The essential power of we in shaping the future

by John Mahaffie on October 15, 2012

Please note: foresightculture.com is 5 years old today. Thanks to all my readers, followers, commenters and linkers for all the great help over the years. I am delighted to celebrate with a Blog Action Day post. #BAD12 #PowerOfWe #Blogactionday

The Power of We“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
–Margaret Mead

Foresight–the deliberate act of looking into the future and assessing what we can know and should do about it–is critical. And foresight is a social act. It depends on the power of we.

Foresight can hardly be successful without engaging others. For one, you are not likely to know enough to adequately understand possible and likely futures, if you try to figure it all out by yourself. For another, the things you decide to do about the future: shaping it and responding to it, will involve others. You can’t go it alone. Any future that would wholly belong to a single person, impacting and depending on no others, is not a future of any significance

Margaret Mead’s quote at the top reminds us that we don’t “get” a future, and can’t simply wait for the future and deal with it when it comes. We have to take action, together, to create it. Turning from just accepting change to actively shaping it is likely to fail if you go it alone, and succeed if you engage with others.

So we have to work to invent the future with others:

  • their inputs will make our efforts stronger, ensure clarity and comprehensive thinking
  • their participation will give our results credibility and buy in
  • it’s their future too, and they need to be a part of creating it

For organizations…

In organizations, it’s natural to explore the future and make plans with a focus inside the organization and aimed at its interests. But that too is limiting. Good organizational foresight lets stakeholders in and is not done in a vacuum. The power of we for organizations means building the organization’s part of the future with clear thinking about opinions from, and impacts on, every one affected. I always urge organizations to develop their ideas for the future with the people they will impact: workers, the community, customers, business partners.

So how big can your “we” be? If you are a big player, it may literally be the world. If you are part of a local system, it ought to include your neighbors, other community players, the public, etc. Inside an organization, you at least should be talking about “we” the whole organization, not “we” the executive suite.

Otherwise, an organization is at best trying to spring a future plan on others without their foreknowledge, and without their input. They may not like it, and they probably will not get it. “Where did this come from?” they’ll ask, and rightly so. “Why didn’t you ask me?” “I don’t see things this way.” And so on. It’s likely to fail.

The essence of a foresight culture–the theme of my blog–is that foresight is done by the group, not some individual. I summarized this in a post:  What is a Foresight Culture?

So for a successful future, harness the Power of We!

Image: James Cridland, via Flickr, CC attribution license

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Jay Standish October 16, 2012 at 8:34 pm

You’re definitely on the right track here, James – particularly with the notion that it behooves individuals and cultures to shift their mindset from a passive “receiver” of the future to an active “writer” of the future. And for both democratic and collective intelligence reasons, it makes sense to envision and act in a social, inclusive way.
So the question becomes, “How do we support this co-foresight and co-action?” Logistically, how do we scale a conversation, and how do we “buy” the time and attention required for all those people to be involved? How do we host those conversations in such a way to create a shared language and context without imposing an undue bias?

Bee February 2, 2013 at 9:47 am

The power of we comes from the power of me. Let me repeat the power of we comes from the power of me. We only become we when me sees being a we creates more for me. We are we because me gets more by association. We before me is collectivism and has never produced a positive outcome.

Leave a Comment