Foresight. Design science. What your CEO would ask.

One big idea: 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: to be able 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, Buckminster Fuller). Or why I built what may have been the first sustainability dashboard nearly 20 years ago. (Way too early, perhaps; foresight doesn’t ensure good 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…

Tweet of the week:  Waleed Abdalati: If company’s performance charts looked like global climate charts, CEO would ask “what’s going on here?” & intervene!

(Some of you noticed that last week’s Tweet of the Week—Forbes: Fracking as an “inherently unprofitable” Ponzi Scheme – a whole new perspective on the XL Pipeline—linked out to a two year old Forbes article. The economics of fracking may well improve from time to time as natural gas prices fluctuate; the net energetics, as well as the hazards, remain problematic.)

Opportunity: Natural Logic focuses on building substantive business, societal and environmental value for our clients. How? Increasingly, with a deep, powerful process of systems design that may challenge you to rethink your value proposition and business model, not just your sourcing and operations. Interested? Learn more here. (Or start with this quick sustainability maturity self-assessment.)

Events: Will I see you next week at Sustainable Brands? (Please let me know and let’s meet!) I’ll co-lead a pre-conference workshop on systems thinking and moderate a session on  “Radical Optimization: How the Internet of Things, 3D Printing and Innovative Data Analysis are Transforming Manufacturing and Supply Chains” (register with discount code NATLOGICSB13 for 20% off!). If you can’t get there, you’ll be able to watch live stream of the plenary sessions. Just added: I’ll be keynoting Sustainability Applied: Unlocking Hidden Value in Toronto this fall. (Here’s how you can book me to keynote your next conference or company event.)

With best regards,

Gil Philip Friend
President & CEO Natural Logic Inc. | Building value at the intersection of profit, brand, risk and purpose.
Tel: 1-510-248-4940 | Cel: 1-510-435-6346 | Skype: gil_friend | Blog | LinkedIn | Twitter | About.Me

PS: You may have a great sustainability team, and a great manager or team captain. But to truly excel—and to be  playing a big enough game—it may be time for you to bring in a winning coach!