The Art of Future Making
For most of us the world of the future is unforeseen, even unforeseeable. However many of us also know people who somehow can predict what will or should happen and know how to get to the future first. These are the natural future makers. I am reminded of a President of Columbia University in the 1890s. He noted there are a few people who make things happen, there are rather more who watch things happen, and there is the rest of humanity who ask: "What happened?"
Many of us are content to take life as it comes, and I personally make no judgments about anybody's chosen way of living. All of us must and should embrace the present and enjoy being. Those who fail to appreciate the here and let their lives be totally dominated by perceived past deeds and misdeeds, or by future aspirations, will destroy themselves and others near them.
However without of a sense of becoming, of forward purpose incorporating self transformation and growth, and through this sensibly preparing for the future, we will be swept up and away, be disadvantaged be the unprecedented rate of change around us. If we want to become future makers we must commit ourselves to become as well as to be. Future makers are fulfilled by envisioning inspiring destinations, and by charting and traversing the course to get there. Future makers remind us that we either shape our future or the future will shape us.
The difference between future taker, change taker, and path taker on the one hand, and future maker, change maker and path maker, on the other, is the difference between manager and leader. Each of us are capable of being both of these. We all need to be leaders of ourselves, even if we do not seek to lead others. Leadership of self is a core quality of the future maker.
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote the mantra of the future maker: "Do not follow where the path may lead. Go where there is no path and leave a trail."
We humans do not like change. For paleolithic humanity change meant floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, famine, wars and epidemics. Our biological inheritance is to fear change; it is encoded in our genes. Biologically we are future takers. This is not an optimum set of genes to carry into a 21st century full of turbulent change. However through restructuring our cultural mindsets we can neutralise the effect of this biological baggage and turn future takers into future makers.
Goethe in Faust pointed out that the bold inherit the Earth: it is better to be victor than victim, and the journey from change taker to change casualty can be a short one.
Walking into the Future
Einstein said that imagination is more important than knowledge. Traditional futurism emphasises understanding and responding to trend projections into the future: a form of what I call probable futurism. This form of futurism answers the question, what will the future is like? It assumes, incorrectly, that the future will mostly be composed of a continuation of past trends, whether this is desirable or not. The manager in us responds to these probable-future projections. The leader in us asks a different question what should/could the future be like? The leader sets out to realise a preferred-future. The leader walks in the future in his/her imagination.
George Bernard Shaw summed up the difference between manager and leader thus: "You see things; and you say, 'Why?' But I dream things that never were; and I say, 'Why not?'" This is a tome of the future maker.
Destiny Probing, Futures Questing and Wisdom Searching
The Roman god Janus, the god of beginnings and endings, and of doors and gates, who gave his name to the month January, has two heads: one looking back the other looking forwards.
Future makers have three heads, one looking forwards, one backwards, and one into themselves. They embrace what I call the destiny probe (insight), the futures quest (foresight) and the wisdom search (hindsight).
By growing these capabilities all of us can transform ourselves from a life as future taker and path taker to one of future maker and path maker. Many successful people do just this, such as great entrepreneurs, adventurers and artists. What is inside is expressed by actions in the outside world. It is important that if we are to successfully utilise foresight to shape the future we must combine it with insight and learn from hindsight.
Henry Ford said: "The secret of a successful life is to understand what is one's destiny to do and to do it." Destiny has two elements: what we are good at, aptitude, and what we love doing, passion. Fulfilling your destiny defines your work that which you do to gives meaning to your life. They learn to understand their own uniqueness. Future makers are then able to turn their work into their employment, generating financial security from fulfilling their destiny.
The effective future maker understands the importance of hindsight. In wisdom searching, future makers learn from their mistakes We humans do not like change. For Palaeolithic humanity change meant floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, famine, wars and epidemics. Our biological inheritance is to fear change; it is encoded in our genes. Biologically we are change takers. To become a change maker some major transformation is needed, we need to use cultural constructions to overcome the weight of this biological baggage.
Future makers, because they can walk into the future in their imagination, intuitively know that the product of their work will be appreciated by others. They understand what future will want more of. Probably 70% of the job categories, and products and technologies of the year 2025 have yet to be invented.
Future values determine what will become valuable, what people will value in the future. What people value and find valuable they will want more of. What they want more of will shape the markets and products and services of the 21st century.
A new global paradigm is emerging in the 21st century. I call it Planetism. Planetism is informing the development of the World Trade Organisation, the International Criminal Court, the Kyoto Protocol and the war against terrorism. Planetism is shaping the emerging 21st century global market place. It will fully blossom by about the year 2025. The values of Planetism include the need for more democracy, more sustainability, more security and more intercultural and inter-religious tolerance. We need these Planetist values if we are to create a sustainably prosperous interdependent global society in the 21st century: a global society which provides a field on which all the worlds peoples can have the opportunity to grow their crops. Planetism also emphasises the need for more trust, transparency and loyalty in relationships and supply chains. Future makers are the people who will create the innovations for this Planetist global market place.
If we want to create a sustainably prosperous global society in the 21st century we need more future makers.