You can’t predict the future, you have to create it. Still, a main component of doing innovation is forecasting; understanding what drives the future. This is something I get asked about a lot, and don’t claim to be a futurist. What I do know is that one of the key skills of the future is imagining future scenarios; futuring.
How do you become a better futurist?
There isn’t a checklist of steps you can take, but to start remember that the future is a range of possible outcomes; not a set point. Why? Because as you look more forward, say 5 to 10 years, it becomes more hard to predict the future. Your job as a futurist is not to perfectly predict the future, no one can, but rather to paint a picture as to what could happen when certain things connect.
With that said, there are a few habits you must adopt to develop the ability to predict the future. Here are 5 habits that will make you a better forecaster:
- Sharpen your business acumen. Ask yourself questions about what’s changing, how it migth affect your industry and company, and how you need to shift to be able to stay relevant and reinvent yourself.
- Be curious. The future is unknown, and you have to care about the future and be curious about it. The future belongs to the radically curious, and the best futurists are always learning.
- Read widely. Because the future is non-linear, you have to be able to connect the dots between seemingly unrelated events and information; which means you have to expand your perspective by reading widely.
- Learn from your mistakes. As I said above, the more forward you look the more mistakes you’re prone to make about predictions; and you will make mistakes. And this is good, because it will help you calibrate your lens and how you connect dots. The best forecasters learn from their mistakes; this is what they have in common. One mistake you want to avoid is understanding the difference between a trend and a fad.
- Be wary of experts who claim to know what’s coming. One reason experts suck at predicting the future is they’re close minded to any information that disconfirms their ideas.
Every innovative company is forward-thinking, always thinking about what’s next, thinking and experimenting to future-proof themselves. They have in a place a process that is driven by the above habits to help them think about what’s next.