As the ever insightful Seth Godin wrote recently: “The one who can see—see what’s coming and see what matters—is the one you want piloting your boat.”

Foresight. At the risk of sounding immodest, I’m told it’s one of the core skills I bring to the party: the ability to see the patterns in complexity, to sift the signal from the noise, and to recognize early the important trends that will shape the future. Maybe that’s why I began my sustainability work some 40 years ago, long before we knew what to call it (inspired and guided by another foreseer, first sustainability dashboard nearly 20 years ago. (Way too early, perhaps; foresight doesn’t ensure perfect business timing.) Or why we’ve been able to identify billions of dollars of potential economic value for our clients at the intersection of profit, brand, risk and purpose.

This is not fortune-telling. If anything, it’s what Bucky called “comprehensive anticipatory design science“:

“COMPREHENSIVE means always start with wholes. recognizing that nature is all of one piece (there are no separate Department of Physics, Chemistry. Biology, or whatever), and investigate the whole omni-directionally;

second, ANTICIPATORY means to look well into the future — we can never change one iota of the past — to try and apprehend the forces arid factors which will influence events, in order to take these into account;

third, DESIGN means to use one’s imagination to intentionally create possibilities and alternatives to be potentially realized;

and fourth, SCIENCE means to ground these imaginative possibilities and intentions in the facts of experience, bringing to bear what is already well comprehended.”

– HFW Perk

As I wrote 13 years ago in Shooting the Rapids: Time and the Logic of Wall Street,

“In a world that changes as rapidly as does ours, it’s difficult to predict the conditions we will face in ten years, much less in 100 years…. But effective planning and management is not about predicting the future. it’s about positioning your enterprise to be able to effectively navigate whatever future it encounters.”

How do I do that? How do you do that? To be continued…

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