The future is an endless cycle. It neither begins at a finite point nor ends once something has been accomplished. Likewise, the fluidity of time—not chronological time, but how we experience technological change—must stay at the forefront of our thought processes whenever we’re planning for the future.
Why bother with long-range planning when there’s so much uncertainty now? Because scenario planning isn’t about future decisions that will need to be made, but about the future of the decisions we make today. Great futurists focus on the future and present simultaneously.
Futurists are skilled at listening to and interpreting the signals talking. It’s a learnable skill, and a process anyone can master. Futurists look for early patterns—pre-trends, if you will—as the scattered points on the fringe converge and begin moving toward the mainstream. They know most patterns will come to nothing, and so they watch and wait and test the patterns to find those few that will evolve into genuine trends. Each trend is a looking glass into the future, a way to see over time’s horizon. The advantage of forecasting the future in this way is obvious. Organizations that can see trends early enough to take action have first-mover influence. But they can also help to inform and shape the broader context, conversing and collaborating with those in other fields to plan ahead.