NEW Blog on our forthcoming book: Megatrends and how to survive them

Authors: Patricia Lustig, LASA Insight Managing Director and SAMI Associate, and Gill Ringland, SAMI Emeritus Fellow and Director, Ethical Reading.

Megatrends and how to survive them: preparing for 2032” is the title of our book that is due to be published in October this year, by Cambridge Scholars Publishing.

We have had so much fun writing it and had so many “aha” moments that we thought it would be good to share some of these insights with a wider audience before publication. A number of people have seen and commented on drafts.  They are acknowledged in the book by name, with many thanks for their help, underpinning work and support.

In this first blog we explore why we wrote this book. It is very different from the previous books that either of us have written on Scenario Planning or Strategic Foresight, which were for people who wanted tools to work with on thinking about the future. These books did discuss why and how people and organisations would benefit from thinking about the future and building this into strategy, but their titles did not encourage the casual reader or decision maker to pick up and read the book. We started to write for an audience outside the foresight community with “Beyond Crisis” (written with Oliver Sparrow), but though this was prescient in its thinking in 2009 about “there is no return to ‘Business as Usual’”, it did not reach a wide audience. We tried again with “Here be Dragons” which combines a novelette about an organisation trying to re-invent itself, with a handbook of the tools used at different stages during the project. We are often approached by people who have been given this book as a Christmas present and enjoyed it!  Our aim was to make the books approachable, but we mostly connected with the converted; those who already were interested in using Foresight.

This new book arises from our discussions about how to empower real people – organisational leaders and line managers – with ideas about the future that can improve the quality of their decisions. Many of the foresight tools developed over the past decades have been targeted at enabling decision makers to challenge their current assumptions and world view, by creating images of qualitatively different alternative possible futures. As we write, we see headlines overturning many of our assumptions almost daily. So, our current assumptions are already being challenged.

In working with a range of organisations, we have realised that a different approach is called for. This aims to reduce all-encompassing uncertainty – which is freezing decision making – by focusing on what we know with reasonable certainty about the future.  There are a number of global megatrends sweeping the globe. Our message is: these megatrends are happening now, and you need to know how you can respond to them. Then you can face the current chaotic times and potential different emerging futures more confidently.

In working with groups, we focus on creating a timeline for a subset of these megatrends, such as population growth, economics, IT, biotechnology. We explore the timelines of the trends through increasing levels of uncertainty over time and analyse the forces that could accelerate or slow down their effects. By initially exploring the framework of forces and then exploring uncertainties and the risks from potential disruptors, the group experiences a lower level of fear, uncertainty and doubt, while encompassing a more realistic understanding of the limits of our capability to forecast the future.

In the next blog we will discuss the design of the book. It aims to support the ability of people and groups to think about the future. As one of our reviewers has said “I was very pleasantly surprised about how readable this book really is – it will make excellent reading for a wide audience especially anyone with an interest in the future of our beautiful planet.   Readers will find the book’s statistics and projections give them an unfair advantage in a discussion about where it’s all going, down the line.”

This blog simultaneously published on the SAMI Consulting blog.

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