Everyone wishes they had the ability to predict the future. Knowledge of the future provides insight that equips individuals and organizations to make more effective decisions, make strategic movements, and evaluate risks with greater clarity. It is for these reasons, whether people recognize it or not, everyone on some level wants to be future smart.
Being future smart means being proactive and shaping change rather than taking a reactive posture where accepting the future is a passive, and sometimes reluctant, reality (Canton, 2015). Those who are future smart understand possible scenarios of the future, explore what might be a reality, and prepare for the different scenarios with a degree of insight (Canton, 2015).
One difficulty for leaders who are future smart is motivating others to also be future smart. Due to the high degree of clarity the past provides, and the high degree of uncertainty the future provides, most people choose to focus on the past in order to predict the future, rather than become future smart in order to understand the future (Canton, 2015). One way leaders can help motivate others to be future smart is appeal to their need for survival and security. According to Maslow, survival and security are the two most important steps in a person’s hierarchy of needs (Hagerty, 1999). An uncertain future certainly can threaten an individual’s security and survival, and in an organizational setting, an individual’s job is often the primary source for these two needs to be met.
For many, there is nothing that contributes to an individual’s survival and security like their job from which they provide for their needs and the needs of their families. By being future smart, individuals can be equipped to be catalysts who shape their future and create their own security rather than simply hoping for it.
Canton, J. (2015). Future smart: managing the game-changing trends that will transform your world. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.
Hagerty, M. R. (1999). Testing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs: National Quality-of-Life across Time. Social Indicators Research, 46(3), 249–271.
Hines, A. (2006). Strategic Foresight: The State of the Art. The Futurist, vol. 40.5, pp. 18–21.