Thinking Ahead

with Warren Weertman

Date Posted: April, 3 2017

Looking Back at Last Year's Experience and Looking Ahead to this year's Experience

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It’s hard to believe that this year’s PurpleBeach Experience is only a few days away. It feels like last years’ experience only happened yesterday.

So now is as good a time as any to think about the past and the future. We didn’t get here by complete accident (though sometimes unforeseen events can have a big impact on the present) and we won’t be shaping the future by complete accident either. Though, again, unforeseen events will also play a role.

How should we be thinking about the past and the future? Future Studies offers two useful tools:

1. Backcasting

Backcasting is when you develop an idea, or vision if you will, of what your preferred future looks like. You’re not “futurecasting” and simply extrapolating current trends, you’re looking at a different view or vision of the future and trying to work out how you get there.

The questions that you’re trying to answer with backcasting are:

  • How far are you looking back? (Remember my guidance of last week to no look no more than 20 years ahead)
  • How did we get here?
  • What decisions did we need to make?
  • What policies did we need to implement?
  • What are the possible hurdles to achieving your vision?
  • How did you get around those possible hurdles?

But most importantly: how does this vision tie in with the trends that we’ve identified? Is your vision congruent with the trends identified?

2. Futurecasting

In contrast to backcasting, with futurecasting, you’re trying to imagine what your organisation will look like in the future. But while a lot of organisations engage in futurecasting when they’re getting their budgets and sales targets ready for the next year; futurecasting is trying to be more strategic. So futurecasting is about what trends and factors will impact your organisation in the future.

In a previous blog series here on the PurpleBeach website I looked at resources, technology, demographics and governance as four “megatrends” that will impact organisations and societies. If you haven’t thought about or identified possible trends and factors, these four could be a good place to start.

Remember, that the goal of both backcasting and futurecasting is to be as strategic as possible. It’s not about trying to simply project the present into the past or the past into the future, but really try be as strategic as possible about what your organisation’s horizon looks like.

Thought from the Lifeguard’s Hut

The invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

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