How to Create Alignment in Facing a New Future
by Jeremy Nulik
In the days of Don Draper, marketing was contingent upon the ability to wrap a cool campaign concept. The people deemed “creatives” would be sequestered and properly fed until they emerged from their lair with the next way to make lipstick sound like a mythic-level mating ritual.
This mindset has permeated our culture and seeped into a number of the mechanical ways in which decisions are made. Even today, we have leaders believe they can descend from the mountain with their visions. And, until recently, the humans in organizations would get in line and follow those ideas.
The trouble today is the accelerating change we all face. So those mountain-top notions are called into greater and greater scrutiny. Suddenly, your great idea about growing your company or your marketing is dead before it even had a chance.
The shift in your role as a leader is from being the law-giver/vision-generator to that of working to inspire visionary competency among your stakeholders. You no longer need be Don Draper or Steve Jobs. Rather, the world is asking for you, as someone wise in the ways of vision, to create an environment that has a competency for long-term, visionary thinking.
Collectively, your organization has a consciousness, and it has collective images of the future. You likely know this. And perhaps you have tried, in vain, to elucidate what those images hold. But it is not easy. In particular, the images humans hold exist in a realm that precedes language — a place of emotions, colors and, well, images.
To uncover those notions and create a following behind your latest idea (in marketing or otherwise), you can use a device as an experiment that has been around for some time. The Futures Wheel is intended as a kind of structured brainstorming activity. It was created by futurist Jerome Glenn in 1971 as a way to uncover the long-term implications of a decision or a change.
It is most useful as a quick way to get your entire team looking the same direction. Rather than having to sell your concept to your stakeholders.
How to begin:
1. Monitor for compelling changes. Take a look at your system and mine it for potential trends that are disruptive.
2. Create language for the center of the wheel. Craft the wording of your trend in future language. Example: U.S. housing starts decline by 10 percent.
3. Gather the stakeholders. Build the story of why you believe the change may occur.
4. Decide on a horizon. Tell the stakeholders that the change or decision that you have placed in the center is present day. And now we have been transported ten years in the future.
5. Ask for the first order of implications that could occur. Ask the simple question: “And then what?” Stakeholders identify their first order implications or visions.
6. Repeat for the next order of implications. Have the stakeholders draw the connection from the first order to the second order implications. Repeat the same process for third order implications.
7. Vote using the following: 1. Most important. 2. Most likely
After you can see what the stakeholders facing the decision or change would characterize as the most important or likely implication may be, you can begin to create the plan to address it. This means that you will not have to create a command-and-control adherence to your vision. Your organization will grow in its capacity to look forward together.
Jeremy Nulik (email@example.com) is evangelist prime at bigwidesky, a design futures agency, in St. Louis, Mo.
Submitted 1 years 248 days ago