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Set Management Planning for the Future

by anonymous

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Managers who think about the future - which should, of course, mean all managers - are accustomed to approaching the task with logical, careful analysis of what (or so they think) is most likely to happen.

Extrapolation of the past into the future is the most common exercise, although there’s no logical reason why past trends should continue. But it sounds so reasonable. In fact, though, you can make an irresistible case for being unreasonable, abandoning the logical and likely for the deliberate pursuit of the irrational and unpredictable.

The obvious reason for so doing is that the realised future, as opposed to the anticipated one, is very often so highly illogical, seen from the viewpoint of the past, that it appears impossible to predict. There always is an underlying logic, naturally, but it looks much clearer in hindsight. Foresight is far more complex. The brilliant MIT professor Peter M. Senge has even stated firmly that ‘It may simply not be possible to convince human beings to take a long-term view’.

Their reluctance may not be stupid. It is highly likely that sudden events of a surprising character, which combine very low probability with very high impact, will shape our long-term futures, just as they shaped our pasts and presents. These events arise not from foreseen or foreseeable trends, but rather through unexpected, discontinuous, chaotic developments - and incidents. A classic and horrible example is 9/11. The jetliners which crashed into the Twin Towers literally came out of a clear blue sky.

You may question whether 9/11 has changed the world as greatly as some politicians and pundits argue: but, as just one consequence, with huge consequences of its own, the assault on the US made the invasion of Iraq more likely. In any event, futurists now take the so-called ‘Wild Cards’ very seriously indeed. At this year’s Future scene conference, staged as usual at the Unisys Management Centre at St. Paul de Vence, many fascinating Wild Cards were played.vibrating screen:
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For ‘possibility’ read ‘probability’; Wild Cards are inevitable. As noted, often the wildness vanishes in hindsight. The savage attack on Pearl Harbour, like the bombing of the Twin Towers, had an insane logic of its own. The insanity (apart from that of all acts of mass murder) sprang from the secondary effects that were bound to follow - arising in both cases from massive retaliation by the US.

Wild Cards always create unforeseen and great opportunities. Rearming after Pearl Harbour led to fabulously profitable military orders, whose impact on subcontractors and incomes spread beneficially throughout the economy.

Put yourself in the hero’s shoes in design, research and development of dryer machine. The Wild Card of your dreams favours you - the development of a technology you understand well in ways that will undermine the existing industry with goods and services that threaten every player.

The moral for others is to create and believe your own transcendent stories while expecting and reacting to the Wild Cards which will determine how those stories unfold a ore beneficiation machine. Don’t let the future happen to you, in short, but do make it happen the way you want.

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