Just in case you haven't got it yet: the future is uncertain.
There are no future facts. None.
If anyone is serious when the tell you they can predict the future, tell them I said they are fools. There is no way to predict the future, except by luck.
The current industry surrounding trend watching and analysis tries to convince us that certainty about the future is possible. Trend extrapolation, in the form of quantitative modelling and forecasting is rife also provides us with the illusion of certainty. But,the further out into the future you go, the more uncertain it gets, and the more ridiculous are attempts to forecast and predict. History is littered with smart people saying silly things because they assumed that the future was going to be more of today.
A good colleague and friend, Marcus Barber, from Looking Up, Feeling Good, refuses to talk about trends. He talks about tendencies - patterns of events that are tending in particular directions. That's my definition of a trend, so while it might be a matter of semantics, Marcus makes a critical point which is either not recognised or overlooked, by choice or ignorance. Trends are not facts. They have uncertain trajectories. They can be derailed from that trajectory, they can and do collide and intersect with other trends, changing their shape. And, equally important, there are multiple possible future outcomes for the trends we see today, not one.
As a species, we have a tendency to seek certainty, and to disregard evidence to the contrary. Seeking certainty puts a set of blinkers on us, and once on, those blinkers are almost impossible to remove. Uncertainty means we have to admit fear, and indecision, and the possibility that we just don't know the answer. But admitting uncertainty also opens up options and possibilities that those certainty blinkers stopped us from seeing before - and that's the aim of foresight - to expand your perceptions of the strategic options available to you.
We need to try to understand the future in a strategic sense by embracing uncertainty and treating it as a friend not an enemy, so that we can develop robust and sustainable strategy. By exploring uncertainty rather than ignoring it or trying to reduce it to the short term, we can develop a framework for our strategy that is futures ready - flexible enough to deal with whatever challenges the future brings.
Embracing uncertainty requires you to test your assumptions about the shape of the future, ask what if questions and explore possibilities, while admitting that we don't know all the answers.
Embracing uncertainty will make your brain hurt, but that's better than having to deal with the consequences of a failed strategy, or a black swan that totally derailed your predicted outcomes.