Grab the future before it passes you by -- opportunities are there

As the future comes thundering down the track like a runaway freight train,
here are a few thoughts that may help you make the future your friend.

• Technological changes. Here is an area where keeping up to date is a constant challenge. Happily, there are three new, breakthrough books to read: Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think, by Kenneth Cukier and Viktor Mayer-Schonberger; Power Surge: Energy, Opportunity and the Battle for America’s Future, by Michael Levi; and the provocatively titled book by Eric Topol, The Creative Destruction of Medicine.

• An organization to join. The World Future Society (wfs.org) is a must for any person or organization hoping to benefit from what the future will offer. The society’s magazine, Futurist, devotes its entire attention to the medium- and long-term future.

• Conferences to attend. The annual convention of the World Future Society will be in Toronto from July 19 to 22. If you attend the conference, be sure to take lots of notes and share your insights with others. The Blue Ridge Conference on Leadership provides the latest ideas on leadership, Oct. 9-11 at Black Mountain, N.C. To register: www.blueridgeleadership.com, or call (334) 844 5100. Cost is very reasonable. Hope to see you there.

• A vehicle to purchase. Get a plug-in hybrid. Within a year, there will be many to choose from. If most of your driving is in the local area, these hybrids will get more than 100 miles to the gallon – a positive impact on your budget and the environment.

• Health issues. Breakthroughs in the life sciences will dramatically affect life expectancies. Children born in 2020 will have life expectancies well beyond age 90. Some of these breakthroughs also will help extend your lifespan. As you plan for your long-term future (and help your children and grandchildren with their planning), you may wish (if you can) to increase your annual savings so you will not become dependent on others to support you late in life.

• China. Economic growth has diminished from about 13 percent per year to 7 percent per year, but the big change in China in the past few years is the dramatic rise of the middle class. This could be good news in a number of ways:

(a) China is already providing an excellent market for American goods – this will increase dramatically in the decade.

(b) Historically, as a middle class emerges within an authoritarian political system, there are more and more demands for personal freedom and greater outrage among the citizens at corruption and cronyism within the ruling class.

(c) The number of Chinese tourists coming to America will increase dramatically in the next few years. This will be good for our economy; however, another factor may be more important in the long run. Millions of Chinese will be exposed to a culture that celebrates free enterprise, liberty and the rule of law. The best books on China that were published in the past year are Henry Kissinger’s On China and China Goes Global: The Partial Power, by David Shambaugh.

Where in the CSRA is good strategic thinking and planning taking place? Here are two examples:

• Under the leadership of its dynamic new rector, Saint Paul’s Church recently conducted a two-day, off-site retreat with a talented group of church leaders. Many ideas and initiatives were discussed among the rector (George Muir), the wardens and the vestry members. Saint Paul’s Church seems to have found the formula for fusing innovative leadership with strategic thinking and planning.

• The Augusta Museum of History also conducted a planning retreat recently. The museum’s strategic plan was carefully reviewed and updated. A dynamic brainstorming session generated more than 50 ideas, some of which have already been implemented. The next time you encounter museum director Nancy Glaser, please thank her and her staff for their great work.

Besides reading and attending conferences, what can you do to make the future your friend?

Expand your personal brain trust to include the most creative people you know – help them whenever you can. The more you help them, the more they will be willing to help you.

Constantly ask questions of yourself and your colleagues: What is the best new idea I have uncovered this week? How can I use this idea? What new technology has just surfaced and how can I use it to enhance my effectiveness and efficiency? Whom have I helped lately? Whom have I thanked lately?

 

(The writer – a retired U.S. Air Force major general – is the author of Rules and Tools for Leaders and Assignment Pentagon. From 1981 to 1983, he served as the top Air Force planner. His email address is genpsmith@aol.com. His web site is genpsmith.com.)

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