The future arrived last week. Where were you?


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What if the future was already here but distributed in pieces and can only be seen by those able to ‘connect the dots‘? Do you want to know what it looks like to do that?

Recently I attended a marketing conference where the organizing theme was Conquering Chaos. The keynote address, ‘Think like a futurist“, was provided by Cecily Sommers. Look for her book sometime next year. In the mean time, read on…

If you’ve ever taken a color blindness test, you know that most people can naturally see patterns within a random assortment of dots if they can perceive normal color distinctions. If they don’t have that ability, they just see dots.

And if you’ve looked at any of the famous figure-ground pictures, you know the image you see depends on how you look at the picture. You may see one of two different images within the same picture depending on how you look at it. With a little mental focus you can shift how you see the embedded images. Futurists have something akin to these abilities, but also apply a conscious strategy to their work.

You too need a conscious strategy; just hoping the future will reveal itself is like driving while wearing a blindfold.

Cecily would advise you to do the following:

1. Understand that future insight requires both sides of your brain. The left and right hemispheres of our brains process differently, with language on the left and imagery on the right.

2. Prepare to embrace new information as well as old information in new ways. Our brains have evolved to adapt to immediate crises (what you may know as the ‘fight or flight response‘), and as a result we are more sensitized to today’s pressing events. Conscious effort and skill building will help you better focus on the future, even when you are anxious or under pressure to perform.

3. Search for trends occurring among four forces – resources, technology, demographic and governance – each of which will continue to shape the world around us. Think of it as a scavenger hunt for clues to a mystery: you know you need to collect things, but it’s not clear from the outset how they all fit together.

4. Be playful with this information so that your brain begins to form new associations about the trends and what they mean for you. This is where the right hemisphere of your brain earns its place on your shoulders!

5. See the present embedded within the future. Start with a megatrend, identify various challenges this will create over several years, then over the next year or two, and where those challenges are felt today. In doing so, you will teach yourself to tell ‘the history of the future’.

This process can help you to build a future-centric portfolio of innovative ideas, a very good thing to do if you are a firm wondering how to maintain or achieve market impact in the future.

What does this look like in practice?

It could look like a traditional brand strategy firm (or an independent consultant) seeing the megatrends of technology and the challenges and opportunities that this will pose in different business sectors. As they dive deeper into the social media space, they see the growing significance of virtual communities and they learn how to moderate access, discussion, opinion formation and engagement. This allows them to leverage prior skills as they discover new ways to deploy brand strategy that goes far beyond traditional advertising. As they explore the intersection of technology with trends in society, business and government, they see the potential to get known as THE EXPERT for the design of branded, engaging online healthcare communities, especially targeting younger professionals. As government regulations ebb and flow, as demographics patterns shift, and health care science and practice evolves, they are ready to help their clients communicate, moderate, and motivate a large dispersed customer population.

In the course of this process, they have had to learn new skills, affiliate with new communities of professional practice, wrestle with how the past is being replaced by a future that is continuously evolving, and envision multiple ways to add value for clients who themselves are at different stages of being able to leverage online communities. They have reinvented themselves to become a strategic branding business of the future.

Can you see the pattern in front of your eyes?

What Cecily and other futurists offer is perspective: today’s events are just one point in a stream of events. When you have a sense of the trends and the patterns become visible, you are better equipped to place a bet on the future. The choices you make today clearly align with where you want to go.

Assume the future arrived half an hour ago, but is distributed in many different pieces and locations. All you have to do is connect the dots!

So what are you waiting for?

How do you see the future of your business evolving, especially as it impacts your best customers?

BestCustomerConnection, by Marc Sokol

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Marc Sokol
A psychologist with an eye for the ways organizational dynamics make it possible or impossible to delight customers, I see the world from the eyes of customers, employees and leaders who strive to transform customer experience.


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