This is the eleventh installment in our 25-week series exploring the 25 competencies, or soft skills, that our assessments measure. Each week we’ll give you the definition of that competency, explain its value, and give you tips to help you develop it.
This week: Futuristic Thinking.
First, understand that Futuristic Thinking is not a critical skill for the vast majority of people. Unlike the skill we addressed last week, Flexibility, which is important at any level of a company. Futuristic Thinking is most critical for those at the higher, more strategic, levels of an organization. As a leader, you will find it invaluable, but most of your staff should focus on developing other skills for now.
Futuristic Thinking is imagining, envisioning, projecting, and/or creating what has not yet been actualized. That sounds pretty ephemeral, doesn’t it? All it boils down to is your ability to anticipate, or dream about, what the future might hold. Great futuristic thinkers are always contemplating what could be. What does the future hold? And how can we try to better understand it in the here and now?
Those with skills in Futuristic Thinking have no trouble brainstorming the possibilities that could be right around the corner. They look at the current landscape and are able to project what the next steps might be. They don’t get stuck in the weeds, but rather focus on the bigger picture. How will their actions in this area affect those around them? They are great at anticipating new trends and patterns not seen by others.
Futuristic Thinking takes commitment.
You can’t do it in five minutes here or there. It requires you to take stock of current issues and trends and try to connect the dots to the bigger picture. What will today’s actions mean for tomorrow? You have to be able to step away from the attention of immediate in the here and now and let yourself get lost in thought about what could be. Something that is not easy for humans in general. It’s hard to do, but it can help you be much more intentional about your actions and your future.
A person who has good Futuristic Thinking skills can mentally role-play the execution of a long-range plan and make accurate predictions concerning possible outcomes. These people have the uncanny ability to solve problems in ways that others couldn’t even have thought of. In simpler terms, good Futuristic Thinking skills allow you to see the big picture, helping you to determine which direction to take.
Imagining and/or predicting changes in current reality seems to come naturally to some people. Many leaders who are good Futuristic Thinkers are curious and flexible. They are focused on the future and have a positive outlook. And they are open to new ideas in a variety of ways.
But why does this matter?
Think about it this way. You will never be able to achieve your long-term goals if you can’t visualize them and act toward them in a reasonable, effective manner. Perhaps even more important at this moment, good Futuristic Thinking skills will help you be taken seriously in managerial roles and help your company achieve its goals. If you help your company achieve its goals, you are proving your own value again and again. And you’ll be much more likely to be trusted with important projects and gain opportunities for advancement.
Being good at Futuristic Thinking also means that you are able to anticipate future trends or events. Which can put you ahead of the curve when it comes to new ideas or products. If you can anticipate what the market will be doing in 6 or 12 months, you’ll be able to start preparing now to take advantage of those changes. Putting you miles ahead of your competition.
To improve your Futuristic Thinking, brainstorm more.
A big part of Futuristic Thinking is taking time to anticipate potential changes or future possibilities. That means taking the time to brainstorm what might be around the corner. You don’t have to be right about your predictions every time. The important thing is that you are considering future possibilities.
For every challenge, problem, or decision that you face, let yourself brainstorm not only different ideas for solving them but also how those solutions will impact the future. What does each path look like in 1-2 years? 3-5? Think through the follow-up and follow-through of each of your options. What will the consequences be?
For each new project you start, make a list of three potential problems that could occur on each one. What could you do to avoid them or prepare for them?
When thinking more globally, what are some potential organizational changes that might happen? Is someone disgruntled and might they choose to leave? Can you tell if someone is clearly being prepared for management? Is there a department that might merge with another?
Thinking a couple of steps ahead can help you avoid many of the unintended consequences that often arise from quick decisions.
Futuristic Thinking helps bring the future to the present.
Being good at Futuristic Thinking means that not only are you able to imagine what could be, but you’re also able to help make that a reality. You can anticipate and predict what will happen and then create a path to get there. It is an extremely valuable skill to have in the ever-changing world that we live in today. Being able to envision what’s around the corner can give you peace of mind in knowing that you are ready for whatever may come.
It also means that you are always staying ahead of the pack. You are not dwelling in the past, but consistently and deliberately moving towards a brighter future. Which will help your company stay relevant and essential to your customers. You won’t need to be afraid of what tomorrow will bring because you already know. Using your Futuristic Thinking skills you can walk confidently into the future with a plan of where you’re going and how you’re going to get there. Though it is one of the harder skills to develop, it can be one of the most impactful skills for your success as a leader.
If you’d like to learn more ways to develop your Futuristic Thinking, download our Futuristic Thinking Rx PDF here.