The future is different from the present. If we want to venture a glimpse into the future, then we’ll have to deal with changes. But what are the changes that we will be faced with in the next 15 years? When asking this and many similar questions, everyone is inclined to rely on their own experience. „But looking in your rear view mirror is of no help here,“ says Dr. Andreas Siebe, who can provide plenty of examples. „He reminds us to bear in mind that „just five years ago we were in the midst of the Arab Spring – and who would have thought the tide would turn?“ Even a variety of excellent business experts had been proven to be completely mistaken. For instance, Ron Sommer more than 25 years ago is said to have thought the Internet was nothing but a gadget for geeks. He could see no future in it. And Bill Gates of Microsoft said in 1995: „The Internet is just a passing fad“.
Futures? Well, there is no such thing as the single future
Dr. Siebe is a graduated business engineer, university teacher, and enterprise consultant who has been involved with future management and its methods for a number of years and its methods. So what is his advice for enterprises? „Dealing with the future is useful because those who grapple with uncertainty will take better decisions,“ explains the strategy expert. „But the future can be inferred neither from past experience nor from present patterns,“ he continues. That’s why his stance is: You should not make any predictions, but develop and think through various future scenarios. What are the opportunities and perils arising from this, then? Which solid strategies can be inferred and designed from this? Innovations should be examined for their marketability. The balancing act is to think ahead without making any predictions. Dr. Siebe calls this scenario management. „You need to consider various conceivable futures,“ he says.
„The future starts with the right questions.“
This is what is generally called future-oriented thinking. „Sometimes we are rubbing our eyes in disbelief when we realize at what early stage some of today’s developments were already recognizable,“ explains Dr. Siebe. Because you could frequently find many of these things in books and newspapers already years and decades ago. But given the variety of trends, you can easily lose track. Which trend will evolve, and which not? „We need to learn to accommodate catalysts for change, that is, develop a good sense. We should also learn to think in many directions. When we think of different futures, we will therefore get a future map.“ These scenarios are, of course, not yet strategies. However, the questions about the right strategies can then be inferred from these scenarios. So how can we achieve a prosperous future from today’s vantage point? Where do we want to go? How can we formulate these futures for our benefit? This is the crux: „The future starts with the right questions.“