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Futurism is a hot topic right now, as businesspeople and entrepreneurs aim to sink or swim in the current era of disruptive innovation. However, unlike previous buzzy business terms and trendy concepts, futurism is no flash in the pan. Instead, it’s an age-old practice with genuine organizational implications. It isn’t a tool to leverage – but, rather, a way to see the world.
In this article, we demystify the concept of futurism and explore how companies benefit from its insights. Below, you’ll learn what futurism is, how to utilize a futurist thinker for maximum results, and – importantly – why your business could use a futurist. If you run a company – whether it’s a scrappy start-up or Fortune 500 –pay special attention. Here’s everything you need to know about imagining the business landscape of tomorrow.
What Is a Futurist, Exactly?
Let’s dispel one myth right off the bat: Futurism isn’t the same thing as prognostication. Futurists don’t claim to be the singular owners of a foretelling crystal ball or Ouija board. They do not tell organizations what will happen. That would be folly, at best – and potentially damaging at worst.
Instead, futurists take stock of current macro-trends like political changes, supply chain shifts, public policy, market conditions, economic health, etc. Then, they extrapolate from those macro-trends to consider several possible futures. These futures can then help guide organizational policy on everything from employee relations to R&D and corporate strategy.
Think of it like playing chess. Most organizations play their “chess game” by thinking one, maybe two moves ahead. A futurism-enabled organization considers the countless permutations left on the board to think about their possible manoeuvres 10, 20 or 30 moves in the future. In this metaphor, onboarding an experienced futurist is like having Bobby Fischer as your chess coach.
How to Utilize a Futurist
There are two common ways that organizations utilize a futurist thinker. One is to hire a futurist as the keynote speaker for a corporate event (a strategic planning retreat, company seminar, conference, etc.). In this capacity, a futurist can foment forward-thinking and leave an organization with big questions to ponder. The best futurist speakers engage a crowd, rip them from their usual “in-the-moment” reactive thinking, and arm them with the tools necessary to consider the possible futures their company may encounter You can find a world-renowned futurist speaker at Futurist.com – the go-to place for this kind of thing.
The other common way organizations leverage futurist thought is to hire a futurist as a consultant. In this capacity, a futurist can advise on structural changes, product development and several other guiding principles in a company. This is a more lived-in way to capitalize on futurist thought, as it centers the futurist thinker in several organizational decisions.
There’s no right or wrong way to utilize a futurist. It really boils down to your company’s commitment to innovation, budget, industry and a few other considerations. Research and reach out to prominent futurists to figure out what path best suits your company.
The Benefits of Futures Thinking for an Organization
The benefits of utilizing a futurist are varied and impressive. To satisfy the statement posed in this article’s title, here’s why your organization could use a futurist:
- Understanding possible innovations on the horizon can help you stay ahead of the competition – making you the disruptive innovators, not the disrupted incumbents.
- Committing your organization to forward-thinking employee policies crafted from genuine insights makes your organization attractive to talent. Further, it fosters an open, meritocratic environment that can help reduce turnover.
- Understanding future possibilities allows you to prepare for those possibilities. These preparations inoculate you against shocking global events like market downturns, policy changes and –eminently relevant right now – pandemics. The common term for this is “future-proofing.”
- A futurist thinker can help you tap into new markets, untouched niches and promising leads. By understanding how markets change over time, your company is poised to address the buyers and users of the future – not just the present.
- Keeping up with emerging technologies (one of the pivotal elements of futures thinking) has its own bevy of benefits. It can help your company boost operational efficiency, elevate customer service, and reduce friction in the buyer’s journey.
- Developing a “what if” mindset (rather than a “what is” mindset) has broad, positive implications for a company. It can affect everything from organizational structure to marketing and PR.
Those are just a few reasons to embrace futurism. To learn more, consider connecting with a futurist thinker or researching informational videos on futurism. The practice is gaining popularity for a very good reason: it gets results. In the current era of breakneck technological change, increasing disruption and ever-changing consumer expectations, having your finger on the future pulse is an unparalleled asset.