Engage the Future

August 13, 2013 Leave a comment

How to predict the future?  It’s a bit like the alchemist’s dream, ever-seductive wishful thinking.  We can’t predict the future, not with master plans and not with meta-data.  Too many of the problems within organizations have to do with our frustrated wish for someone – ideally “the leader” – to be able to predict the future and to create stability for us.

But we can’t even predict an employee’s ability to succeed.  Stowe Boyd quotes research showing that neither GPA (achieved in an artificial environment), nor Google’s famous “brain teasers,” yield any correlation with success.  This is deep, and here is the quote that caught my attention:

I doubt that this scientific finding will have much of an impact, because people often seem happier to continue doing what is familiar even when it doesn’t work, because they never track the results. But Google is now tracking the results, and management — the real problem in most organization — is getting better, because Google has shifted to a worker-centric system, where the opinions of direct reports are weighted much higher than opinions of a manager’s manager.

You see, our post-normal world is defined by VUCA – volatility, uncertainty, ambiguity and complexity.  We should release all of the energy that is wasted in our prediction games and spend more time engaging the future – crafting the future one hypothesis at a time, one experiment at a time.  Get clear on your vision, know where you want to go, figure out your measures for progress, DO, track results, learn, iterate again, DO.

And what about this idea of becoming more worker-centric?  What does that have to do with engaging the future?  That’s where the most relevant information is.  That’s where all the action is!

What would happen if more foundations were rigorous about hearing from those directly impacted? What are we really doing when we focus so much on our talking heads and organizing “stars?”  I think we are creating our own pundits, we are rewarding people who are predicting the future for us.  Perhaps we should focus on those who are engaging it.

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