. 

For those who do crave the unexpected, there are still ways the future might surprise you. The future is NOT about the future. The future is about people. The future happens from the outside-in. The future exists across the spectrum of the push and pull.

The future is NOT about the future.

How is the future not about the future, you might ask!?! We create the future each and every day with the decisions we make.  Foresight allows us to do so in a more collaborative and aspirational way.  Rather than thinking of the future as a far-off time or place, we can understand that the way we think about the future directly impacts the actions we take today.

The future is about people.

Companies are constructed and formed by the people and values at work inside of them, not by systems, processes, or products. Living breathing human beings are social, complex, and often messy. It is in this chaotically-human unsiloed space where futures thinking can thrive if we welcome diversity, embrace curiosity, and allow outrageous thoughts to move us beyond our habitual ways. When we envision futures with people at the center, we are more likely to create better, more equitable futures for all.

The future happens from the outside-in.

Rather than viewing the world from the inside-out or from the myopic perspective of your own organization, it is best to look from the outside-in – examining forces in the larger environment that impact or reframe our immediate areas of influence. In other words, foresight is most effective when we shed our educated incapacity – the idea of being such an expert in your field, that you are the last to recognize changes as they unfold. This is how Strategic Foresight ensures that we don’t miss emerging disruptions and opportunities.

The future exists across the spectrum of the push and pull.

Most organizations focus solely on the push of the future or the trends and emerging issues that are coming at us, pushing us into the future regardless of our actions. The other end of the spectrum, the pull of the future, represents our ability to be intentional and create preferred futures through the decisions we make each day. Both ends of the spectrum are important. It can sometimes be necessary to feel the push in order to experience an urgency to act on the pull. The duality of the push and the pull brings diversity of perspective and engages us with the full use of our imaginations to develop future possibilities ranging from the exciting and hopeful to the cringe-worthy and frightening. It can be as important to know what we do not desire as it is to know what our preferences are. It is when we leverage the full spectrum of the push and the pull that we can discover the future and create it today. 

Let the future surprise you and help you navigate uncertainty to seize opportunity!

Angela Cring

Learning & Development Specialist, TFSX

Angela brings a diverse background in physical sciences and nonprofit/event management, as well as 20+ years of trusted strategic planning, change and brand management expertise across industries. During her career, she has harnessed her combined superpowers of a future-focused, transformational mindset and well-honed analytical skills to build consensus within teams, move projects forward, and successfully achieve goals.

Her deep curiosity blends her passions for science and creativity, allowing her to help clients make continuous improvements by using both qualitative/analytical and creative/intuitive approaches. She finds joy in helping others imagine unseen and alternative possibilities to make better decisions today.

Yvette Montero Salvatico

Managing Director

Holding a bachelor’s degree in Finance and an MBA from the University of Florida, Yvette has over 15 years of corporate experience with large, multi-national firms such as Kimberly-Clark and The Walt Disney Company. Before co-founding TFSX, she led the effort to establish the Future Workforce Insights division at the Walt Disney Company, identifying future workforce trends and leveraging foresight models and techniques to assess potential threats and impacts, emerging ideas, and exciting opportunities for the organization.

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