Posted by: rolfsky | March 20, 2008

5 tips for discussing the future

photo, courtesy ILMO JOE

Having the job title “Disruptive Innovator”, I am sometimes asked to “tell people the future”. This is a non-trivial request, especially, because they are expecting an answer.

The question may not be phrased in this exact way, it may take the form of: “so what will Web 3.0 be like?” or “what technologies excite you?

Here are 5 tips for how to respond when someone asks you to “explain the future”:

  1. give it your best shot
    There is no “right answer”, they are looking for your viewpoint as a respected individual. They are asking you because they value your opinion so sum up all the thoughts swirling in your head and let fly.
  2. use details to color-in your predictions
    Because you are an expert in your field, you follow the news and know more little details than anyone really should. These little details are what lead you to your conclusions, so they the more details you can give your audience, the more reasonable and expected your predictions will seem.
  3. or, just tell them the raw facts and let them decide
    Screw predictions, forget about attempting to explain the future. The data that you’ve collected is valuable to your audience so they can make their own predictions. An added bonus of this strategy is that you encourage them to hypothesize which brings you new ways of looking at the situation.
  4. be careful, the analogy you choose will be taken literally
    Be careful when choosing your analogy, because it’s going to stick. If you say the future is “mobile computing”, realize that what people will hear is, “the future is the expensive and sub-standard device and service I have in my pocket right now”. To avoid this, present the trend, not the current implementation. “much as telephones lost their copper wires, computers will migrate out from under your desk and into your pocket, internet intact”
  5. this is your opportunity to craft their worldview
    If you have a cause, some way to change the world, provide the tools for them to take action with you in crafting the future that is to come. They asked you, so they’re definitely paying attention. Seize this opportunity to lay out the details of your story, extrapolate them into a reasonable whole and deliver with passion.

Hopefully this list is helpful for responding to the question, “what’s next?” and if you have success (or failure) in explaining your personal view of the future, let me know! 🙂


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