How Do You Do What You Do? Predicting the Future

Cisco futuristYears ago a asked a colleague to speak on a panel about how she knew what she knew — what did she know that enabled her to her job so well?  She told me it was the most difficult exercise.  For most of us, we “just do” things without thinking about how we do them, the processes we use to do them.  So it is really interesting to hear the inner workings/thinking of people, especially if we can get them to articulate those workings.  Just saw this post by Cisco Chief Futurist, David Evans, about doing just that!  He looked inward and here’s what he says:

While predicting the future isn’t an exact science, it can be accomplished with surprising accuracy. Here’s how I do it.

1) Scan by casting a wide net: Once the trends are developed, I use a scenario-planning technique that allows me to envision future states from just a few years to decades. I then use a process called “backcasting,” which, in essence, is the opposite of forecasting. With forecasting, you start at a current state to envision what’s possible. With backcasting, you begin at a future state and consider the events that need to occur to enable that scenario. Once these events are identified, I apply a set of filters and use a weighting system to determine their viability. Filters often take the shape of questions. Will a specific technology exist in that time frame to enable a given event? Are there dependent technologies or events that need to be considered, such as energy sources? Will the future scenario be accepted and adopted because it solves a real problem?

3) Validate, communicate, and learn: Future states that pass the vetting process are then reviewed by a close circle of coworkers, colleagues, and even family members that I trust to provide honest feedback. Each of these groups has a unique perspective due to their current role, past experiences, and relationship to me. Based on their input and additional reflection, I either 1) revise my vision and move to the next step, 2) proceed directly to the next step without changes, or 3) discard and start over.

The future states in which I have high confidence are then developed into thought leadership materials such as white papers, presentations, and even patent submissions that are communicated through various channels, including speaking events, customer discussions, the Internet, and social media. The “final step” is to listen to the feedback and then apply the key learnings to the beginning of the process to start the cycle all over again.

It is important to note that there are dozens of techniques that people use to predict the future. The key to success is determining which processes and tools work best for the way you think and work.

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