Reports from the Knowledge Labs about our recent findings, research topics, and interviews with lifestyle leaders who are creating their own futures.

How to stimulate your own powers of foresight. Consider the following thought provokers. Ask yourself, in these categories what are the brand new trends and forces? Which are the ones growing in importance? Which current forces are loosing their steam? Which have peaked or are reversing themselves? Which are the "wildcards" about to disrupt us in the future? POLITICAL AND TECHNICAL thought for food: Electronics, Materials, Energy, Fossil, Nuclear, Alternative, Other, Manufacturing (techniques), Agriculture, Machinery and Equipment, Distribution, Transportation (Urban, Mass, Personal, Surface, Sea, Subsurface, Space), Communication (Printed, Spoken, Interactive, Media), Computers (Information, Knowledge, Storage & Retrieval, Design, Network Resources), Post-Cold War, Third World, Conflict (Local, Regional, Global), Arms Limitation, Undeclared Wars, Terrorism, Nuclear Proliferation, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Governments (More/Less Power and Larger or Smaller Scale), Taxes, Isms: Nationalism, Regionalism, Protectionism, Populism, Cartels, Multinational Corporations, Balance of Trade, Third Party Payments, Regulations (OSHA, etc.) Environmental Impact, U.S. Prestige Abroad. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC Food for thought: Labor Movements, Unemployment / Employment Cycles, Recession, Employment Patterns, Work Hours / Schedules, Fringe Benefits, Management Approaches, Accounting Policies, Productivity, Energy Costs, Balance of Payments, Inflation, Taxes, Rates of Real Growth, Distribution of Wealth, Capital Availability and Costs, Reliability of Forecasts, Raw Materials, Availability and Costs, Global versus National Economy, Market versus Planned Economies, Generations: Y, X, Boomers, Elderly, Urban vs. Rural Lifestyles, Affluent vs. Poor, Neighborhoods and Communities, Planned or Organic Growth. Got Knowledge?

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The Journal of 2020 Foresight
Thursday, February 20, 2003  

Blips on the Radar, or Has the Big Bang Fuse Been Lit?

Chapter Two: The Ridge

By Steve Howard, CKO
The Knowledge Labs

Table of Contents
Chapter One: Basecamp
Chapter Two: The Ridge
Chapter Three: The Outpost
Chapter Four: The Tribal Territories

"This boom should open up your opportunities not just for lucrative jobs or entrepreneurial ventures, but for a real change in lifestyle. This is a great time to sit down with your spouse, family, or friends and really consider where you would want to live. What are the alternatives? How will technology allow us to live in a place we might not have considered? The business, career, and, especially the real-estate opportunities are also likely to be much stronger in the best boomtowns and cities. This could be one of the most important decisions you make in your life, whether you are a baby boomer in your mid-forties, or have a new family and are in your early twenties, or about to retire. Spend the time to find the best place to live and invest. It will be worth your while."

Harry Dent

The Polls are open. We're asking people like you to rate trends and predictions that have the greatest direct impact on your livelihood and future plans?

Today's top three:

80 - 70% of boomer women will outlive their husbands (Russell)

79 - On average baby boom women will be widows over a 15-year period (Russell)

78 - As a generation boomers will spend the rest of their lives trying to look young (Russell)

Register your vote

Journal of 2020 Foresight: You realized from your experience in the '90s that trying to categorize and then to monitor the reliability of 253 predictions proved to be overwhelming.

Trailblazer: I left that important work to the content futurists.

Instead of re-inventing their wheel, I discovered a more valuable role appealed to me -- the role of a process futurist.

J2020F: What's the difference?

TB: Well, in one way, their content fuels the vehicle, but the process delivers us to our destination.

J2020F: So, it's not important to map out the locations of all the possible gas stations in the world, just the ones we're likely to need along the way?

TB: This may be stretching the metaphor, but what we really care about is not hitting a dark and lonely stretch of the highway out in the middle of nowhere with an empty fuel gauge 300 miles from the nearest station.

J2020F: A process futurist determines the destination and plots several paths to it based upon the probabilities of encountering threats and opportunities along the way?

TB: We're most interested in what Lawrence Wilkinson called "long fuse, big bang" problems.

He says, "Whatever you decide to do today will play out with a big bang - often a life or death difference - but it can take years to learn whether your decision was wise or not."

So you're flying blind in the beginning with little or no feedback to assure you that your personal story has a happy ending.

J2020F: You're describing the big bang decisions we struggle with at a crossroads in our life. We want to know how the journey we are about to take will play out in our life, career, and retirement.

