Why think about the future

Dr. Sarah Skidmore Reflects on Strategic Foresight and Leadership Training

I’ve always been fascinated by the future. I was first exposed to large-scale, global trending through the Color Marketing Group® (CMG) during my time as Global Marketing Manager in the manufacturing space. CMG is the premier international association for color design professionals. The group meets regularly to determine color trends and forecasts for years into the future. After my first conference attendance, I was hooked!

Over the years, as I began my doctoral program in Strategic Leadership, I discovered the field of foresight through courses such as Strategic Foresight for Leaders and Systems Dynamics. And again – my exposure to futures thinking expanded! Over the years, I have invested countless hours reading Small Business Foresight by Wheelwright, Systems Thinking Basics: From Concepts to Causal Loops by Anderson & Johnson, Future Smart by Canton, Futuring: The Exploration of the Future by Cornish, and countless others. In recent years, I have thoroughly enjoyed participating in a variety of futurist groups; groups such as

By profession, from experience, and through research – I believe that by having Stronger People Leaders, our leaders will transform organizations, society, and world! And within that belief is a multi-part philosophy founded upon the Thinking of a People Leader and the Roles of a People Leaders (more on this in my book Stronger People Leaders). Over the years, I’ve worked with countless organizations – everything from corporate teams, association leaders, and non-profit groups to build up their people to be Stronger People Leaders. I truly believe that foresight is foundational to 21st-century leadership! 

Leaders in the highest positions in organizations often fail to consider foresight or futures in their decision-making. That is why at Skidmore Consulting, I often integrate strategic foresight principles (even at an elementary level) into all components of our leadership consulting and leadership development programs.  

Dr. Sarah Skidmore

Strategies for leading companies into the future

Like many highly technical fields, Strategic Foresight has plenty of jargon! When working with clients and leaders, our team certainly shifts from the technical speak of the foresight field to a common language appropriate for the client’s specific industry. Our approach to developing strategies for leading companies into the future generally consists of four elements.

“Engage – provide relevant information and theories

Discover – offer activities for leaners to uncover insights

Reflect – offer opportunities for learners to process

Integrate – note practical ways to apply the learning”

Learn more in Stronger People Leaders: A Leader Development Workbook Solution

Depending on the leadership challenge or leadership training we are providing, we reference various futures tools and foresight methods available. One of my favorite tools to use is the Futures Wheel. 

“The Futures Wheel is a tool for a People Leader to use when considering possible implications (both positive and negative) that may arise due to a trend, change, event, or decision. It is a proactive way to map impact. Insights from the Futures Wheel exercise are most valuable when viewed as an interactive exercise where diverse perspectives engage the experience. The exercise produces both opportunities and cautions for a team to consider.”

Learn more in Stronger People Leaders: A Leader Development Workbook Solution

Thinking about ‘the future’ (or rather ‘futures’) can be overwhelming to many individuals. At Skidmore Consulting, we take this very complex topic and make it as simple as possible! Much of the education that comes alongside crafting strategies for leading companies into the future is multi-faceted. 

1. Explore Leadership Principles

We focus on leadership principles to further develop the leaders already present within an organization! We increase empowerment, engagement, and leadership in the teams and organizations we serve.

2. think about ‘the future’

We focus on expanding the thinking and paradigms individuals hold – specifically related to their understanding the future (or futures) and their contributions in those futures.

3. Learn a futures tool

We teach teams how to use futures tools (such as the futures wheel). When teaching these tools, I often have participants use a trend/change that they have experience/knowledge around. By using a trend/change the participants are familiar with, helps them understand the specfici tool better. 

example of the futures wheel

The Futures Wheel is a practical tool we use with leaders and teams as they seek to thrive during change, disruption, and growth. Check out this example of a Futures Wheel exploring 🐶 Dog owners working from home during the pandemic.

Futures Wheel Example from Skidmore Consulting

4. explore an organizational decision

We explore more complex decisions involving their organization and use the futures tool to ideate decades into the future. This step in the process is the most fun in our opinion! Often this work is iterative involving vast stakeholders and multiples sessions to bring about maximium ideation.

5. craft an leadership strategy

🧩 Insights gathered by using tools, such as the Futures Wheel allow leaders to explore and ideate before focusing on a singular solution. By using strategic foresight principles, leaders dramatically impacts their’ ability to create strategies for leading companies into the future. 

Why is it important to think about the future?

It is important to think about the future for several reasons. Thinking about the future:

  • Impacts our ability to plan
  • Impacts the strategies we create for our organizations
  • Impacts our ability to envision a different future
  • Allows us to ideate
  • Allows us to explore creative approaches
  • Allows us to develop leadership competencies
  • Allows us to imagine a better tomorrow
  • Allows us to explore implications
  • Allows us to consider new histories
  • Allows organizations to thrive during change
  • Allows individuals to be more confident during disruption

What about your organization?