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6 minute read

Are You Future Smart?

Dr. Mike Petty
6 minute read

Many people are smart, and we bet including you—you’re educated and you're relatively successful at your current job or profession. But the more important question is: “Are you future-smart?” Are you prepared for the next wave of "tectonic" changes that could change or eliminate your job, your business, or even your profession? Are you ready for the change that could make your business model or that of your employer obsolete?

Unfortunately, most of our clients at Flagship Futures Group (FFG) are smart but not future-smart. Even though we’re hoping you’re not one of them, in case you think you are, the good news is that with a little insight you can develop the foresight to become future-smart.

Defining Future-Smart

Being future-smart for FFG means having the ability to recognize minitrends and, more importantly, nanotrends that will give you advanced warning on significant changes on the horizon that may have a substantial impact on your career or business. It also means being able to forecast the trends and assess their impact and timing.

To become future-smart, you have to change your perspective a little. You cannot be only laser-focused on today's competition, challenges, and productivity. The highly-successful professionals or businesses today can be completely out of the market tomorrow.

The Rise and Fall of Businesses and Professions

A perfect example is the Sony Walkman that ruled the roost as the most preferred portable music player for over two decades. Within less than two years, the market-share leader in the portable music player industry lost virtually its entire market. We all know the story: the arrival of iPad and then iTunes—new competitor utterly out of the blue, a competitor from a completely different industry.

That scenario replicated before our very eyes when Tesla entered the automobile business. It was more than just another auto company; it was best described as a battery company with an automotive product extension. It was not just a new entrant into the auto business like the Delorean or the Brickland; it was the first entrant into a new industry—personal, electric-powered transportation.

Businesses are not the only entities susceptible to the impact of "tectonic" changes; professions are too. The teaching profession is a prime example, especially in higher education. The days of the traditional, four-year, campus-based college degrees are quickly coming to an end. With that, there may  be a limited need for instructors with terminal (Ph.D. or related) degrees. So it’s not safe to assume that your profession or any profession is safe from obsolescence caused by changing environments.

Becoming Future Smart

The key to anticipating “tectonic” change and taking necessary actions not only to avoid obsolescence but also to capitalize on future changes is disciplined awareness. Below are three disciplined actions you can take:

1. Identify and challenge the critical underlying assumptions on which your current career or business model is dependent.

We suggest a rigorous "STEEP" analysis. STEEP factors are those "tectonic" forces that can create disruptive or even cataclysmic change. STEEP factors are sociodemographic, technological, economic, and political-legal environments. For example, rapidly-changing sociodemographic factors are the aging of the “Baby-boomers” who have had a significant impact on business and society over the past 70 years and the advent of the “Millennials” which will be taking their place. Which of the STEEP factors are driving your career or business today and which are changing?

2. Look outside your profession or industry for trends that could impact you.

Remember the Walkman and Tesla scenarios discussed above. Don't let an outsider steal your market, your business, or your profession. Will the potential of self-programming computer programs change career opportunities for programmers?

3. Read and research subjects about which you typically wouldn't have an interest.

Consider reading about the future. James Canton's Future Smart would be an excellent place to start. Also, consider reviewing periodicals like Scientific American, Popular Science, Wired Magazine, and Fast Company to name a few. Look for the truly different and bizarre; anything that causes you to raise your eyebrows and say, “Wow, I never thought of that.”

That’s just a start, but a significant start. To become future-ready, you need to become future-smart. If you are ready to take the next step in becoming truly future-smart we can help you take the next steps, contact us today.

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