“Flipping our perspectives and thinking in terms of trend/countertrend can be an effective way to see through new eyes”
In a special Get Inspired column on AESC Global, let’s talk about an important theme: the value of futurism studies. For this, we invited Erica Orange, one of the leading experts on this subject and a highlight at the conference. As vice president and COO of The Future Hunters and a renowned expert, she shares her insight into the benefits of investing in in-depth studies on trends, especially in the business world, in an exclusive interview for the Dnews Magazine.
Why should companies and professionals who want to reach the top invest in futurism?
In today’s increasingly globalized, interconnected and diversified world, pressure is mounting among many populations to preserve what is, or restore what once was. But to counter/or contrary to those forces, regions, nations and even companies that integrate foresight in a systematic and disciplined way will be able to establish what we call “ForePower” – power achieved directly from foresight: technological ForePower, economic ForePower, social ForePower and environmental ForePower. Using a hockey analogy, this is all about strategizing for where the puck is going, not where the puck currently is. While practicing foresight has always been an important discipline, it is now a top-down existential imperative in an increasingly complex geopolitical environment. It is also becoming a growing corporate leadership imperative.
As the vice president of one of the leading futurism consultancies in the world, what is your assessment of companies’ perceptions of the importance of in-depth study of trends in making more effective decisions?
While in-depth trend assessment within organizations is an important part of long-term thinking, it can also serve, in some ways, as a crutch to effective decision-making. One of the primary reasons behind this is the fact that any individual, organization or industry can get stuck in myopic thinking. We refer to this as “educated incapacity” – in other words, we all know so much about our areas of expertise but it makes it so that we struggle to see those areas (or bodies of knowledge) objectively. What we know to be our greatest asset, can also be our greatest liability.
Flipping our perspectives and thinking in terms of trend/countertrend can be an effective way to see through new eyes, blow away the mental cobwebs and unearth untapped opportunities. Effective decision-making can only be had using objective information, and retraining our thinking is a core aspect of this.
Another aspect is being able to spot patterns. The study of trends can only be truly effective when the intersections of those trends are analyzed. In other words, it’s not enough to look solely at a sociocultural or economic trend in a vacuum – we must also look at the intersection between the two. When we combine trends – versus looking at them in siloes – we can extract valuable insights that are not in plain sight.
Some companies like Ford and PepsiCo invest heavily in trends and have, for example, future study centers. What do these companies gain with such investments? Should the methodologies used by futurists be taught in companies or in corporate education environments? Why?
Foresight is critical for any company today. And any company with an in-house futurist (or internal foresight function) may be better positioning themselves to capitalize on which direction the future is heading by identifying potential threats and opportunities on the horizon. As a firm, we have long touted the corporate and organizational value of foresight studies. Our approach is one we call “Strategic Scanning” and involves the systematic scanning of long-term trends in the external environment.
We also have a series of “Thinking Technologies” that we walk corporate leaders through in order to help them think differently about both the future in general and that of their particular industry. Foresight needs to become a core aspect of corporate education, particularly at a time when change is happening so quickly. Having your finger on the pulse of change can only benefit a company today. Core business models are becoming quickly upended, so being nimble, flexible and adaptable is a growing corporate imperative.