Are You Ready for What’s Next?


Not sure about you, but I’m a tad dizzy from all the spinning going on as we struggle to prioritize our personal lives, our organizations and businesses, networks, and communities.

It used to be much simpler….you could figure out where you currently were, where you wanted to go, and then develop action steps to address the gap in between. That I understood. 

The reality today is that we live in far more complex and fast changing times. Futurists are using the acrononym BANI….describing these chaotic times as Brittle, Anxious, Non-linear, and Incomprehensible.

As my futurist colleague Rick Smyre has suggested, today it is more a case of needing to prepare for a world that doesn’t exist - yet. (see his book written with Neil Richardson here).

I think the late management guru Peter Drucker got it right when he once said, “Trying to predict the future is like driving down a country road at night with no lights on while looking out the back window.”

The analogy of looking out the back window is especially relevant because we are entering a new era often trying to plan with ideas, leadership, and institutions that are better suited for an old world.

Instead, we need to embrace the idea that new times call for new thinking.

Smyre believes there are five major shifts that need to be made if we are to ensure our planning is more adaptive and agile in nature.

The first is the need to shift from hierarchies to networks. While traditional hierarchies worked for linear solutions, they aren’t always working in an era when the solutions needed are much more organic. Instead, we need to invest in building the relationships, networks, and webs that will ensure we have the capacity to adapt quickly.

We also need to understand that very little is fixed these days. Pretty much everything is dynamic so we need to build tolerance and acceptance of constant movement and change. And yes, there will be chaos.     

Very little will be predictable, everything is instead emerging.

Embracing that we live in a time of turmoil will mean that rather than planning for change that reforms we need to pursue change that transforms. In other words it can’t just be about modifying, improving, or making things more efficient and effective. Instead, it needs to be about change that redefines and turns things upside down.

Lastly, instead of our more typical linear thinking, we will always need to be much more systemic and holistic in our approach. 

So where do we begin?

Whether we are planning for ourselves, our family, an organization, business, initiative, network, or community, values are going to be a critical filter for decision-making and priority setting. Take the time to have conversations about what is important, the beliefs and ideals that are shared, and how they would be reflected in the culture of the organization or network. 

While it’s unlikely any of us really wants to struggle, it is important too that we embrace the chaos and act in a spirit of hope.

While chaos often leads to being risk-adverse, as we plan we need to be willing to examine situations carefully, take risks, embrace creativity, and contribute enough effort. Of course, we may also have to back off, change, or stop doing some things as well.

In the end, it means we are all need to embrace being lifelong learners and explorers who are comfortable with asking questions and collaborating with our stakeholders and citizens to find the answers.

Posted on 10-08-22

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