Past Is Prologue

If you engage a futurist for strategy development or innovation, you might not expect to answer many questions about your organization’s history. You expect futurists to advantage the future in your decision making. But as Shakespeare observed, past is prologue.

Futurists do ask plenty of questions about history because the past shapes your identity, your values and often your ability to engage the future. When I read a comprehensive account of the evolution of a profession, as I am doing this week for a new project, I am gaining a lot of insight into which relationships and priorities remain important. What about these professionals is important and unlikely to change regardless of what their future might hold?

Or in another active project, I was struck by how a current priority might be overshadowing other potentially important strategic conversations in the association’s evolution. I asked, before accreditation consumed you, what did your members value? The answers pointed to three essential sources of member value to cultivate for the future.

Another recent client needed a back-to-the-future moment. The board members recognized they were taking the sustainability of their founding service and business model for granted, and they should tend and update this critical capability to ensure any future they might want for their association. 

The past is prologue, but it is not destiny. In advantaging the future, leaders and their futurist guides do need to challenge the assumptions about an organization’s identity and its business model, and certainly they must see how the forces of change could disrupt business as usual.

So do tell me the story of your past. We’ll work together to find the story of your future, and use the present and your decisions today as the bridge between the two.