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Paying Attention to the Future

If there is one takeaway from the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the fact that we’d better start paying attention to something beyond what happens daily. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of expediency, where we simply think about and act on the cards that life deals us on a day by day basis. 


Like so many other elements in our lives, we need more balance. Paying attention to the ‘here and now’ is critical to survival. AND the reality is that tomorrow we are going to be faced with new challenges and opportunities that are going to come at us, hard. Just like COVID-19, they will threaten our survival. We are going to need to be as prepared as possible to meet them head on.

Being unprepared for opportunity is just as bad as being unprepared for challenges. It takes away the most valuable commodity that we have – the ability to make choices.


Being unprepared limits our choices and when we are forced to exercise them, the risk in doing so goes up significantly.

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So, how do we pay better attention? The first part is to find the time for Reflection. Even at our busiest, most hectic time, conscious reflection and discussion is crucial. 2020 certainly dealt up a mixed bag of crises for Astron Energy. Notwithstanding that reality, the Executive Team, under the leadership of the CEO, still took time out over a period of time to talk about what trends were shaping the future of the company and how those may best be harnessed, channeled or addressed for success.  It is also just as important to a person as it is to a business. What skills do I have? How will future technology, social change impact my career path? What new skills will I need to remain relevant in the future?


The second part of being prepared is all about Exploration. It’s difficult to see the future from the comfort of your home office. There is a need to ‘go to the Gemba’, or see it for yourself in the real world, as the Japanese have termed it. Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho famously exhorted employees to, ‘Go see, ask why and show respect.’ See for yourself how things are changing, ask people how their needs and expectations are evolving, show them you understand their reality and want to partner with them wherever possible to deliver new forms of future value. 


Don’t only go to where your traditional Customers are – seek out the mavericks on the outer edges of the industry. Those who dare to challenge orthodoxy – they will be finding the future first. As Andy Grove, Chairman of Intel famously observed, ‘When spring comes, snow melts first at the periphery, because that is where it is most exposed”


Paying better attention to the future requires also Sense-making. Yes, Google is your friend! Doing your own research into what people globally are saying about your industry or marketplace equips you to ask the right questions. If are able, get consultants or professional futurists to challenge your thinking and assumptions. You may not be convinced by all they have to say, but your thinking will be informed by a more diverse and challenging perspective.

Finally, paying more attention is all about distilling everything into Learnings that inform your future thinking and action. Put together a group of colleagues, or better yet, a broader range of people including Customers and Suppliers. Share what you’ve learnt and ask them for their perspectives and what they think are some of the implications for the future. Remember, diversity of thought and experience matters in creating a richer picture.