How To Advance Middle School Math Students In Small School Strategic Foresight – Understanding the Negative Future – Nu Leadership Series

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Strategic Foresight – Understanding the Negative Future – Nu Leadership Series

“It’s not the time you live that counts, it’s what you do with your life that matters. You have to learn to weather the storms of life.”

The Reverend Richard Brown, Jr.

Do we really want to look into the future? Some people don’t want to consider it. It is clear that the future is a road with different lanes, but do we humans have the capacity to accept unhappy endings? In general, my position is that humans are incapable of accepting unhappy endings. In fact, futurist Edward Cornish argues that it is easier for people to maintain a long-term perspective when they have a clear vision. Futurists use many techniques to anticipate the future. For example, strategic forecasting can provide an avenue where organizations can strategically analyze short-, medium-, and long-term planning. So it’s a look into the future. This concept is easily seen on the big screen. Hollywood blockbusters are the timeline of happy endings. People want to believe that all stories have positive endings. This concept is derived from childhood innocence as Americans. Unfortunately, the future may include unpleasant outcomes.

However, life does not always provide a pleasant story. For example, globalization can offer many job opportunities, but the result is not always positive. Indeed, the future prediction for the full-time worker is bleak. Clearly, technology and outsourcing are making the part-time worker a reality for today, not tomorrow. In fact, Charles Handy theorized that unemployed or replacement workers will create their own new work in the future. Therefore, individuals will control their own destiny and become entrepreneurs. However, this goes against our American culture. Grandma taught us to “go to work for a good company and get a good job with benefits.”

In fact, Bruce Sterling, author of Tomorrow Now, further argues that simple, predictable and solvable jobs will go to uneducated and unprepared people or intelligent machines. However, the high-paying jobs will go to highly prepared, educable and creative people. In the future, good works will be the pinnacle of human difficulty. Technology and understanding of complex systems will require a well-grounded individual. However, futurist James Canton argues that young Americans, our future workers, will not be prepared in math/science and may be left out of future opportunities.

According to many observations, organizations and individuals do not want to hear negative scenarios for future generations. This reality reaffirms that people do not want to think negatively about their future. Therefore, they often operate in denial or ignore the future. Clearly, organizational leaders need to develop a strategy to deal with negative consequences. Many people do not have the patience to look beyond short-term gains. Therefore, effective leaders must know how to deal with the possibilities of negative futures.

References:

Canton, J. (2006). The Extreme Future. New York: Dutton.

Cornish, E. (2002). Futuring: the exploration of the future. Bethesda, MD: World Future Society.

Handy, C. (1997). The age of paradox. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.

Sterling, B. (2002). Tomorrow Now New York: Random House Publishers.

© 2008 by Daryl D. Green

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