Four Conversations about the Future

These four spaces represent four ways of knowing, four ways of understanding how organisations respond to change to be prepared for the future. Each conversation needs to happen at some stage before or during the strategy process. Some may be continuous (Conversations with Self), some may relate to specific stages like environmental scanning to identify change that matters (Conversations about Change). Apart from Conversations with Self which happen in our individual minds, all the conversations take place in processes constructed and implemented in the Upper Right Quadrant (Conversations about Using the Future Today).

 

Conversations with Self (Upper Left Quadrant)

Thinking about the future starts in the Upper Left Quadrant (the individual) with each of us recognising our futures agency, our capacity to take action today to shape the future. We all hold images and ideas of the future in our minds that shape our internal and external conversations about the future. This is the space where we have conversations with ourselves to recognise and challenge how we see the world today and how that enables and constrains our ability to anticipate the future.

We also all hold a foresight capacity - the ability to think about the future and use insights gained to inform decision making today. It's this capacity that underpins our personal agency around the future. 

In this space, I write about and work with you on mindsets, worldviews and cognitive biases that influence our futures agency as individuals, and enable and constrain how we think about the future.

The aim in this space is to map what's called futures literacy - the ability to develop a futures mindset in order to develop personal futures agency.


Conversations about Organisational Culture (Lower Left Quadrant)

Organisational culture enables and constrains thinking about the future so the elements of that culture need to be mapped to identify degrees of openness to the future. Because culture is intangible and constructed by the interactions of people at work, conversations about culture happen in the Upper Right Quadrant as part of processes designed to use the future today.

Organisational culture is powerful. We know this. Like individual images and ideas of the future, cultural stories, rituals and myths can facilitate or inhibit the futures readiness of an organisation. There is a collective futures agency to be found in organisational culture.

I write here about how to map and understand the elements of your culture that help you create futures ready strategy or prevent it from being implemented effectively. To do this well, you need to have conversations with people in your organisation.

The aim in this space is to map the degree of organisational openness to the future and the subsequent ability for the organisation to face the future.


Conversations about Change Shaping the Future (Lower Right Quadrant)

The future doesn't just happen overnight. It emerges over time as a myriad of changes intersect and collide to create the external social context for our organisations - the change ecosystem.

To be futures ready, we need to understand the scope and depth of this change, the shifts in the external environment that shape each organisation's future. This change is mapped in the Lower Right Quadrant, drawing on information and data about the social environment of the organisations, trends and data about change and the views of people about how the future might evolve. The outcomes of these conversations are then used to inform conversations in the Upper Right Quadrant about strategy development. Here we look for indicators of change and multiple perspectives about how that change might evolve over time.

I write about and work with you on how to scan the environment to identify that change matters for your organisation - and use your insights to have conversations about what that change means, to interpret it for your context, issues and challenges.

The aim in this space is to map change shaping the future today so you can move away from 'the' linear future to build multiple pathways into the future and increase your organisation's capacity to be futures aware.


Conversations about Using the Future Today (Upper Right Quadrant)

Conversations about using the future are designed to create a long term context, a strategic destination that informs action today to prepare for the future you want, your preferred future, not the future you end up with.

Action is best framed as pathways to the future - paths lead us in the right direction, but are not fixed. Change will continue to emerge and reorienting the pathway to take account of the shifting world around us will be needed. New pathways may need to be identified.

Conversations about using the future today happen as part of processes that bring people together to collaboratively create multiple futures and pathways to those futures. This is the space where conventional planning now operates and where strategy is developed, documented and action is taken.

Here I write about and work with you to use the tools and approaches that help you create strategy that are structured around an integral frame and infused with foresight.

The aim in this space is to map the organisational degree of futures readiness, to identify multiple pathways to the future to ensure strategic flexibility, where action that can be taken today to prepare for the future.