The concept of futurism has gained serious momentum in the last few years. It seems like everywhere you look – from trade publications to business blogs, major news outlets and LinkedIn posts – everyone’s buzzing about futurism.
It could be the age we’re living in: a mixture of cresting potential and current uncertainty. Or maybe futurism’s popularity is part of the natural evolution of businesses toward clearer planning strategies and a deeper understanding of macro-trends. Whatever the reason, futurism’s skyrocketing demand leaves people with some questions.
For all its buzz-worthiness, how much does the average business know about futurism? What’s the role of a futurist? How does futures thinking benefit us on the personal, interpersonal and organizational levels? And where does one even begin utilizing the philosophy?
Those are the big questions tackled below. If your organization wants to harness the benefits of futurism, but is still trying to figure out how to start, read the straightforward answers below.
What Is Futurism? What are futurists?
Let’s start with the million-dollar question. What exactly is futurism? The dictionary definition is woefully brief: “concern with events and trends of the future.” If that’s the full definition, then aren’t we all futurists every time we book a dentist appointment or predict the outcome of a hockey game?
When thought leaders and business experts talk about “futurism” and “futurists,” they mean something more. For a fuller definition of the concept, let’s turn to Nikolas Badminton, world-renowned keynote speaker and chief futurist at Futurist.com. He defines the practice this way:
“A futurist is someone that urges the world to be curious about what comes next. Shifting that mindset from ‘what is’ – looking at what’s happening today – to ‘what if,’ what might be in 10, 20, 30, 50-plus years. A futurist can look at societal and cultural trends; technological trends; they can look at the big macro systems of the world and the industrial complex that we’re stuck in; they can look at the minutiae within organizations and within technical systems as well…”
And with these rich insights, futurists hope to spark organizational imagination, curiosity and creativity. Badminton concludes, “We’re hope engineers. We’re trying to wake people up from their poverty of imagination to really ignite some attempt at daydreaming about what might come next.”
What’s the Role of a Futurist in a Business?
In a business context, the role of a futurist is, therefore, to leverage these largescale insights about the present to help organizations prepare for the future.
In an era of increasing disruptive innovation and external disruption, businesses need to stay ahead of the curve to thrive. And a futurist helps them do that by encouraging them to imagine all possible futures – the potential opportunities, threats, roadblocks and open doors that spin out of current global trends.
How Can Businesses Benefit from Futures Thinking?
As mentioned, futures thinking is all about staying ahead of the curve. It’s also about fostering open-mindedness and curiosity in an organization. Therefore, futures thinking carries several immediate and long-term benefits for a company. It can:
- Inoculate a business against harmful disruptions like new market entrants or changes in global supply chains
- Help a business become a disruptive, innovative force in its industry and/or help it differentiate itself from the competition
- Help a business create long-term goals based on predictive modelling
- Foster an attractive company culture built on collaboration, openness and imagination – which can help a business acquire top talent
- Enhance the current talent and creativity within an organization
For a more in-depth analysis of futurism’s merits, scan this Forbes article – in particular, the section titled “Futurism improves company performance.”
How Can Individuals Benefit from Futurist Thinking?
Organizations aren’t the only entities that can benefit from futures thinking. The practice can also have a roundly positive impact on personal thought patterns.
As Badminton notes, futurism entails shifting from a “what is” to a “what if” mindset. In this way, it allows individual thinkers to free themselves from the shackles of present reactive concerns and exercise their imagination. The practice also hones numerous soft skills, like self-motivation, intellectual curiosity, critical thinking and digital literacy, that serve an individual well in their interpersonal and professional relationships.
Finally, futures thinking can aid individuals in creating long-term personal goals. Instead of creating a goal for next week, you can create a roadmap for 20, 30 or even 50 years in the future.
Where Do You Start?
Where does one start in learning about, practicing and eventually harnessing the insights found in futurism? The answer here is simple: connect with the experts.
Individuals might choose to learn more about futures thinking by reading through a futurist blog, viewing YouTube videos of a prominent futurist, or picking up a book on the topic. Organizations, meanwhile, should take their dedication a step further.
Organizations intent on futures thinking and strategic foresight are encouraged to connect directly with a trained futurist. You can hire a futurist in a couple of different capacities. You might hire a futurist keynote speaker to guide your next corporate event or strategic planning retreat. Or, for a more in-depth collaboration, you can employ a futurist consultant to take a deep dive into your industry and global position to develop a concrete roadmap for the future.
Futurism is a buzzy concept, but it’s no flash-in-the-pan corporate trend. It is the next evolutionary step in strategic planning, and businesses are encouraged to learn from it. Not only can it benefit your future prospects, but it may have tangible value to your current company culture and talent attraction.
Individuals may capitalize on futurist concepts by reading voraciously and listening intently. Organizations, meanwhile, should hire a futurist keynote speaker or consultant to ingrain the philosophies and insights into their corporate mechanisms.
Hopefully, you’ve learned something from the questions and answers above. Please note that this article serves only as a launchpad – a necessarily broad-brush overview of a topic that’s incredibly complex. Individuals and organizations interested in gleaning insights from futurist thinking should continue their journey beyond this article.