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An excerpt from the Natural Foresight Primer. Get your free copy here.

The Push and Pull of the future

When contemplating the future, we instinctively think of the “top trends” lists that are always making headlines. For most, the word trend has become synonymous with the future. This common but erroneous interpretation causes many strategic foresight efforts to stall because trends are not the future. Trends are visible because they are occurring today. They represent the present. In fact, trends can be our worst enemy; they tend to keep us connected to what is immediate and surrounding us, but fail to stretch us to see what is changing, what is emerging, and what is possible.

The future exists across a spectrum, with two distinct ends: the push and the pull of the future.

While identifying and interpreting trends is an important part of the strategic foresight process, trends themselves represent just one aspect of strategic foresight. The future exists across a spectrum, with two distinct ends: the push and the pull of the future. Most organizations focus solely on the push of the future. This end of the spectrum represents the trends and emerging issues that are coming at us, pushing us into the future regardless of our actions. On the other end of the spectrum is the pull of the future. This represents our ability to purposefully identify and create our preferred futures.

Organizations that intentionally develop a futures culture are primed for a market-leading innovation, successful opportunity development, and revenue-generating futures intelligence.

The following analogy can be helpful in understanding the pull of the future. There is a small anchor on sailing vessels that has a critical role. When there is no wind, this small anchor, known as the kedge, is tied to a long rope and sent out in a row boat with a few of the ship’s sailors. They travel in the direction the ship wants to sail and drop the kedge. Those remaining on the ship then pull themselves toward that location. Similarly, understanding the push of the future (the trends and emerging issues) allows us to successfully navigate or “pull” ourselves to our desired future, avoiding obstacles and positioning ourselves for opportunity development. Underlying the concept of the push and pull of the future is the notion that the future is not something that just happens to us but is instead something we create every day through the decisions we make. This revelation is not just significant within an organizational context. The ability to chart a course to our aspirations regardless of obstacles has strong applicability in career development as well. Strategic foresight allows us to leverage both ends of the futures spectrum in order to discover the future and create it—today.

The Natural Foresight Framework provides an easy decision-making framework for kedging the future. Find out which tool is right for you.