Futuring: The 7 Lessons of Great Explorers

See the future
Futuring helps prepare our businesses for the coming change.
Photo Credit: http://jumpthecurve.net/

In today’s hyper-changing society, individuals have little stability in their lives. Many people would just like for the world to stop, or at least slow down a bit so as to catch their breath. But the pace of change and continues to increase exponentially.

As leaders, we need to be aware of not only the present, but the future. Futuring should be part of our business processes and also part of our leadership practices. Why? It helps those we lead be aware of what is coming, preparing for changes in structure, processes, or product. It also models a leadership practice that they can learn, making them better leaders.

We need to be Postremonauts – one who helps navigate the future. (Yeah, this is a mashup of the Latin for future – postremo – and the word –naut, greek word meaning sailor. I created my own definition out of it.)

The great explorers, you know, the guys who left it all to find new worlds, were themselves futurists. Their futuring ways helped people realize what could be.

Today, these explorers provide for us lessons to navigate a hyper-changing world. Edward Cornish lays out 7 lessons of these explorers that we can learn from in his book, Futuring: The Exploration of the Future.

Lessons of Futuring Explorers

The first lesson of the great explorers is: Prepare for what you will face in the future. Lack of preparation invites disaster.The great explorers knew that forgetting anything in their preparations could be fatal.

A second lesson is implied by the first: Anticipate future needs. The great explorers took great pains to identify their likely future needs so they could know what to prepare for. They knew that if they failed to anticipate future needs the consequence might be fatal.

They recognized that the “unknown” region was not absolutely unknown. In fact, something was known about the area close to the unknown regions, and there were vague reports, rumors, educated guesses, and speculation about what lay in the blank areas of the map. The information might be very vague and untrustworthy, but the great explorers used it if they had nothing better.

So the third lesson of the great explorers is this: Use poor information when necessary. Obviously, we want to use the best available, but when required to make decisions we must not disdain information just because it may not be adequately detailed or may contain errors.

We explorers of the future must be practical and realistic. For our expedition to succeed, we must make the most of whatever knowledge we can acquire about what lies ahead. We can’t afford to be ivory-tower perfectionists,

Expect the unexpected. That’s the fourth lesson. An unexpected event is not necessarily bad; it may be a great opportunity. But in either case we want to be ready to deal with it effectively.

The fifth lesson of the great explorers is: Think long term as well as short term. For the great explorers, many years might pass between their first dream of leading an expedition and their return home.

You don’t have to be a government to achieve a remarkable feat, but you do generally need to think and work on it for a substantial period of time.mAnd that brings us to the sixth lesson of the great explorers: Dream productively. The great explorers were basically doers, not armchair adventurers fantasizing about great deeds. What counted with them was the actual achievement of their visions.

The great explorers practiced productive dreaming. For the great explorers, dreaming was not idle reverie but research—a mental exploration.

The seventh and last lesson of the great explorers is: Learn from your predecessors. Listen and learn from those who have gone before you.

Take these lessons and begin to explore how you can begin to implement these in your business and leadership practice.

Q4U: Is there another lesson to add? How are you already implementing these lessons in your leadership and business?

David has been a systems thinker most of his life. He has started three businesses as well as designed and developed systems and processes in existing organizations. He has a Doctorate in Leadership and has also done additional post-graduate work in communications.

He has also pastored 3 churches and loves to think about, write about and podcast about scripture, theology, and leadership.

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