Leadership Thinking For The Future
There are some critical understandings about our work in futures and foresight and a few myths to dispel.
- Futures not future – there are many futures so keep an open mind in order to remain agile.
- Anticipation not Prediction – anticipation explores the opportunities before us. Prediction is based on extrapolating from the past. Both are important but don’t confuse them.
- Foresight not forecasting – Foresight looks to the future. Forecasting looks to past data. The future has no data.
- Past, present and future are interwoven – our past histories, our whakapapa, our experiences are carried with us today and into the future. Consider the Māori whakataukī: Kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua. I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on the past.
- The future is created through our actions today. Our assumptions and worldviews influence our images of the future and therefore our actions.
- Deeply human. The power of collaborating and connecting with others lies at the heart of our humanity. Our leadership is more powerful when diverse peoples work together, listen deeply and collaborate.
- From what next to what if? The questions we ask set our pathway of discovery. They enable us to be creative and explore novel possibilities.
- Strategic thinking before strategic planning. Exploring beyond your own industries and filter bubbles impacts on your future. Staying within your industry or comfort zone leads to default thinking and planning.
The deepest change is when you understand your personal role in futuring and use this to challenge your own mindset. Like any muscle, the futures ‘muscle’ needs to be exercised regularly for best results. Our work will help you understand the importance of noticing signals, connecting these, relating these to your context and taking action. Research on the use of foresight and futures thinking shows compelling benefits for organisations and individuals – that’s an up-coming article!
What a futurist does
Futurists help you broaden your perspectives beyond a narrow view of the future – a critical capability in increasingly uncertain times. We help you to think about alternative images of the future and use these to transform what you think and what you do.
We consciously practise scanning for signals of change in the world to connect dots and sensemake. These signals are examples of the future that already exist in the present. They encourage you to pause, think and consider new possibilities.
We help you uncover emerging issues, trends, and drivers of change, especially those that are challenging to consider. Together we consider possible impacts using a range of futures tools and processes to help you and your organisation to create images that transform beyond the expected.
Futurists come in many shapes and sizes. Some have specialist areas. Some are quantitative in approach, others qualitative. Some are trained in futures and foresight deeply and others not so much. Generally someone who only talks about trends is not a futurist. AI is not a replacement for a futurist. AI uses information from the past and limits our thinking to knowledge of today.
This depends on what services are needed. A typical approach in consulting might be:
- Frame – explore your needs, context, time horizon, domain map. Identify the key issue/ question.
- Scan – consider the current state as the springboard. Scan widely and make connections.
- Anticipate – explore alternatives, make connections, create and ideate.
- Envision – create images for the future, considering preferred futures.
- Activate – Bring the narratives to reality. Back cast and develop systems to move to action.
“Futures fluency is a game changer.”
Cheryl is incredibly generous with her time and knowledge. Her facilitation and tutoring style allows for people to learn in their own time, yet progress along with others in a way that, in the end, all the learnings fall into place and you have a new skill. Just like that. Mr Miyagi style.
Diego Muller de Oliviera – Team Leader – Future Products at HamiltonJet 2021
Cheryl’s knowledge and expertise is phenomenal, and yet she is very practical, humble and welcoming. This combination set the scene for a really positive and inspiring learning experience. She also has an exceptional ability to bring a diverse group of people together and harness the potential within that group which results in some great discussions and outcomes.
Gretchen McFadden – Director/Consulting Organisational Psychologist, Evolutio 2021
Cheryl provided some thought provoking insights for our co-design sessions and really set the scene for our participants to create new worlds and remove any current barriers standing in their way.
Deanna Anderson, Orion Energy Academy
Your thought provoking questions enabled us to ‘think beyond’ our linear and traditional approaches to reaching young people and we loved the energy, enthusiasm and motivation your sessions encouraged. Thanks again Cheryl – we love working with you.
Deborah Bush MNZM, QSM, Endometriosis NZ
Cheryl is simply one of those people who “walks the talk” in relation to everyone taking a shared and collective responsibility
Garry Williams, NZ Ministry of Education
We were very pleased to have Cheryl’s insights and strategic planning skills when the Council revised our 5 year strategy recently. We really appreciated her thorough preparation and masterful handling of the 2 major sessions with our group of health and education leaders. Her written report has provided a rich source of fresh ideas and some very timely challenges around our purpose and level of ambition.
Health Precinct Advisory Council, Christchurch
Cheryl provided me with the invaluable insight and clarity necessary to develop a foresight approach for evaluating future sustainability challenges and opportunities in the outdoor apparel industry. Her generosity, energy, and expertise were instrumental in ensuring the approach was at the cutting edge of futures thinking and delivered clear directives for business strategy.
Eliza Turnbull, Kindred Collective
Think Beyond has and continues to lead the way with its transformative approach to how we look at the world. Strengthening resilience and finding the opportunities and mindset needed to thrive going forward are critical and Think Beyond is a key activator of these. I am sure that like us, businesses and other organisations that take the time to engage with Think Beyond will see the difference.
Rose Challies, Terranova Foundation
Cheryl guided our Board as we worked to define our vision for the future of our business. She challenged us to be multi-dimensional in our thinking and ensure we considered both internal and external factors. Cheryl proved to be a great facilitator who brought energy, skill and valuable resources to table.
Kevin Smith, Chair, Halswell Health Limited
Cheryl really is the Futures Aunty, she brings an inner sense of curiosity and wisdom that helps ventures and organisations to explore the deep questions surrounding what might be? and how we can make sense of signals to explore potential pathways that can help navigate the journey ahead. Cheryl’s generosity in giving her time to our Summer Startup ventures helped our early-stage founders think differently surrounding the problems they are wanting to solve and the solutions they are seeking to create.
Pete Howard, Student Innovation Lead, UC Centre for Entrepreneurship