Images of the future


By Elizabeth Rudd, Director, FutureNous
Wednesday, 14 August, 2013


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Imagine ... just the word alone compels you to do something. So imagine the future in 15 years. What will you be doing? How old will you be? Where will you live? Will you work? Will you have kids? How old will they be? Any grandkids? What does your house look like? Will you have a car? For many of us imagining our future is not difficult - we dream of the day when we work less, have more money, more time, the ability to travel, volunteer, spend more time with family, or just the luxury to pursue our passions and interests. Many of us can imagine it in considerable detail, creating pictures and stories of how it might be.

Now imagine some of the products and services you use in 15 years. Will your home have full automation to reduce energy consumption? Will there be gadgets and technology to provide comfort and convenience? Will your car drive itself? What will you be eating? Will you still cook and eat fresh food?

Many of the products and services you imagine in the future will be produced and delivered by organisations and companies, much as they are today. However, when you ask any number of people working within a company to imagine the future, each individual imagines it differently.

Many organisations never think about their collective future in any detail. Taking the time to imagine as an organisation what they think the future may be, what people will be doing, where they will live, what products and services they will use. They proceed towards the future without a collective view, with everyone making decisions in the context of what they think the future might be, even though this may be at odds with others within the same organisation. Imagine the power of everyone in an organisation sharing an image of the future, the preferred future, the one the organisation would like to be part of creating.

Stories and pictures can be powerful tools, creating images and helping people to envision the future. Many of us can remember a face rather than a name, or a movie or story long after we have seen or read it. Humans remember stories, over facts and figures. Many people are visual learners. Images engage, entertain and trigger emotions. They create shared understanding, and powerful images can feel ‘real’ even though they are about a future yet to be created.

With a shared image of the future, organisational decisions have a context. Does it move us towards our preferred future? What do we need to do to make the future a reality? What are the organisation’s priorities and long-term goals. Abstract concepts, including new products and services or technologies can be ‘created’ and shared through stories and pictures. New projects can be communicated, prioritised and resourced in this context. Strategy is developed and executed within this future context. Alternatives can be envisioned and evaluated.

The shared image of the future can be a powerful motivator to align and focus the organisation. Stories and pictures help create the unknown, making the future seem real, exciting and achievable. Creating shared images for an organisation about the future is the first step in creating your organisation’s future.

Image credit ©iStockphoto.com/A.J. Rich

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