Sense Your (Unknown) Future

Apply the Sense-Response Cycle to the Future

This is a continuation of our November 18th post and it offers one comment and two questions about preparing for the future by sensing the signals of your future.

Look for the future before it finds you

If you wait passively for the future you will become a victim of competitor intention and the vagaries of nature and the ecosystem in which you operate.

Spend time and energy looking for trends that are irreversible and significant. For example, some people saw housing, mortgage, and risk-shifting trends and made money in the 2008 financial meltdown. Others “went along for the ride” and lost everything.

Look for clues. For example, Gen Z (oldest about 23 years old) don’t like mutual funds but love Robinhood. I wonder what financial service firms will have to do in the coming years. Clues are out there, but you have to look for them.

Does your future already exist somewhere else?

Sometimes we can sense the future by getting our of our geocentric bubble and thinking globally.

For example, we can see some of the future of banking by looking at smartphone use for finance in Africa.

We, collectively, missed the impact of Covid-19 but could have seen it by paying more attention to China. Or, we could have seen clues for handling pandemics by looking to Africa and how they handled Ebola and SARS.

What is your DEW Line looking for?

Here’s a bit of a history lesson for my younger readers. During the Cold War the relations between the United Stated and the Soviet Union were, shall we say, not good. We had aircraft capable of carrying nuclear bombs and so did the Soviets.

So, starting in 1954 we constructed a line of radar stations along our northern border and in Canada that were pointed north. Why? Because the shortest distance between the two countries was over the North Pole. We wanted as much warning as possible if “they” were going to bomb us.

The radar stations were not pointed east or west or south. They were pointed toward perceived “danger.”

So, think about you and your organization and consider the dangers in your future. That will give you an indication of what you should watch for. (You probably already do this if you get an annual physical. Most of those tests are to give you an early earning of health problems.) Now, do the same thing for your job and your organization.


Once you’ve sensed the clues of the future you need to make sense of them. I’ll post another “episode” of the Sense-Response Cycle in a few days. Stay tuned.

Coming in 2021

We will launch a pilot course in January focused on helping managers and professionals be better prepared for their future. Like our recently competed pilot, The Pragmatic Strategist, this course will be a hybrid of reading, videos, group discussions (via Zoom) and workbook exercises.

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