Want to win the future? Pay more attention to now.
In decades of professional life — through multiple recessions, crashes and crises, I have never seen such a tsunami of advice about how to win the future. All of a sudden every pundit has a handy tip-sheet of all the things you’ll need to master for what is definitely coming next, variously described as the new normal, the new not normal, the new now, the new next, the next normal, etc… It all pretty much starts to sound the same.
There are no precedents for this global crisis; nothing this emergent. So how can you know what to do next in such a complex environment? I believe the answer is to pay more attention to what’s actually happening now.
Do you even know what’s happening, right now?
What are your customers and clients feeling and how is that changing their behavior, now? How are your employees adapting to their work-lives and what are the subtle signals they are sending you, now? What new patterns have formed in your cities and communities that tell you how people want to live, now?
Paying more attention to now gives us two advantages. First, it helps us better deal with what is unfolding every day. The constant attention to what’s next leaves us stranded without direction on choices that have to be made now. Second, we humans are notoriously bad at planning. It’s an outcome of the evolutionary advantage of focusing on immediate and near term challenges of survival. As Behavioural Economics has taught us, we have too many biases and bad cognitive habits to predict the future accurately. Let’s avoid wasting time on bad modelling that might make us invest in the wrong things.
How can you pay more attention to now?
1. Listen more: through research, through curiosity, through asking great questions and actually letting people answer them.
2. Stand back and observe more dispassionately. Try to establish some remove from the situation. Avoid catastrophizing. Be the one who keeps perspective.
3. Embrace emergence. In emergent systems having all the answers isn’t actually a good thing. Learn to read the signals with more subtlety and focus on removing barriers to adaptation.
I also suggest you check out the incredibly cool and timely FurtureScan tools from Cognitive Edge.