One often surprising insight people new to foresight have is how changes are multidimensional and interconnected. As the strategic landscape opens before their eyes, they find it difficult to focus on one change without seeing two or more others gyrating around it in a confusing reel of uncertainty.
This insight is an accurate awareness of how our world operates. If people become too frustrated by this complexity, they may feel it is pointless to believe they can navigate this maze of possibilities. Yet if they don’t venture into all these twists and turns, they could stumble into decisions with unintended consequences.
When we study the trends and issues behind any change driver, we are only making one deep probe into potential implications and consequences. To sharpen our understanding, we need to look at the related change drivers as well as those that may seem far removed from our field of vision.
Futurists use a number of techniques to help people do this kind of systems thinking. They build futures wheels that map these first, second and third order implications. Think of this as a giant diagram of “if this happens, then this also could happen”.
My preferred method for making sense of interconnections is scenario thinking where you take several change drivers and juxtapose them in stories of alternative futures. Through these narratives we can get a better sense of what organizations might be required to do to succeed under different circumstances.
Somewhere in the interplay of these drivers of change, we can sketch out the bold outlines of the future and anticipate how we might respond. We may still find it surprising how the details of our future story fill in, but we can recognize the nature and direction of the change.