10 Principles for Navigating the Acceleration of Everything

With ChatGPT celebrating its first anniversary this month, I’ve been musing lately on what historians might say about the times we are living in. What does the future hold when things are changing this fast in so many realms of our lives? How do we prepare for what's ahead when there is so much uncertainty? How do we find our way in this new era of destabilizing, relentless change, hyper-competition, and mushrooming complexity?

Look around today and what you see are the contours of a radically different era emerging before our eyes. From technology to energy; from geopolitics to social media; from the workplace to the boardroom; and from the marketplace to your industry and profession.

As a global futurist and innovation speaker, I'm familiar with the vicissitudes of rapid change. I've made a living and seen the world advising governments, corporations, and small businesses on how to profit from change in 54 countries.

But this post-pandemic, artificial intelligence climate is different.

I truly believe we will experience more change over the next 10 years than we have over the past 50 or 100 years. More social change, more environmental and climatological disasters and challenges, more scientific and medical breakthroughs, and more technological change. As societies continue to age, and the number of live births continues to decrease, vast demographic changes will intensify.

I also see that we are woefully unprepared for these changes.

What is needed is a set of principles to guide us toward being adaptive and resilient. Just as rockets avoid collisions with space debris by adjusting their trajectories using onboard propulsion and guidance systems, we'll all need to adopt new "navigational skills" that alert us to debris in our paths.

Below are some principles for successfully navigating the future with confidence:

  1. Train yourself to think like a futurist. You’re at the supermarket, or your kid's soccer game. You’re walking through an airport, or listening to a sermon. Everywhere you go and whatever you’re doing, be observant of the changes before your eyes. Read voraciously and skip the trivia. Engage yourself by asking questions: where will this change seemingly go? How will this one develop?
  2. Scan and monitor an array of trends. To avoid being blindsided by change, keep tabs on a range of trends: your industry trends of course, but also workplace, geopolitical, climatological, demographic, economic, social, and regulatory trends.
  3. Look for patterns within emerging trends. Former Disney futurist Yvette Montero Salvatico uses the analogy of the night sky. Think of the stars as trends, she councils. As you look further you begin to notice constellations: the Big Dipper, Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, and so on. It's the same with trend-tracking. Take the time to look for patterns in what you are observing. The result is better response time and more "ah ha's."
  4. Audit your information diet. Examine your information diet and objectively asses whether your newsfeed and the podcasts, publications, and email newsletters you ingest are mostly informational fast food, or whether you're continuously intaking "news you can use.”
  5. In fast-changing times, avoid fads, hucksters, and get-rich-quick schemes. The crypto crash of 2023 is a case in point. Millions of people got suckered into this "wave of the future" opportunity, which was an over-hyped Ponzi scheme. The age-old adage still applies: "A fool and his money are soon parted."
  6. Assault assumptions as a matter of course, whether personal, organizational, or societal. We were caught flat-footed by COVID-19 because we assumed that modern medicine and healthcare practices had made global pandemics a thing of the past. It is always the category of trends that we are not monitoring that rises and bites us like a snake.
  7. To lead ahead of the curve, peer ahead of the curve. The winners in this emerging age are the ones who seek to anticipate where the trends are going and creatively respond by discovering emerging needs and being quick to fill them.
  8. Look back and drink in history to look ahead. Winston Churchill once said, "The farther backward you could look the farther forward you can see." As the world accelerates, hindsight (learning from history) precedes insight (understanding the present), and insight precedes foresight -- the ability to see what is likely to happen in the future and to take appropriate action.
  9. Remember that every action you take today shapes the future tomorrow. We must be purposeful in realizing our knowledge and perceptions about the future inform our decisions. The decisions we make today become our tomorrow. Nothing about the future is written in stone. The future is what we make of it by the big and little decisions we make every day.
  10. Visualize the future you want to see, rather than the media creates for you. Contemplating where you want to go and how you intend to get there is time well spent. It is a hallmark of every successful individual. Always has been and always will be.


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