In my new book Flash Foresight, I share seven principles that can make invisible opportunities visible. One of my favorite principles is using the power of certainty.
In times of unprecedented change and uncertainty, we need to ask ourselves, “What are we certain about?” Strategies based on uncertainty equal high levels of risk. Strategies based on certainty dramatically reduce risk and produce superior results.
Here’s an example of certainty. As I write this, it is winter in the northern hemisphere. Next will be spring, followed by summer. I am certain of that! There is a science of cycles. In fact, there are over 300 cycles—business cycles, biological cycles, weather cycles—that allow you to accurately anticipate the future. Frankly, you understand cyclical change and use it often even if you are not consciously aware of it.
In today’s technology driven world of accelerated change, it is important to understand another type of change. If you don’t, your job, your business, and even your industry can vanish quickly. I call it Linear Change; once this type of change happens, you will not go back. For example, if you have an MP3 player, a smart phone, or a flat-panel TV, are you going back to what you used before? No way! This is a one-way, non-cyclical change that is quite profound in its impact.
Knowing this, what if you could predict the challenges your organization will face and stop them from occurring? Short of having a reliable crystal ball, most people believe that’s impossible. In reality, you can solve many of tomorrow’s problems…today. It’s all a matter of knowing what you’re certain about.
For example, what do GM, Lehman Brothers, and all the millions of speculative homebuyers have in common? Four words: Didn’t See It Coming. In hindsight though, all the signs were there in plain sight long before the fall. Don’t follow in their footsteps! Instead, use the following points to solve tomorrow’s problems before they occur.
Stop, Look, and Listen
Stop: As change accelerates and the pressure to keep up intensifies, the natural tendency is to try to speed up with it. But rather than try to speed up even more, we need to slow down, stop, and think. Put aside all your current problems for a moment. Make the decision to devote a little time, on a regular basis, to become an anticipatory organization.
Look: Make a list of Cyclical and Linear changes you can see and ask yourself, “What are the problems I’m about to have?” What are the problems you are not having today, but will have in the next three to six months? The next one to three years? Those are the problems you need to solve. To get ahead of the curve, shift your focus from solving only today’s problems to solving tomorrow’s problems before they happen so that you never have them in the first place.
Listen: What is certainty telling you about those future problems and ways you might approach them? Listen to clues that might be lying just outside your field of expertise or industry. As you learn more about how to use certainty and foresight, solutions will start to appear to you almost the moment you look for them.
When I talk with clients about becoming anticipatory, they often say, “That sounds fascinating—but we don’t have time to sit around thinking about three years from now. We’re too busy dealing with what’s on our plates right now!”
Of course they’re too busy. We’re all too busy. There will never be a time when we’re not too busy—which is exactly why most of us keep flailing about in our uncertainties.
The only way it will happen is if you understand that you will spend the rest of your life in the future. When you make the time to actively shape a positive future for yourself and others, you will more likely accomplish your goals. Therefore, make an appointment; put it on the calendar. It will take one hour per week of your time. You will find it to be time well spent!