As a researcher, speaker and writer I spend a lot of time considering the future and the changes that might impact our lives. It is a fascinating pastime, and something I encourage all people to think about in my presentations on managing for change.
But there is one problem that emerges when you talk tabout the future. It’s a little like talking about a foreign country – a fascinating place perhaps, but one where people have no relatives or business ties. It might be interesting to them, and possibly somewhere they might like to visit someday, but it is not a topic that is relevant to the problems they face on a day-to-day basis.
With luck they will have learned something new and interesting, but how can they use that information? How will it help them when it comes to dealing with the problems they face today?
Thankfully, there are ways to harness the future to help in the present, although it took a science fiction author’s words to make me realise it.
The American writer William Gibson was the first to coin the term cyberspace, but he also once uttered one of the most powerful quotes I’ve heard when it comes to understanding the state of the world today: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed”.
Put plainly, there is so much already happening in the world that we are not aware of, because it is not visible within our immediate experience. While it is vital that we think about the possibilities that the future might hold, it is equally vital that we ensure we are taking advantage of all the tools and processes that are actually already here.
In my presentations to community and industry groups I strive to ensure that each audience member takes away at least one concept or idea they can put into practice that very day. Whether it is using the plethora of web-based tools that can help us run businesses more efficiently, or tapping into the online global labour market for skills and services, or any of the thousands of ways new technologies and processes can pull cost out of our businesses and extend our reach … there are simply so many options available to us that can impact our lives today, long before we need to embrace any of the amazing ideas that the future holds.
And the beauty of many of these tools and processes is that the dividend they yield is the one commodity that most business owners find so precious – time. Many of these tools are free to try, and designed to be used with the minimum of training. And if they can shave an hour or two from the working week – particularly in administrative tasks that add no value to the business – they easily pay for themselves.
The future might be dazzling and bright, but you don’t need to wait for the trends of the future to create a positive impact for you and your business today.