The future is not what we thought - the hard lessons of reality

leadership Mar 29, 2022

Leaders are always being urged to think about the future.  What can disrupt your business, what new technology/competitors/market is coming to disrupt what you do?  Never mind the past, as investment managers tell us, we can’t rely on it to predict the future.

This is a world that is changing really fast, where technology is king, where Silicon Valley calls the shots. We should be worrying about the impact of AI on our businesses, pivoting to be sustainable in our use of resources, abandoning fossil fuels and saving the planet.  There’s even the metaverse to worry about if can’t find anything else.

The last month has revealed that we should have cancelled those tickets to California and gone to Texas instead.  Suddenly the past has overtaken the future.  What will keep us heating our homes, running our factories, fertilizing our crops?  It’s not green energy, it’s oil and coal.  What might keep us safe? Not technology but tanks, bomb shelters and boots on the ground.  How did we get this so wrong?

Suddenly it is clear to everyone that the problem with the future is that it takes a long time to get here.  We are all guilty of claiming “the future is now”. There are people in the sustainability community who say that if we had made more of an effort in the past, we would not be in this position now.  That may be true, but it is also irrelevant because firstly we are not, and secondly not enough people wanted to pay the price, real or perceived, to get there.  Perhaps now we have seen the price all too clearly and we are paying it.  Maybe the sacrifices needed for a better future can be made?  Or will we still prefer the present?

We have to deal with the present as it is, not as we would like it to be.  We have lived in bubbles for too long, now is the time to face a grimmer reality and work out how businesses and humanity can survive in a world that we thought was passing.