I had just finished on stage when I was approached by a young man beaming from ear to ear with his hand outstretched
“Wow! That was fantastic – my head is like exploding with ideas after that” he blurted out as he shook my hand vigorously.
“I wish our company did something like that – continuously explored the consequences and possibilities of future technology” he continued.
“Well why don’t they? It’s not rocket science after all” I replied, giving my standard light-hearted answer.
“No”, he replied gravely “rocket science is much easier” he said to my surprise and then grinned at the confused look on my face.
It turned out that the gentleman in front of me was a quant – numbers are his game and he’s very good at them. But before he became a quant he worked on the Russian Space Program, so he was in fact to my mind a genuine rocket scientist!
He went on to say that he thought what I did was something akin to black magic – an art more than a science – and therefore infinitely more difficult than his field, where he is used to structured scientific and mathematical approaches with numbers. Lots of numbers. I spent a few minutes explaining to him that the Foresight Profession does in fact use structured approaches and theories as the basis of our work. We too rely on data – lots and lots of data points and observations that are correlated to extrapolate scenarios which we present as possible stories of the future in order to stimulate ideas and innovation and inform strategic decisions.
It continues to surprise me how many companies are founded with a solid goal in mind, but then they get bogged down in the everyday routine of growing sales, handling customer complaints and incrementally evolving their product, until one day, seemingly with no warning, they are disrupted by a new entrant or technology that shakes their market proposition. What often follows is a period of head scratching and navel gazing – perhaps a few heads roll or even worse redundancies and restructures until finally they emerge with a few scars if they are lucky or in the case of some they never recover and disappear into obscurity.
All because they never owned their own story of the future and they ended up reading about it as history made by someone else.
Despite what my learned friend thinks, it’s really not that difficult to develop a bit of foresight – if you need some help, give me a shout. After all, it’s genuinely not rocket science!