Coming into the home stretch of the book, Think Like a Futurist, the author provides some final actions as part of the Zone of Discovery. I reached Phase III, Distill. Distill is where you generate a plan with values and information explaining how and why actions will be taken.
Sommers provides a focus on Most Valuable Scenario (MVS) that is the ultimate goal a person may have as part of their futurist ideas. (Sommers, pg97) The MVS provides an end state with limited restrictions and potentially minimal measurement. MVS is Similar to Project Management in that it is comprised of Short, Medium and Long Term projects.
- Short Term Projects are quick wins that can easily demonstrate value
- Medium Term Projects are the realistic projects that will need management support and collaboration from others to achieve results. The value is clear.
- Long Term Projects are those that are more aspirational and likely very difficult to measure or predict final value.
Sommers provides a framework of ‘chunking by halves’ to build a plan toward accomplishing MVS. (Sommers) The chunking is once again similar to Project Management in that you divide your overall plan by half and define what will be delivered and measured. You then divide the remaining time by half and define what will be delivered and measured. These activities reflect Milestones in Project Management. The difference is that a milestone focuses on a specific deliverable and/or action, but a Chunk is based on overall timeframe and goals being halved.
The author included a quote by Will Rogers in her text, “Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.” (Sommers, p105) This is quite an important statement. The point of being a Futurist is to help identify opportunities. However, an opportunity that has no action taken to achieve it is purely an idea. The real value is to take action and move toward the opportunities. Not all opportunities work out, but without action, failure to embrace the future is almost guaranteed.
Ending the book, the author provides a recap of the information shared. What I appreciated most was the continued focus on allocating time and energy to considering the future. The guidelines, framework, activities, etc. given by the author are great tools to utilize in taking Futurist actions. However, if an organization does not create an environment and structure that supports these types of activities, the effort will be for little value.
Sommers highlights some consistent barriers that I run into regularly. She recommends dropping the hidden agendas, not trying to solve how something will be done when first discussing it and avoid judging other people’s thoughts. (Sommers, pg221-224) I truly appreciate this perspective as these barriers seem to be prevalent is most companies.
She also talks about challenges to change, which I am very familiar. I existing within an organization that has a mission to drive change. While my team is bringing benefits to our internal customers, we are constantly challenged with excuses and justifications not based on reality or logic. We continually have to dig into the reasons behind the challenges to understand why people have the perspectives they do. This is something the book clearly identifies as a risk for Futurists.
Overall, I feel the book provided some interesting insights and solid framework for work as a Futurist. I believe there are similarities between some of her structures and related activities in Project Management and Strategy Development. I believe this would be a great book for senior leaders in companies to understand the effort that goes into planning for the future and how they need to build organizations to support such activities.
The future might be bright, but without planning you may forget to bring your sunglasses.
Sommers, Cecily (2012). Think Like A Futurist: Know What Changes, What Doesn’t and What’s Next. San Francisco, CA – Jossey-Bass