Futuring: What Will Impact Your Business Tomorrow?


Futuring is the field of using a systematic process for thinking about, picturing possible outcomes, and planning for the future. Futurists are people who actively view the present world as a window on possible future outcomes.

                                                       Encyclopedia of Business, 2nd ed.

Sounds like just another piece of jargon, doesn’t it? I mean, don’t we already do this? We just call it by different names:

  • brainstorming
  • forecasting
  • strategy implementation
  • gap analysis

But these activities, and many more, only represent parts of futuring. They are all tools to use in the practice of picturing possible outcomes and planning for the future.

Futurists have a lot of variables to keep track of because so many things can have an impact of the future of business, art, humanity, and life. But three main forces account for much of the variation:

  1. systems
  2. chance
  3. chaos

Systems are all around us. Scientists call such things as environments, cells, and structures systems. We are made up of systems; the circulatory, respiratory, and musculature of our bodies are all systems working together to create and sustain who we are. Relationships are part of a system. When systems are so intertwined an event in one system can easily impact another.

Chance plays a role in events that impact systems. Chance events happen all the time, causing a system to react one way or another and setting new courses, for good or ill. A major system in the news is, of course, the environment of Earth. We are trying to determine what impacts global temperature trends and whether those events can be controlled or guided to an outcome better suited to our continued existence.

Chaos seems to come from the force of chance. It is the concept that small changes can result in significant impact and thus affect the future. These changes can be created by chance, or deliberately in attempts to influence outcomes.

These forces must all be taken into account when attempting to forecast the future. I hesitate to use the word predict, because that implies discerning what will actually happen. Futuring doesn’t do that. It merely shows possibilities and probabilities of future events coming to pass or the impact various events can have on the future.

If we could predict the future, running a business would be much easier. But we can’t, so we must rely on our forecasts to guide our business decision-making just as we rely on meteorologists to tell us whether tomorrow will be a good day for a picnic.

Just because the forecast is sunny doesn’t mean it won’t rain.