Surprise: Your Future Forecast in Headlines Next Week

You can never get that far ahead of the future even trying to stretch people’s sense of the possibilities for a preferred future.

This past Monday the Business Roundtable issued a statement supporting shifting the purpose of corporations beyond maximizing profit for shareholders to serving the interests of all stakeholders.  Monday a week earlier in a scenario session on alternative futures at the ASAE Annual Meeting, I opened the preferred future scenario this way: “In our preferred future, our business climate has evolved into a mutually beneficial ecosystem of business interests and relationships. Business leaders championed the ethical reforms necessary to reinvent and sustain capitalism as a mighty engine for strong economies.”

While the Business Roundtable is quite influential, one statement will not propel us through all the changes required to have that preferred future. However, what someone listening to me a week earlier could have found laughable now looks surprisingly prescient.

People can easily project into an expected future scenario that tracks with their assumptions. They know what they don’t want to see happen, which makes the feared future scenario an easy enough narrative to craft. Imagining the preferred future often requires more of a leap of faith.

In this case, my leap wasn’t as implausible as it might have seemed. I simply imagined what it might take to bring an end to the worst of what we see in cartel capitalism, and I didn’t want to take the easy and obvious way out through a new law or regulation. Capitalists can choose to be the hero in our preferred future. But you can see from some reactions to the Business Roundtable statement the pushback they might expect if they really do seek to create a “mutually beneficial ecosystem of business interests and relationships.”

In creating these scenarios, I also had my eye on several drivers of change in the ASAE ForesightWorks research besides cartel capitalism, specifically splintered society and American inequality.  You better believe the Business Roundtable practices foresight, and these business leaders know exactly what feared future they want to prevent.