Why Entrepreneurs and Startup founders should think Like a Futurist 2


Entrepreneurs and founders of Startup are risk takers, and to a large extent believe in their ability to forecast trends; at least trends in their field of expertise. An interesting article in the Wall Street Journal, “Think Like a Futurist to Be Prepared for the Totally Unexpected” highlights how the art and science of futuring is fast becoming a necessary skill, where we read signals, see trends and ruthlessly test our own assumptions.

Image credit: flickr.com/photos/torley

Futurists or futurologists are scientists and social scientists whose specialty is futurology, or the attempt to systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present, whether that of human society in particular or of life on Earth in general. – Wikipedia

Here are a few tips from the article and discussions with futurists:

  • The first thing about futurism that surprised me is that practitioners don’t think much about technological change. At least not at first.
  • Futurists are relentlessly critical of their own assumptions. Once you’re done forecasting scenarios, you should be willing to tear apart your own work.
  • Predicting the future, it turns out, isn’t what futurists do.  What futurists actually do is facilitate as groups of people work through a highly structured, sometimes months-long process of coming up with as many hypothetical futures as they can, in order to prepare for more or less anything.
  • Futurists are pragmatic. Amy Webb, author of  “The Signals Are Talking” says “I see the word “futurist” in many more Twitter bios than I ever have before. We’re all really excited about it, but I don’t see very many people working in a diligent, methodical way on thinking through the implications.”

What does all this mean to Entrepreneurs?

Entrepreneurs are Imaginative futurists. They attempt to use foresight to solve problems primarily for themselves. They habitually develop future visions, scenarios, expectations, and plans that might break the conventions and norms of society.

  • To find trends that might converge, you say you look for signals on the fringe, beyond the usual things that get covered in the technology press. – Amy Webb, author of  “The Signals Are Talking”
  • The reason foresight and predicting the future is so confounding: Aside from the fact that anything can happen, those unexpected events rapidly compound on one another. This leads to second, third and nth-order effects that can seem completely beyond the realm of plausibility until they happen.
  • Everyday discourse about the future often focuses on specific events, or, the endpoints of a journey—the amazing breakthrough technologies, sudden shifts in collective social behavior, or radically new economic models. The true stories of these journeys—which can be messy, sometimes slow, but occasionally rich with startling combinations and evolutions—are actually where the most interesting parts of the future happen. – Scott Smith’s “How To Future.

Bottomline: Entrepreneurs shouldn’t spend a lot of time trying to forecast the future. None of us has a crystal ball! However, they should spend some time using futurist techniques to plan for scenarios.


Links and references

| Reproduction with permission only | Compiled and Edited by: Mohan K   |


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2 thoughts on “Why Entrepreneurs and Startup founders should think Like a Futurist

  • bks

    The challenge isn’t so much to predict the future (which is impossible), but to create the next step in your own or your business’s future.

    • mydigitalstatrup Post author

      bks: valid point. Quoting the WSJ article : “One thing all the futurists I talked to had in common was disdain for anyone willing to attempt to predict the future. In futuring circles, paradoxically, this is the mark of an amateur.”