Since the dawn of time, people have expressed an interest in the future. What will I do for a living? Who will I marry? The questions were endless. This led to a number of so-called prophets, fortune tellers, soothsayers, psychics and other “experts” on the future advising people as to what the future held for them. They gave the impression that the future already existed and that it was up to each one of us to “discover” it.
As life speeded up at the beginning of the 21st century, the obsession about the future started to intensify. It started slowly at first. When I launched HR Future in 2001 to help companies and their people prepare for the future of work, very few people in the workplace were thinking about the future in terms of the work they were doing. Because we were one of the very first to be focusing on the future in the workplace, we had to do a lot of educating about why it was important to be prepared for the future in the workplace. But, before long, within a few years, every consultant and his/her dog was suddenly an expert on the future!
Many of them had simply jumped on the bandwagon of what they saw as the next business opportunity. They had, however, not exercised their minds around the future at a more philosophical level. Few of them had therefore given much thought to whether the future exists or not. So, does the future exist?
The answer to that question is, “Yes” and, “No”.
The shorter answer to this question is, “No”. The future does not exist as some preordained, predetermined destination to which we are propelled without choice. No, the future does not exist as an entity which we can’t avoid, and to which we have to resign ourselves. The future consists of infinite possibilities, so any number of decisions, actions and events can play a role in changing what the future will be. Given this freedom of choice, no-one can therefore predict the future with any certainty.
The “Yes” part of the answer is that the future does indeed exist in numerous forms but I shall deal with only three.
Firstly, the future exists in the minds of genuine thought leaders (not just people who promote themselves as thought leader and who pick up and promote the latest trends for their own benefit). Those are merely “quick followers”. When I refer to the minds of thought leaders, think of people like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs and others. The present we are experiencing was once a future that existed in their minds. No-one told Bill Gates that we needed a computer in every home. That thought, which became the future to which we moved, started in his mind.
And no-one went to Steve Jobs and said, “Steve, I think you need to invent the Mac so that designers can use it.” Instead, the Mac started in his mind, where he conceptualised and then developed a processor that nobody knew they needed or wanted – until they saw it.
One of the modern day thought leaders in whose mind the future exists is South African Elon Musk. If you want to see what’s coming, watch him carefully!
So, if you’re wanting to get a glimpse of the future, look into the minds of all the real thought leaders as they’re creating a future in their minds that will soon become our reality.
Secondly, the future exists in the minds and imagination of younger people, who have not yet been buffeted by the winds of life and had their imagination knocked out of them. They see things in fresh, new, different ways and think, “Why do we have to do things in this way? Why can’t we do it like this?” That’s why many of them belong to what’s known as Generation Why!
If you’re wanting to get another glimpse of the future, start engaging with younger people. Learn to understand how they think and what they consider important. I’m not suggesting you throw everything out the window, but am certainly suggesting you start opening your eyes and ears when you’re around younger people.
The third place that the future “exists” (for those living elsewhere) is in countries like the US, the UK and other countries at the forefront of technological and other innovation. The reason I say this is that most new trends and developments emerge in these countries before making their way to other countries. Those “other countries” therefore have the benefit of seeing the future by seeing what’s emerging in the innovative countries and being better prepared for those developments when they reach their own shores.
When all is said and done, it’s not about knowing what the future holds but about how fast you embrace and adapt to new trends that emerge to create what we consider to be “the future”. It was Rupert Murdoch who said, “The world is changing very fast. Big will not beat small anymore. It will be the fast beating the slow.”
If you’d like to get insight into the minds of thought leaders around the globe, as well as into the minds of younger generations, subscribe to HR Future. We’ll help you “see the future” and, more importantly, help you seamlessly and rapidly embrace it.
Alan Hosking is the Publisher of HR Future magazine. He is a recognised authority on leadership skills for the future and teaches experienced business leaders as well as Millennial managers how to lead with integrity, purpose and agility. In 2018, he was named by US-based web site Disruptordaily.com as one of the “Top 25 Future of Work Influencers to Follow on Twitter“. Follow Alan on Twitter: @HRFuturemag.