Great Risks Beyond Our Imagination

We should fear most the risks we cannot easily imagine, and in complex systems, the greatest risk may be responding to long-term risks with short-term solutions.

That is a key lesson from Michael Lewis’ 2018 book, The Fifth Risk, although the lesson is almost overshadowed in this absorbing account of what the Trump Administration does not understand or wants to dismantle within the federal government. Lewis observes that people are good at reacting to the last crisis and not so good at imagining the nature of the next great risk.

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First, find your foresight friends

Pressed to explain why some associations have abandoned impressive foresight initiatives, I said they couldn’t spread the benefits of foresight across their organizations: you must find your champions and allies.

Too often people assign the failure of foresight projects to resistance to change. I believe the root cause is failing to bring other leaders along on the journey into foresight. People distrust “oracle on high” pronouncements; they are more likely to trust their own sensemaking about the implications and effective responses.

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Breaking the Past’s Lock on Our Future

The future is always layered over the past.

That’s the insight that has stayed with me two weeks after the Association of Professional Futurists October 4-6 annual gathering in Pittsburgh. While this futurist gathering themed around the Resurgent City and the Future of Urban Environments showcased local examples of what the near future might be, that future clearly struggles to rise above the limitations of existing infrastructure and beliefs.

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