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Think Like a Futurist

Think Like A Futurist

THINKING like a futurist isn’t a magical process. Practically, it is about creativity. It’s learning to step out of our present thinking to make connections with what we don’t yet know. Any good book on “future thinking” should help you do just that.

Think Like a Futurist by Cecily Sommers, is just such a book. What we can imagine or create or any manifestation of future thinking must link to something that already exists in our mind. The more points of connection we have, the more possibilities we have for discovery. This is the key idea.

Sommers explains, “If our capacity for prediction is limited by what we already know, then the solution is to know more about things...With a richer store of memories, we are able to imagine a vast range of possibilities, understand their nuances better, and make more of the associative links that produce our best predictions about the future.” It’s not magic. It can’t be.

Sommers claims that the four building blocks of all change are: resources, technology, demographics, and governance. Resources is the foundation of the system of forces and is the slowest moving. Technology is the next and gives us the power to leverage ourselves. Demographics, both in numbers and composition is next, followed by governance which is the rule of law. Understanding how these forces work together to drive change is helpful when trying to understand the world around you and how it might impact the future. That these four forces will change is a given, the unpredictable part is how.

To make the best and most informed decisions today for the future, Sommers introduces what she calls the Zone of Discovery. It is a method for “effectively accessing the imaginative power that precedes, those decisions.” Through the process, you will answer two basic questions: Who are you? and Where are you going? The answers to these questions will become a filter through which you create meaning from the information you collect and process into the best choices for you and your unique situation. The method is a way of thinking to pry you from thinking only in the present and removing you from the cycle of reactivity. Not surprisingly, developing greater self-awareness is key.

She urges everyone to spend at least 5% of their time – two hours a month – on this process. Start where you are. “There’s no point in resisting or trying to change a limitation (in this case, people’s full schedules and existing commitments). You must accept things as they are and shift your focus to your First Movable Piece.”

What we’re doing, at the most basic level, is reconciling dualities. Our life experience is constantly about navigating the existential tensions between objective and subjective realities, Us and Them, male and female, right and wrong, known and unknown, questions and answers, and present and future. The duality even shows up in our biology, as the two separate hemispheres of the brain indicate. Our life’s energy is spent negotiating the space in between, a place in which we find purpose, meaning, and possibility.

Think Like a Futurist is a book about helping us to get unstuck—to free ourselves from ourselves. The consequences present a range of possibilities of course, but more importantly the method helps us to get to know ourselves better and create meaning.

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