Knowing where you are by thinking about where you’re going

I just finished presenting and participating in the Bolz Center’s Professional Development seminar focused on a tool called “scenario planning.” Thanks to all of you who attended and contributed to the useful and stimulating conversation! Now I’m pondering Garry Golden’s PechaKucha-style talk about ways to think about the future. Are there overlaps? Yes.

Here are some key takeaways:

  1. The future is uncertain—that’s a truism, but it’s healthy to remember.
  2. By imagining possible futures (whether via quadrants or cones), we may be able to equip ourselves for dealing with uncertainties and achieving better outcomes.
  3. Imagining takes time (not always a lot of time) away from dealing with present crises. But time spent imagining the future can be productive and possibly transformative. Dwight Eisenhower said something like “plans are nothing, but planning is everything.” Looking to the future is both a planning process, valuable in itself, as well as a posture, a general attitude and method of operating that orients us more amiably towards the unknown.
  4. The session participants were quick to identify critical uncertainties in their worlds, ranging from impending changes in tax policy (related to philanthropy) to the predominance of mono- or multi-lingual groups in a presenter’s relevant population to the fate of Live Nation. There are many types of uncertainty and lessons to be drawn from them. What kinds of issues are critical and uncertain in your world?
  5. The secret with scenario planning—and with any attempt to look into the future—is that it’s actually all about the present. Ultimately, I think we can learn a lot about where we are by thinking about where we’re going.

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