Predicting and Influencing the Future for the Better

Last night I had a fascinating dinner with a few friends at the Frontline Club where we discussed how you influence the future. We ended up designing a system of brainstorming panels which had 3D glass shelves and used 3D icons that could change colour and show pictures and movies – all hitched to a reconfigurable database the cloud! By 10.30 my mind was totally boggled and we headed home!

The conversation was triggered by last week’s post where we explored the idea of Presence as being a better paradigm to describe effective organisations and trying to show that the current obsession of process reengineering is so lacking as an organising idea for the new internet era.  This week I intend to look at whether or not we can predict the future – and we can influence outcomes at an individual, organisational and world level.

To start with, I love the quote by William Gibson: “The future is here.  It’s just not widely distributed yet.”  Since the beginning of recorded history mankind has held in some sort of reverence (or equal cynicism) those who say they can see the future.  The oldest book in the world is based on the stories of the ancient prophets.  Seers and clairvoyants have always held a deep romantic fascination for me as guides to some sort of futre picture (whether  good or bad) and they seldom seem to be accountable for whether their predictions happen or not.  Just as Gibson observes, seers and prophets might actually be in the future and are describing things that most of us can’t see yet because we are stuck in the past (perhaps tied up in processes that were invented by someone else long ago ;-)).

If you fancy your clairvoyant skills, then there is even an Australian website where you can enter them – and it keeps track of whether or not they come true!  Here is a list of War on Experts’ top 10 best predictions.  There is also an interesting podcast from Freakonomics on why we just love trying to predict the future and how louzy we are at it.

In my work, I find the basis of “back-to-front” thinking an absolutely critical tool when trying to find the best courses of action to achieve objectives.  You can’t really be successful unless you know what success looks like – and you can’t get there unless you have worked out how to get there back-to-front.  So, in many ways, the predicted (reinforced) path to get from where you are now to where you want to get to requires some sort of prediction and willing yourself into the future.

There is some fairly extraordinary research being run at Princeton University into human consciousness that records how the human race reacts to specific events around the world.  With the help of correspondents around the world, events that can be expected to bring large numbers of people to a “shared or coherent emotional state”. The following is a partial, illustrative list of criteria and examples:

  1. Suddenness or surprise. Terror attacks, especially where they are not usual.
  2. Fear and compassion. Large natural disasters, typhoons, tsunamis, earthquakes.
  3. Love and sharing. Celebrations and ceremonies like New Years, religious gatherings.
  4. Powerful interest. Political and social events like elections, protests, demonstrations.
  5. Deliberate focus. Organized meetings and meditations like Earth Day, World Peace Day.

There seems to be evidence that human consciousness actually changed a few seconds BEFORE any jet was rammed into the Twin Towers with the monitoring of  these”eggs” placed round the planet by Princeton University which generate random numbers.

Results still show that one of the main ways to make the world more peaceful and better place is to get a group together and go into a group meditation.  Forget about thinking.  Just sit and meditate.  So whether you believe we can see the future or not, by changing our own consciousness, it appears that we can actually make the future more peaceful!

As Niels Bohr is famously quoted: “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”  but I am certain we can influence and make the future happen by our actions in the present and by envisioning the future back-to-front into our lives.

Beautiful day here.  Hottest September afternoon in the UK on record, apparently. Off to go and meditate with the bees and raise the level of peace vibes on the planet!

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2 Replies to “Predicting and Influencing the Future for the Better”

  1. Thanks Lorne,

    I like the Nils Bohr and William Gibson quote.
    You might be interested in the success of the fashion retailer Inditex, run out of Coruna in N.Spain , now with €12bn of annual revenues and a €50bn market cap. They don’t try to predict future fashion unlike most of their competitors that spend months designing Autumn, Summer and Winter clothes ranges. Instead they use feedback on what is selling in the shops today to generate more of the same quickly from near-sourced suppliers and manufacturers. Their store-managers tell head office of what is selling succesfully, a sort of real-time Darwinian selection, to guide the replenishment of new stock. They are very responsive to what the customer buys and wants unlike their peers that might take months to adapt to the marketplace. So some might think they are very succesful at seeing the future but in fact that they are using today’s data to make the future work for their business.

  2. Thank you, Anthony. Great example. Makes you wonder what drives fashion when companies are doing things like this – the consumer or the fashion industry. Maybe both!

    In any case, the Inditex is also a great example of Presence – making sure your systems are reacting to information-in-the-moment and not based on information-in-the-past or information-in-the-process!

    Getting a lot of interest in last week’s blog post – not sure if you saw it, but would love any thoughts you have!

    L

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