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Start with the future – not with the present


How can future thinking create a break-through in the boardroom?

Last week it happened again. We were asked by an organization to help them develop their future direction by facilitating creative sessions to ‘explore and design the future’. We always suggest co-creating with a diverse group of people, not just from inside the company but also inviting hand picked unusual outsiders to inspire new thinking and doing. In many cases however, the board is not ready for this yet. They tell us that the discussions are still too heated, the differences in opinion too great and that they first need to align between themselves. The first step is then to facilitate a strategic dialogue between the board members.

So what happened? In these kinds of sessions we force people to start with the future in mind, using creative tools like selecting images that express the desired end goal or imagining we are 5 years down the road and they have been invited to deliver a TEDTalk about their successful transformation. What would be their key messages? What would they want the audience to remember most about their story? Working in teams and pitching their stories to each other often shows (surprisingly) that they are quite aligned already which creates positive energy and team spirit. They conclude that they got stuck talking about the now, the risks and challenges that they face, and from there tried to figure out how to move forward. The key to solving this is to work backwards instead: once you have defined a clear future ambition and a shared purpose, you can work out a plan to realize your ambitions.

How much of your time do you spend talking about the future in your board? Do you use creative intelligence in your strategic dialogues?

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