Another dot in the blogosphere?

Never ready, always prepared

Posted on: December 29, 2019

I was ready to blast the premise of the tweet. As I read the article penned an author from a “futures office”, I realised he had already done it for me. After questioning the wisdom of trying to define a future, he said:

Why do we not only persist in producing such predictions, but more importantly, lap them up?

Simply and eloquently put. Despite the folly of trying to make predictions about the future, we do it for a false sense of comfort. So is there a better way to gaze into the crystal ball?

Given how we cannot help but think about the future, and also given the embarrassing futility of forecasts, and of trying to “get it right”, how then should we carry out the enterprise of strategic foresight? How should we use scenarios of the future? I would suggest the scenarios, the stories we write about possible future states of the world, be used as learning spaces, for us to better know ourselves in the present.  The stories we write about how the world might look like in the distant future, in a sense, teaches us about our present hopes and fears, our values and our blind-spots.

The author suggested we look ahead to cast reflective and critical light on the now. He then illustrated this principle with two socio-political phenomena here: Hotel Singapore and Home Divided. Both were not predictive; they were what-ifs.

My thoughts do not extend to those playing fields because I do not operate there. Mine is the edtech arena, which is a minefield rife with claims and projections from vendors and planners.

So as 2019 draws to a close and 2020 approaches, we need to be clear-eyed about the language used in papers, policies, and projections by such groups.

I say we treat anything with “future ready” with suspicion and an informed eye. We are terrible at predicting the future, so how can we be ready for it? How might the defined future be a self-fulfilling prophecy that ignores context and change?

We cannot be fully ready for the future, be it a disaster (like a flood) or a windfall (like winning a lottery). We can instead do our best to be prepared. No one is absolutely ready for change, but we can do our best to prepare people to change.

Readiness is a state of being. Preparedness is a state of mind.

As we do this, we need to factor in how myopic we are. We see today more clearly than tomorrow. But this can be a good thing. I borrow a reflection from a father at the end of episode 2 of The Age of AI. He said:

Today is the day we have, and we can ruin today by thinking about yesterday and how wonderful it used to be… We also ruin today by looking into the future and how horrible this is going to be…

He said this in the context of his son’s failing health and how AI might improve the quality of his son’s life. But the same perspective could be applied to preparing people for the future — focusing on the now.

Who are we and what do we want to become? Why is the journey worth it? How might we move prudently? These questions are about ownership and empowerment. They are rarely asked when policies are passed down. How prepared are leaders and managers to let go?

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