Yesterday’s tomorrow

The future is ever changing and it can feel daunting to think about what might happen next or how to adapt as a person or organization to the changes that will occur. What can you do to identify patterns for the future? One thing is to make things smaller and start training a futures mindset so you become more awake to change. Change happens yes, but it’s not always disruptive. Just spot the little differences that are less dramatic and realize that the future is only yesterday’s tomorrow.

Change blindness

Change blindness is a phenomenon to illustrate our inability to identify visual changes. Even when such changes are very dramatic we sometimes fail to notice them, simply because we are focused on something else or because the change is too gradual. There are many examples online where you can test how good you are in seeing things change. When you take this phenomenon to business it becomes evident why it is that we often fail to see ‘the next big thing’ or when we miss out on something that seems so obvious years later. People often ask me how they can become better at noticing these changes. One thing that works is to change your perspective often: talk to people from a different industry, talk to your customers, talk to your recent hires and ask them what they see. This is a great way to avoid some of the change blindness that otherwise might occur (as soon as somebody tells you there was a gorilla running through the crowd in one of the examples above you can never not see it anymore). But you also have to accept that you can never see it all.

Do it yourself

However, I also think that you can train yourself to become better at noticing changes. One way that I am experimenting with this is to make myself more aware of change by logging the differences in my observations. Lately I have begun to do this by seeing today as a metaphor for the future of yesterday and experiment with more awareness for the changes that then occur. What I do is I keep a ‘journal’ and each day I write down the answers to 3 questions (that I limit to a business perspective for now): what do I think is going to happen tomorrow; what signal do I see for this; what do I sense will change from today? Then the next day (the future) I look back on these notes to see what actually happened and how far off I was. By simply writing my ‘predictions’ down and reflecting back on how those differ from what actually happened, makes me more aware of the changes.

Interestingly, at the start I was always completely off, because the things that I had written down were way too big and dramatic. After a while when I started to make it smaller and when I took my calendar as a guide I became better at it: making myself aware not of the big things, but the small perceptual changes. In a way it is training some type of ‘hyper awareness for change’, which is one ingredient that can help organizations become better at reacting to change with agility. Try it out and see what it does for you.