Talk to the frog

by John Mahaffie on February 26, 2008

My great friend, Mary Jane Naquin, a futurist with Informed Futures, Houston, understands howFrog to break out of conventional thinking, and discover new things. Some years ago, she presented a parable to the opening session of the World Future Society annual assembly. I don’t remember the full story of Mary Jane’s parable, but the lesson I took from it was to never turn a blind eye to a new source of ideas, however, strange, ugly, unsophisticated, un-prestigious, and so on. In her story, the frog, who knew the truth, got ignored, and the humans suffered for it. Only one character, who listened to the frog, didn’t meet a bad fate. Hence, “talk to the frog!”

Another great friend Wayne Pethrick, who helps Pitney Bowes innovate, was presenting to another group, at one of the Association of Professional Futurists gatherings, and urged us to remember to “get out from behind the mouse”. Once I got over my pique at not having come up with that great phrase, I determined to use it (usually with attribution) to get another great point across.

The analyst’s tendency to revere data, and in this era, to soak him or herself in the vast pool of information on the Internet, threatens true understanding. We have to go and see things, go and meet people, go and have experiences. We have to get out from behind the mouse. So, talk to the frogs you see along the way. Get out of your office and see things. Touch, feel, smell, taste, and hear new things as often as possible. You cannot effectively explore potential futures if you are largely ignorant about the present. Close this browser and leave the office now for a new experience, a conversation, a discovery. Your thinking on the future will be much better for it.

Update: Please see also this special page on environmental scanning.

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Brian McLaughlin February 27, 2008 at 10:26 am

John, you…you- want me to…LEAVE the office? Can’t I just go to Second Life to see the simulation of the world outside?
Thank you, and Mary Jane for this insightful reflection!

Dick Saunders December 7, 2008 at 9:45 pm

Having been a security analyst 45 yrs. ago, I watch the retail store parking lots for traffic–especially now. Was amazed to observe one mall lot in a south suburb of Minneapolis featuring Kohl’s and Herberger’s stores jammed at noon Sat., Dec. 6.

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