How To Recognize The Future Even When Its Hard

Recognizing the future is tough but not impossible.

Many people say that predicting the future is hard. It is – there are few of us who can take the myriad signals and drivers of today and successfully map them to a tomorrow which may happen.

Although, personally I believe that everything that we have envisioned will happen (no matter how crazy it might seem right now), we just don’t know when. As I’ve said, being a futurist is like being a meteorologist, you are usually always right, just at the wrong time.

For example, I made several predictions as part of a futurist program at one of our major clients 10 years ago. About half of them have already happened (although they are not called the same thing), some are in progress, and others have yet to begin happening. For the half which is happening today, most are not named anywhere near the same, and while some map to the spirit of the original prediction, they may be implemented in a completely different way.

So how do you recognize the future? How can you look around, or come across these clues which will lead to major changes? How will you know which of these truly have long lasting staying power, and should be invested in, where others are just fads which will fade?

There are certain attributes which these signals have which help to indicate that they will be something which may become the future.

For example, who could have predicted that the e-commerce industry would be as big as it is today, compared to Amazon of 1999, which looked like a guy behind a makeshift desk at a single computer with an “” banner over his head (I’m sure that you’ve seen the picture)?

How To Review The Clues.

You must look at these clues with both your heart and your head.

Start with instinct – take the clue in front of you and think about it. Can you project it into the future? Can you see it evolving into something, new, different, important, powerful? What does your gut say?

Next, can this thing become a platform? Can it turn into something that others can use as a tool to do other things, beyond its original intent?

Next, think about what a future version of this signal will solve. Is there a current problem it’s addressing, or is it like most innovations, solving a problem which we did not know was there? Does it seem like a doorway to a whole new ecosystem of some still undefined other place?

Next, does it make you feel a little queasy? Is it unsettling or “creepy”? Does it sit on (or over) the edge of acceptability? Then it may be truly innovative, and therefore, part of the future.

Identifying clues to the future will now let you address them – if this future is going to happen (and it may) then what steps should you be taking to ensure your companies continued survival. Recognizing the future is not easy, but its also essential for you the survive and thrive.