2Leading Like a Futurist

Lisa Kay Solomon

Let's start with a mini thought experiment. Think back ten years, and fill in the following headlines:

  • President _____ just announced __________.
  • A new technology about ___________ promises to __________.
  • The most valuable company in the world is _____________ because of its advantages in ___________.

Maybe you have a great memory and easily filled in those blanks, or perhaps you did a quick internet search. Either way, it is possible to arrive at answers. The past is knowable.

Now, consider answering the same set of questions ten years from now. What methodologies and thinking processes would you use? How confident do you feel about your responses?

You may have felt a little uneasy thinking about how to answer those questions in a future context. How could you know the answers? How could anyone know? There are no facts about the future.

In a world of increasing volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity—the “VUCA” world coined by U.S. military planners more than 30 years ago—the idea of predicting anything may feel like folly. And the days and decades ahead promise to deliver more VUCA than ever. It's likely that this present moment may be the least VUCA of days to come.

And yet, leaders must make decisions every day with incomplete, unknowable, and unreliable information. Leading in an increasingly VUCA world will require a new set of skills. We must think and act like futurists.

While none of us—not even the greatest AI—can ...

Get Certain Uncertainty now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.