Futures Thinking is an essential 21st century skill: we need to cultivate it widely

our unhealthy obsession with the futureInnovate or die? The idea that we must innovate to be successful, have we taken it to the extreme? Some people think so. An in interesting review of a book argues that our unhealthy obsession with the future, where anyone who wants to be successful has to innovate, disrupt, and “own the future”, is making us come up with simplistic ideas rather than great ideas that tackle real challenges.

I’ve been thinking about this myself, what do we mean when we say we must innovate or die. Do we say that to sound smart and interesting? Do we say it to jump on the bandwagon? How about a sense of urgency because we actually believe that there is a better way?

Yes, we need to innovate. But based on an obsession with betterment, not with selling more stuff to people. As we’ve discussed before: the world doesn’t need more products and services; it needs better solutions to greater challenges.

As we’ve discussed before, we’re living in an Age that, compared to the last 150 years, isn’t that innovative. Yes, the internet is reshaping existing industries and creating new ones while also changing the way we work, get things done and socialize.

But could you imagine living without gas, clean water and healthy food? Would you still prefer your smartphone and playing Pokemon Go if you didn’t have your basic living needs met?

Most things don’t need to be disrupted

Take the article below and ask yourself: do we need convertible slippers?

Someone seems to think so. Sure, ideas like these will get headlines but will our standards of living improve dramatically because of it?

Most of the stuff that is created today is increments of what already exists, which is ok but not big of a deal. Personally, my motivation for “innovating and not dying” is simple: there is always a better way!

Another point that the book raises is that of our obsession with futurism.

Should everyone be a futurist?

No. But just like coding, everyone should make us of their superpower that drives creativity: curiosity.

It’s no secret that algorithms and robots are getting closer to taking over predictable tasks, it’s the stuff most people have been doing for years. The future waits for no one, and Futures Thinking is an essential 21st century skill: we need to cultivate it widely.

As Marina Gorbis says, the future is a way of life:

Envisioning and making the future must be a massively public endeavor

Listen to our discussion below and let us know what you think on Twitter @jorgebarba and @adrianpedrin.

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Intro audio is by Arturo Arriaga, outro audio is Candyland by Guy J.