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What are we talking about here?

It’s hard to open up a discussion about the future and not put most everything on the table for reconsideration. When the way is clear to do that, great, go for it! But so often, the charge to the group exploring the future is to move more incrementally: find new opportunities for growth, is a common charge among our clients. We are usually not reconsidering everything, we are exploring options for a part of the system, such as a product group, a market, or a division of the company.

But, as I’ve seen again and again with my clients, it is hard to keep things contained. You’ll find groups you work with discover pretty quickly that they are talking about bigger things than they thought. Recently, at a corporate workshop I helped lead, the group discovered, as they explored the future for market growth opportunities, that the very culture and nature of their company had to change. That insight was profound and scary to them, and they will have a tough job going forward.

You will often have to go back to the leadership and get their blessing to open up the question, involve more people from a wider range of functions and divisions. Initial expectations, rather than being successfully met, may get blown away. Be prepared to discover something other than what you thought you were looking for. Then be prepared to communicate that discovery to others, and get others on board for greater change.

You will find it valuable, and often essential, to have your leadership be part of the process. Too often, those not participating in a futures exploration are not ready to hear and grasp the discoveries the group made. So when you get ready to explore the future, take a hard look at what’s on the table for change. Be ready to answer the question: “what are we talking about here?”

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  • Pam McConathy May 22, 2008, 9:27 am


    As a communications professional and public relations consultant, I would also like recommend that futurists consider including one or two representatives from an organization’s communications team to be involved in the process of exploring the future. These individuals, whether on the internal or external communications team, will play a key role in developing and disseminating the narrative that is created about an organization’s potential future. They also are typically among a company’s key influencers and should be brought in early to futures projects for total emersion in the concepts and processes.

    Speaking from experience, I have been on the internal communications team when consultants are brought in for projects such as these. We were left out of the process until the conclusion when we were brought in to prepare messaging and communications plans around the consultant’s findings. This made our job very difficult, if not ineffectual, especially when it involved complicated processes, obscure concepts or reasonings behind the final recommendations.

    While everyone cannot be included in this process, I consider communicators extremely vital in the process of talking and thinking about the future within their respective organizations.

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