Starting With “Why”

In last week’s blog posting I introduced the concept and purpose of future studies. This week I’m going to deal with the question: “Why?”

It always amazes me how many people do things without ever considering why they’re doing it. To be fair though, it’s something we’re all guilty of to some degree or another.

For example, my background is in law. I’ve lost count of the number of litigated matters I’ve had to take over where everyone involved has forgotten why they started fighting in the first place.

To counteract this problem I’ve found that starting with the question “Why?” is a useful way of focusing on the purpose of any task and the outcomes that I am trying to achieve.

Something may sound like a brilliant idea, but can it survive the “Why?” test? Does the idea fit with my overall strategy? If something doesn’t pass the “Why?” test I normally shelve the idea for when I have some free time to play with new ideas.

So how does all of this relate to future studies?

When making the decision to use tools from the futures toolkit, it’s important to know why you’re doing what you’re doing. In essence, you’re looking for purpose.

But once you’ve identified your “Why?”, you need to make sure its clearly articulated to all your stakeholders. Everyone needs to be clear why you’re undertaking the futures project. This step is critical to making sure the project (indeed any project!) is a success.

To help you along, here are some important questions to consider:

1. What is the problem you’re trying to solve?

It speaks for itself that problem identification is important since the solutions you implement need to be tailored to the nature of the problem you’re trying to solve.

But your problem may not always be what you think it is. This means you have to have a clear picture of the system that’s causing the problem. Understanding the system helps with:

  1. problem identification; and
  2. developing long-term solutions.

I’ll be dealing with systems thinking in the coming weeks.

As I mentioned last week, running a futures project won’t tell you exactly what the future will look like. You need to be visioning possible, probable and preferable futures to help you solve your problems. And don’t forget the wildcard that is uncertainty!

Closely related to this problem is the question: “how will we know when the problem has been solved?”. You need to think about this too.

2. What’s the timescale you’re working on?

Some of the tools I will be discussing in the coming weeks may require more time to execute than others. Whilst its never advisable to try do a futures project on the fly, you need to be clear about the deadlines for your deliverables so you can adapt the tools as needed.

3. Who is your audience?

Its always important to make sure that you know who your audience to ensure you’re pitching your message correctly. For example, if you’re dealing with a technological problem and you know your audience is technological averse, avoid technobabble.

You also need to think about how you’re going to get your message across and embedded in the organisation. From a PurpleBeach perspective this means:

  1. How are you going to make your process inclusive? What does inclusivity mean in this context?
  2. How can you use the process of communicating and embedding your message to engage in People Innovation?

4. What resources do you have?

There are two important resources needed for any project:

  1. Do you know the right people can help you? For example, if you need to run a scenario planning exercise but you don’t have any knowledge of scenario planning, do you know people that can help you?
  2. Do you have the financial resources?

So now that you’ve identified your “Why?” you need to start trying to spot the trends that will be impacting your organisation in the future.

Thought from the Lifeguard’s Hut

Whosoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the times

– Niccolo Machiavelli

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