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
Saturday, February 01, 2003  

Forward to the Past, or Back to the Future: Where's the Anti-Murphy?

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

"There are an infinite number of stories that we could tell about the future. Our purpose is to tell those that matter, that lead to better decisions. It happens to us all. We look out into the future, trying our best to make wise decisions, only to find ourselves staring into the teeth of ferocious and widespread uncertainties."

Lawrence Wilkinson

Journal of 2020 Foresight: Given the weather pattern hovering over this part of the Rockies, I'm surprised. There's still an 11-to-14 foot base here at Mammoth Mountain.

While waiting for Trailblazer to meet me, my mind takes me back to the beach in Basecamp. I remember as coastal clouds turned into a dense fog bank, and the last embers of the bonfire turned to ash, we packed our things for the trip home. It was then that Trailblazer handed me a note. It read, "Meet me at the Ridge on January 30th at the base of chair #3 on Mammoth Mountain and we'll continue this discussion."

Today the snow is everywhere. Snow blankets wind scarred dark green pine trees -- forcing branches to bend under the weight. Snow smothers chateau roofs forming icicles hanging over roof edges like dripping daggers.

Fast moving clouds cover then uncover the sun. Wind gusts and swirls sweep loose flakes up into columns of snow smoke.

Magnificently sharp mountain range peaks tease you with the threat of avalanche snow. Grey granite peaks knife into the sky.

Trailblazer: Ah, there you are. I was waiting for you over by the gondola. Are you ready to go?

J2020F: Sure.

TB: Then let's take a ride, isn't this beautiful? We're surrounded by ancient volcano peaks. If you look closely, it's easy to imagine the path of lava flows. Sharp triangle trails at the top, smaller, more round lesser mountains sprawling out in 3 or 4 layers.

J2020F: It's the power of nature, pure and simple. Gazing out towards the distant mountain peaks remind me of how small and insignificant we all are in the grand scheme of things. How tiny your daily problems are in comparison to the awe-inspiring view.

TB: That's why I invited you here.

J2020F: From a ridge this high up, what -- at least 11,000 feet above sea level -- you can see a path between this mountain range and the next and the next.

TB: Right, you can pick it up as it meanders out across the valley floor and then follow it upward to the distant peaks. See how the terrain is dotted with miniature landmarks?

J2020F: Sure. A lake over there. A meadow there. A canyon snakes around across the entire stretch. Using your imagination, it's easy to deduce some of the natural dynamics in play.

TB: Eons of erosion dug channels guiding the runoff from the snow pack down and away from the ridge.

J2020F: And yet, today right where we stand, you can see animal tracks in six inches of freshly fallen snow -- counterpoint to granite permanence.

TB: We call this a strategic view.

J2020F: Why is a strategic view so important?

TB: Most planning for the future involves setting goals, writing them down on paper and improving upon their description are they specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, and time-bound?

J2020F: Right, and your point?

TB: Well, remember Murphy's Law?

J2020F: If something can go wrong, it will?

TB: As in "If all goes well we can complete this project under budget and ahead of schedule." Most planning doesn't account for dynamically shifting variables that often threaten or accelerate a plan.

J2020F: So in the process of strategic exploration, you invoke an anti-Murphy's law, or something?

TB: We call strategic exploration the process of shifting your perspective, even for a brief moment.

J2020F: I thought having a perspective was a good thing. Now you are telling me I need to change it? I don't get it.

TB: Focus is a good thing. We cultivate it through selective attention and concentration. On the flip side, habitual focus becomes a handicap if conditions around us change dramatically, but we don?t see the writing on the wall, as it were.

J2020F: As when the PC shocked the mainframe world. Mainframe programmers become obsolesced. The longer they stay in a mainframe computer company, the more their career capital becomes devalued. Then, through a series of mergers and acquisitions, their business unit gets reorganized out of existence. They find themselves out on the street in a shocked daze.

TB: Right. Pity the poor programmers. They kept their heads down, with their nose to the grindstone.

J2020F: Could they have avoided the shock, anger and their plunge into Valley of Despair for nine months?

TB: Sure. If you're asking me if they could have anticipated their career fate. Absolutely. Anticipation is the result of good strategic exploration. With strategic exploration, you can discover the possible futures, and, once you have found out what is possible, you are in position to anticipate it.

J2020F: Because if you don't understand how your perceptions of the future are influenced ...

TB: You risk the threat of becoming blind-sided. Since no one can predict the future, selecting which option to take presents a significant challenge. Making the wrong decision limits our current or future income and lifestyle.

J2020F: Up on this Ridge as you gaze out over the landscape far below you gain a new appreciation for all of the dynamically changing forces.

TB: People forget that what starts out as a simple and straightforward a journey can turn out quite differently. Who said it best, "the map is not the territory."

J2020F: Well, I imagine looking out on a time horizon, is no different. Between now and the year 2020 the strategic terrain and market "weather conditions" will mix in much the same way as these storm fronts intermix with highs and low pressure zones.

TB: Look at those three different cloud fronts crisscross causing rip tide like swirls of water vapor and snow. That one peak, a possible destination disappeared just like that, hidden from our view.

J2020F: And, of course when you climb down from our vantage point, on our journey to reach that peak, with map and compass in hand, those small specks loom large and block our view. So what can you do?

TB: While there are no guarantees, we can anticipate several ways our future story may unfold. We can select signposts, signals, or indicators which, when monitored, foretell which contingency plan to activate.

J2020F: I see. So in Basecamp, a learning expedition maps out a destination. They agree on a compelling vision of the future for them. They survey their past for insight and hindsight to better understand their collective strengths and weaknesses.

TB: That's right. And here at The Ridge, through strategic exploration of 100 trends, they can scan the horizon to view the terrain ahead. Their challenge, before coming off the mountain, is to anticipate threats and opportunities.

J2020F: So, they're better prepared to defeat Murphy's Law while staring into the teeth of ferocious and widespread uncertainties.

TB: And, they have to figure out how to proceed into the great unknown while creating better opportunities for those individuals and teams who follow them.

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

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