The end of the year is list season but for some reason this year I am seeing too many inane lists called 'predictions for 2015'. Inane because a prediction is a narrow guess about future unknowns usually requiring a crystal ball - and what is probably going to happen in 2015 is not unknown. It's too close to even need 'predictions'. These lists are instead invariably a compilation of changes that have been gathering strength over time. What list makers are really saying - or should be saying - is that we probably need to decide how to respond to these changes in 2015. So that's what I've done - here's my alternative list of major changes shaping our futures in 2015 and beyond, and some ideas for consideration in 2015.
1. The shift to a revamped, redesigned, new, rejigged economic system has begun, signalled by recognition of the need to make money not for profit but for social value (huge simplification). A global shift, this change is at the very early ripple stage and reaching tsunami stage will take some years - but when it arrives on our doorsteps it will be be one of those paradigmatic shifts in how we live.
My suggestion for action: watch this one as it shows all the signs of an early signal gathering strength. Begin to include this in your strategy development.
2. Organisational structures, systems, leadership and how they are managed are being challenged in ways that will generate new ways of working, the exact shape and form of which are still uncertain. If we can get our minds around how to design new ways of working together that focuses on people and outcomes not processes and roles, we will be able to move away from bureaucratic and mind numbing approaches that characterise many organisations and work today.
My suggestion for action: start thinking seriously now about how to shift from industrial era structures to a more collaborative, human centred and open approach to working. Time to move beyond bureaucracy.
3. Technology will continue its rampant march into our lives - there is nothing new there. And nothing new about the superficial and 'gee whiz' way in how we respond to new technologies. What is more apparent now is the scope of this incursion into what we do and how we do it. 2015 might be the year in which we slow down and think in a deeper way about a few things: keeping technology human centred, not the other way around, thinking about whose view of the world underpins the development of new technologies, and ensuring that we maintain our privacy and security at individual, national and global levels to the degree that we think appropriate.
My suggestion for action: when making strategy around technology consider in overt ways whether or not the technology will help us maintain our humanity rather than undermine it.
4. Related to 3, artificial intelligence (AI) and its most apparent face today - robots - have arrived in the mainstream. Whether or not artificial intelligence is good or bad, it's with us and will underpin how technology works for us - or doesn't - into the future. For example, people are embedding technology in their bodies in ways I don't even want to think about, a signal that the Singularity is becoming more of a reality than I want to consider.
My suggestion for action: watch and consider how and in what ways you and your organisation will use artificial intelligence in your work in the near and far future. Get ready today one way or the other - don't wait for this one to arrive on your doorstep before you take action - that will be too late.
5. Climate change continues to hover in the background for most of us and our organisations. Even though there is much action happening globally, the urgency to act seems to be lost on many people, including our Australian Prime Minister. As we move deeper into the age of the Anthropocene, this change is fundamental - ignore our impact on the planet and what's changing with the economy, technology, work and AI won't matter very much in the long term. Technological solutions might help but changing how we think about the future of our planet is essential. This one matters for humanity.
My suggestion for action: I thought about this for a while and there are many options like more holistic organisational approaches to make climate change mitigation an underpinning factor for everything that goes on in an organisation or more collaborative action locally and making, reusing and repurposing. Ultimately it comes down to the value we put on the future of the planet and what we will do to ensure it survives for future generations - as both individuals and organisations.
Finally, let's stop talking of predictions and the inferred certainty that comes with that term. Let's start thinking about the uncertainty of change outcomes. Let's focus on implications of change not the change itself. Ask questions like these.
What does the change mean for us?
How will we respond if it is important for our future?
What are our options in the long term (not 2015)?
What will be the challenges for us in developing these responses?
Why does it matter for us?
My list doesn't include every major change going on around us. These are the changes that seemed to loom large in my scanning this year. A google search will find you plenty of signals for each of these; if you want some more specific references from my scanning, check out my scanning site (registration needed) or let me know.
Reaction to this post? Head over to the Thinking Futures Facebook page to let me know what you think.