TB: We want to know, given the current and uncertain future economic climate, what are we risking when we change course? You won't find out until much, much later if you made a wise decision.

But we can start with the "What-If" questions. What if I:

Change positions in the same organization;

Change organizations in the same field;

Change careers altogether;

Grow in my current job, but moonlight;

Start a business;

Buy a business;

Buy a franchise;

Launch that consulting practice I always dreamed of doing;

Pursue a portfolio career;

Live on my investment portfolio and volunteer my time to worthy causes; or

Simply retire early and free-lance or consult to supplement my income?

J2020F: So, those are the 11 options, right? Now, to that you apply the next round of "What-Ifs" within the big bang context. You may launch a new business and do well initially, only to have the economy tank through no fault of your own.

Will you be able to survive the loss of income for an extended period of time?

Will you be forced to take a job just to make ends meet?

In a severe economic downturn with high unemployment, will you be able to convince a prospective employer to hire you. And so on.

Those are high-risk choices.

TB: You bet. We all enter a crossroads in our lives, each from our own, unique life experience. Even those in the same life stage come to seek a different set of options depending upon their current situation.

J2020F: Pathfinder says in Basecamp he helps people listen to their little voices. Choosing the right path for them depends on their calling, strengths and weaknesses and their current condition. Some will have plenty of time to recover from a setback, but others will risk their life savings.

TB: Some have never married. Some are childless. Some married young and others are divorced. Some are widowed. Some have a full house, others in empty nests.

While some are more fit than ever, others are ill and ailing. Many are in rewarding careers, while still others seek change.

Some are wealthy, but many others are just getting by. Some are mothers just starting or re-starting careers. Others are career women just starting motherhood.

Some are trying to beat the clock, their fertility deadline. Others have many pregnancies behind them and face rising college tuitions.

Some are overachievers just beginning to balance out, while others are laid-back belatedly trying to make some money before it is too late.

J2020F: That's why you start from the inside out, right?

TB: Pathfinder helps them clarify their intentions, purpose, and aspirations.

We help them harness uncertainty and change, so the when the big bang explodes it propels them to their next destination, rather than blows up everything they've worked for along the way.

J2020F: What happens next?

TB: We identify predetermined and uncertain driving forces -- usually from four categories -- social / demographics, political, technology, and economics.

Our goal is to better understand the dynamics shaping our future.

We brainstorm primary driving forces at work in the present, knowing full well that it is the interaction among forces that pose threats and opportunities.

J2020F: The point of brainstorming the list is what?

TB: To look past our every day trials and tribulations that occupy our thoughts and feelings.

The shift in perspective opens our awareness to the hidden long-term forces shaping today and tomorrow.

These are the powerful forces that will usually catch us by surprise.

J2020F: Then what?

TB: We rank the most uncertain, yet critically important trends.

J2020F: Why?

TB: Predetermined forces, like demographic facts, play out in any story about our future. But, not all forces are so easy to predict.

The variable, wildcard forces likely to have a major impact on our decision get ranked, or sorted into clusters, if you will.

J2020F: What do you do with those clusters?

TB: We use a variety of tools to sort them into two dimensions, each set along a single spectrum.

At first they all seem unique.

But, by stepping back and noticing commonalities among them a pattern emerges.

If we can simplify our entire list of related uncertainties into two axes, an X and Y plane -- one horizontal and one vertical -- then we can define a "4-box matrix."

J2020F: Wait a minute. You create a matrix at the intersection of the X and Y planes? The four boxes define four different quadrants?

TB: The common approach is to identify only three possible futures -- best case, worst-case and something in between. Guess what happens?

J2020F: Regression to the mean. Once you've written the in-between script, you ignore the other two, right?

TB: So, this matrix trick, and others, keeps us from falling into that hole in the sidewalk.

We're after four logically plausible, yet qualitatively different screenplays of the future.

J2020F: Then what?

TB: We creatively explore each of the four boxes.

J2020F: Thinking-in-the-box?

TB: The next step is to think out-of-the-box to flesh out future stories within the framework.

We're getting a little ahead of ourselves here, but we use screen writing plot structures to reveal patterns and implications relevant to our decision.

Finally, in the Outpost we pick relevant signposts and indicators to monitor as we move forward to our destination.

J2020F: Signpost and indicators?

TB: Like on an air traffic control's computer screen. Those little blips that show up as the radar line sweeps across the sky. We use them as early warnings signals.

J2020F: Sounds pretty esoteric.

TB: Maybe some examples would help.

Got Knowledge?
Copyright ©2002 - 2006 Aarnaes Howard Associates. All rights reserved worldwide.

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