Studying the Future(s) as Strategy

We’re all “Moving at the Speed of Change” right?

From the World Economic Forum to the halls of Silicon Valley, business leaders are required to issue platitudes about “moving at the speed of change” or the need for “agile organizations.”

It’s all about faster and flatter – at all levels:

  • We need our employees to have hard and soft skills (IDEO’s T-Shaped person).
  • Our organizations need to transform into technology organization (data is now infrastructure).
  • Our companies must constantly transform: an online bookstore (Amazon) makes television shows, an online retail company (Alibaba) sells insurance, telecom companies (M-Pesa) are acting like banks, and so on.

The blurring of lines accelerates.

This 1996 Department of Defense report about complexity is still relavent.
This slide from a 1996 US Defense Department report shows we’re still stuck today talking about the same issues

Agility won’t save you from Complexity

But, agility alone won’t manage complexity. And that’s the key issue here: our relationship with complexity, a complexity that continues to flux as it unfurls into the future.

Organizations need to navigate complexity. This requires identifying new drivers that could transform an organization’s space and market. How could these drivers create different plausible set of futures? How does an organization prepare for them? Which future is the organizations preferred? What can it do to influence for a preferred future?

This is why last month, I joined University of Houston’s Foresight program. I have had the privilege of conducting foresight workshops in the past, but I look forward to sharpening and expanding my foresight toolset in the coming months.

We need to think about plausible futures to help both prepare futures we don’t want &  create futures we prefer (Via the Foresight Alliance)
We need to think about plausible futures to help both prepare futures we don’t want & create futures we prefer (Via the Foresight Alliance)

Preferred Futures for the Majority of Humanity

My focus of research will be looking at alternative methods of economic and social development for countries in emerging markets, especially large countries like Bangladesh (156 million), Indonesia (250 million), and Nigeria (180 million). The future isn’t about Europe or the US, but looking at how the majority of humanity, who hail from developing countries, can thrive in the future.


The question of humanity's future is where the people are: not in Europe or the US.
The question of humanity’s future is where the people are: not in Europe or the US.

We’re living in post-normal times of accelerating human complexity – from challenges to our global economic system to demographic change and so much more. This requires a whole systemic and long-view thinking to challenge ourselves about what are the plausible futures, what are the preferred futures, and how do we shape our present to become tomorrow’s preferred future.

I hope to both ignite and contribute to these key discussions – from painting future scenarios to outlining policy recommendations. Also, I’m incredibly eager to hear from everyone – all of you from San Francisco to Jakarta and Shenzhen – on your observations, thoughts, and generally crazy ideas.


Also, last but not least, since I’ve joined University of Houston (albeit remotely):

Go Coogs!
Go Coogs!




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Daniel writes on foresight and explores new economic systems. He has over 15 years of experience in technology & digital marketing and has worked with clients in Europe, Asia, and the United States. Daniel is currently part of the University of Houston's Foresight Program.


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