Future-Back: How Leaders Create the Future Today
COVID-19 changes the way you think about the future. On-going disruption changes the way you think about yourself, others, and the present.
The imagined future transforms the present.
An imagined future helps you navigate an uncertain present.
Mark and his co-author Josh Suskewicz use the expression “Future-back*” thinking. Leaders use present-forward thinking to execute and future-back thinking to create strategy.
Future-back guides present-forward when leaders execute on vision.
Present-forward and future-back are both necessary.
Present-Forward and Future-Back*
What is – What could be
Sustaining – Transformative
Continuous – Discontinuous
Increments existing in paradigm – Develops a new paradigm
Concrete and predictive – Ambiguous and abstract
Drive to certainty – Drive to clarity
Delivery/managerial – Discovery/entrepreneurial
Linear – Multidimensional
Deductive/inductive – Abductive (Hypothesis from incomplete observation)
Analytical – Imaginative and creative
Facts and data-driven – Assumptions-driven
Answers – Questions
Build off base – Clean sheet
Point solutions – Systems thinking
The importance of vision during volatility (2:24):
The future-back process*:
Phase 1: Develop an inspiring vision that is fully actionable.
Phase 2: Translate it into a clear strategy.
Phase 3: Prepare for and manage its implementation.
How to develop your vision*:
#1. Paint a picture of future environments.
Specify a time horizon. “The key is to focus on a date that is distant enough to stretch your thinking, but not so far-off that it is utterly unrelatable.”
Consider the jobs to be done in the future. “Jobs to be done” focuses on customer’s true need. Ted Levitt illustrated the idea when he said, “No one goes to the hardware store to buy a quarter-inch drill: you go to buy a quarter-inch hole.”
#2. Identify major implications of the future.
#3. Envision the future state of your business. Consider core business, adjacent businesses, and new growth.
How is your view of the future shifting?
How does your view of the future impact the present?
*Note: This post is based on my conversation with Mark Johnson and the book, “Lead from the Future: How to Turn Visionary Thinking into Breakthrough Growth.”
The complete unedited conversation with Mark Johnson including a 10 minute conversation about Clayton Christensen at the end.
How to get out of the weeds (3:25):