With the new decade well & truly underway, I’ve been thinking about the future, and wanted to share some helpful techniques with you. These techniques can enable us to extend the range of our thoughts, supporting us to take a longer-term perspective and imagine possible futures.
The future is itself an idea: we conjure it in our imaginations. We are better than other species at making this imaginative leap, and it is the reason we have civilisations, have landed on the moon, plant trees for future shade, and have built cathedrals across centuries, for posterity.
However, we’re also by nature impulsive and reactive... The short-term vs long-term tension is part of who we are, and balancing it appropriately is important. For example, this tension arises in the healthcare and financial services industries when encouraging people to look after their health. We’d mostly prefer to eat treats and relax on the couch, but doing this consistently is bad for us, so well-designed incentives (such as shared value models in an insurance context) can encourage us to make good choices now (like moderation and exercise) that lead to future health benefits.
This article is inspired by the work of Bina Venkatamaran, a former journalist and policy advisor who teaches at MIT, and Ari Wallach, a futurist. Both of them gave separate TED talks, and we also reference Bina’s book and Ari’s essay in Wired magazine where he calls for a “visionary yet goal-oriented” framework for long-term strategy that “can help leaders navigate the balance between short-term gain and long-term ruin. A CEO might say: ‘That may be good for the bottom line, but it poses significant risks to our longpath’.”
It’s also about how we choose to measure our success, and the meaning of our lives. In Bina’s words: “Do we measure ourselves by the moment, by what’s happening in this immediate moment, or do we measure ourselves by what we’re doing towards the longer endeavour of both what we’re doing in this life and how we’ll be remembered?”
Read more to explore Bina and Ari’s ideas, examine our preference for immediate gratification and the mistakes we naturally make, consider our unique capacity for mental time travel, contrast prediction and forecasting against judgement and foresight, discover different tools and techniques for thinking ahead, and watch Bina’s TED talk. It’s particularly fitting too that 2020 is synonymous with perfect vision – I hope that these tools will help us all to envisage our ultimate aims more clearly.
This Protagion post focuses on a TEDx talk given by Dorie Clark at an event titled “Professions of the Future” in Switzerland in September 2017. The talk explores portfolio careers, a topic we briefly touched on in a previous Halloween-themed post about slashers: people who do different concurrent jobs.
Dorie herself has “consciously and deliberately worked to cultivate multiple income streams”. The New York Times describes her as an “expert at self-reinvention”, and her roles include:
Through that process [of building a portfolio career], it’s done a lot of things: it’s brought in more revenue for me, it’s mitigated my risk, it’s introduced me to new people and new experiences, it’s helped me develop new skills. And it’s my hope for you, whether you work for yourself, or if you have a day job that you love and want to keep, that if you cultivate a portfolio career, that it could do the same for you.”
Her talks often use personal stories of people she’s interviewed to illustrate her suggestions, which makes them relatable and easier to remember. Read more to view the video, some takeaways, and additional insights from Dorie.
We recently collaborated with actuartech.com on an article exploring the impact of technology evolution on training and active career management. Written with fellow actuaries Valerie du Preez and Michael Jordan, it also shared our thoughts on the future.
Some of the ActuarTech article echoed my presentation in November 2018 at the Institute and Faculty of Actuaries’ “Lifelong Learning: Fit for the Future” event, which covered career evolution, reinvention, and suggestions from Protagion for managing our careers and developing into new roles (for individuals, managers and organisations). One of these suggestions was about learning how to learn by practising doing things you’ve never done, using your transferable skillset to make the shift. I also referenced the importance of emotional support and resilience-building in this process.
In this post, we expand on this, reiterating Protagion’s suggestions (for all professionals) for staying abreast of the changing technological landscape, recognising the importance of keeping up-to-date and taking inspiration from change.