Transport yourself to the future and think about its possibilities

Executive Blueprint: Mastering Futures Thinking Skills

futures thinking how to Mar 14, 2023

I know you’re busy, but trust me, this is worth your time.

You see, the future is unpredictable, complex, and full of surprises. And as an executive, you need to be prepared for anything.

That’s why you need futures thinking, also known as foresight. It’s a skill that helps you imagine and explore different scenarios for the future, and use them to plan your strategy.

Sounds awesome, right?

But how do you find time for this in your hectic schedule?

Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered. I’ve created a handy (and fun) checklist that will help you cultivate your futures thinking skills in no time.


Thinking Prompts for New Futures

  • Trend watch. Consider a significant trend in your industry. How do you think the trend will evolve in the next decade? Which new trends will it spawn? 
  • Get sci-fi. Take the most disruptive technology in your industry. If that trend would become the norm, what would the world look like?
  • Let’s play “what if?” What if you were wrong about the future? Turn your vision upside down and see where it takes you.


Thinking Prompts for Looking Back to the Present

  1. Time travel. Think back to a recent business decision you made. Now fast forward 5, 10, or 20 years. Take a minute to arrive in that year (click for tips how to get there). Now look back in time towards today. How did your decision play out?
  2. Back plan: Start from your ideal future. Identify the policies, innovations, and events that were necessary to achieve the ideal future.


Questions for a Reflective Foresight Practice

Take a break and reflect!

Reflective practice is the process of thinking about and analyzing your actions and experiences. It is a powerful tool to become a better leader, because you learn to consider more relevant factors, your strengths and weaknesses, your assumptions and perspectives. It's also practiced by many famous CEOs.

Set aside regular time for a 15-minute reflection and forward-thinking moment. This could be a solo activity or a group exercise. Here are some questions to help you (and your team) reflect.


  1. What assumptions are we making about the future, and what if the opposite were true?
  2. How might global issues, such as climate change or geopolitical shifts, impact our business in the long term?
  3. What potential disruptions could significantly alter our industry? How might we respond?
  4. Consider all angles: Who are our most important stakeholders now and 10 years from now? How might their needs and behaviors change over time?
  5. If we were to reinvent our organization from scratch, no strings attached, what might it look like?
  6. What skills and capabilities will our team need to thrive in different future scenarios?


Making Time for Futures Thinking

Research shows that taking some time to reflect on your day can help you perform better at work.

In one study, call center employees who spent 15 minutes at the end of each day reflecting on their calls performed 23% better after 10 days than those who did not reflect (here's the research).

Another study found that commuters who were prompted to use their commute to reflect were happier, more productive, and less burned out than those who didn't (here's the study)

If it helped them, it can help you too. So let’s talk about how you can make time in your busy schedule.

Some executives:

  1. Block 90 minutes every day.
  2. Or take a daily 40 minute walk after lunch.
  3. Or block 3 x 2 hours per week.
  4. Or use all of Monday and don't come into the office that day.


Others have quick reflective moments attached to recurrent tasks:

  • Capture as much data during the day with voice memo's or journal entries after each meeting. Takes 5 minutes, and Bob's your uncle.
  • Get together with a trusted colleague to discuss the data. Book these meetings already.


Or tack quick reflection activities to daily habits:

  • When looking in a mirror "The mirror does a lot of work for you, all you have to do is look at it and start talking."
  • When you're being driven (public transport, taxi, driver, whichever happens daily).
  • At dawn before anything else, or when you get ready to sleep.


                  Tips to imagine yourself in your future

  • Close the door and take a seat. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. As you exhale, relax your body and let go of any tension.
  • Imagine that it is 30 years in the future. You are now the age of [...]. You are sitting in your office, looking out the window.
  • Explore. What do you see? What do you hear? What do you smell? What are the details of your surroundings? What are you wearing?
  • Spend a few minutes to dig deeper. What are you doing for a living? Where do you live? Who are you with? What are you passionate about?
  • Feel the emotions. Are you happy? Sad? Content? Excited?
  • Look back to the present moment. What changed? What stayed the same? How did your strategy play out?
  • Breathe and get up. When you're done exploring, take a few deep breaths and open your eyes.

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