In today’s global market, organizations must understand the importance of how to effectively develop their leadership and organizations to be future smart. Being future smart means that organizations develop a future perspective that incorporates current trends into their organizational structure and strategic planning in order to successfully thrive.

Being Future Smart.
Future Smart strategies are important components in how leadership and organizations will address growth, development, challenges, and the success of the organization. These strategies should include future smart or future forward thinking which uses present tools such as scenario planning, environmental scanning through STEEP (Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, and Political ), and SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis to forecast the trajectory of trends into the future. These strategies better facilitate equipping the organization to address the future instead of merely waiting for it to happen.

Strategies are important because they address how organizational and leadership processes are incorporated, therefore, gaining deeper insights into the understanding of who, what, how, and why processes will achieve prospected goal setting, planning, and forward thinking outcomes. It must also be noted that developing strategy is a key process in developing future smart leadership. Renowned strategy experts highlight that strategy becomes highly critical in developing how organizations and leaders think, and how the actions they take will greatly influence the future success of the organization. [1]

Becoming future smart is, therefore, about organizational and leadership practice in the preparation, planning, and learning about the future. Futurist James Canton, in his book Future Smart, highlighted that being future smart is about how organizations and leaders determine how to intelligently and strategically respond, as well as, navigate emerging situations, trends, and their environments. [2]

Embracing a Future-Smart Mindset.
The future-smart mindset embraces change, understands the future impacts of trends, and is a catalyst for onward change. Organizations and leadership can use the future-smart mindset concept and perspective to more effectively develop vision, strategic foresight, and build organizational readiness for globalization. This is critical in the world of consulting and can be a game-changer for consultants who operate from this perspective because of the potential positive impacts on the future of the organizations that consultants will serve.

A big part of that future-smart mindset is the ability of the leader to be actively involved in what some call “Futuring.” Futuring, as noted at the beginning of this short essay, is the practice of developing a future organizational and leadership perspective that incorporates capacity for exploration and analysis of trends into the organizational structure, in addition to having that capacity serve as input into the organizational strategy and planning cycles. It is about how organizations and leaders determine how to intelligently and strategically respond to emerging situations, trends, and disruptive environments. [3]

Leaders can also embrace Futuring by learning to evaluate forecasts. This form of Futuring (forecasting) can be said to be a process of foresight—the process that analyzes the trends, biases, cultural norms, societal change and extend that knowledge forward into a variety of scenario forms. Forecasts provide valuable insight and understanding of the future.

According to renowned futurist Richard Slaughter, futures concepts, dialogue about future forecasts, and strategy formation can also be used by leaders and organizations to increase creativity, social innovation, and provide valuable insight into the creation of new projects and opportunities. This type of effort can definitely contribute to more collaboration and empowerment in organizations in order to shape their own futures. [3] Therefore, it is foundational that organizations strategically plan to use Futuring and a future-smart mindset to support their journey towards success. Effective strategy formation and planning is one way of doing that.

One note of importance in the area of effective strategy and planning is that the level of effectiveness for these is greatly impacted by the ability or inability of leaders in organizations to address the organizational environmental issues, specifically the alignment or misalignment of values, goals, and objectives in the organizational strategy. This alignment significantly affect the leader’s and organization’s ability to grow and become a global enterprise.
Benefits of a Future-Smart Perspective.

As a consultant who focuses on global leadership and organizational development, being future smart has assisted my consulting firm with helping clients expand their thinking and capacity for learning. In turn, their fitness for growth, development, and strategic planning has grown maximizing positive organizational outcomes. It has also allowed my firm the opportunity to better empower clients, enhance their skills, expand their use of strategic tools, and more efficiently implement procedures to help reach their goals by changing how they think about their organization, the future, and the connection between the two.

For example, working with a client in the mental and behavioral health leadership fields, we discussed the application of foresight as part of the leadership’s team strategy with the aim to provide better services for their clients, as well as, the potential expansion of services in the future. The group was able to gather information and discuss how the organization could form and execute strategy to more effectively address the challenges within their industry (present and future). The future perspective provided valuable insight to emerging trends; this was a crucial input into the strategic planning cycle and it led to better forecasting about how both their industry and organization would look in the future.

The above-noted sets of actions were incredibly beneficial because the leaders were able to get a picture of how they and the organization are doing in relation to their industry. They were also able to identify and use a future-smart perspective to actually shift their thinking and conversations around planning and leadership practices that were more robust. What surprised me is that some of these discoveries were not knew to them, but without a future-smart perspective they had difficulty effectively planning and acting progressively.

Given the new-found perspective, the leadership team was able to get a better understanding of what it takes to be prepared for the future. This team of leaders had an empowered awareness, were better positioned to manage emerging trends, could better collaborate and stay adaptable, and harness the change needed in their organization. Gaining this new way of thinking, and subsequent acting, was crucial because this team has been working in an industry which has undergone tremendous change, perhaps more change than in other industries. By adopting a future-smart perspective, they were now equipped to effectively manage and win in the future.

Final Thoughts.
Becoming future smart will be richly advantageous to the organizations and the leaders that put forward this level of investment in their organizational strategies. A future-smart mindset and the practice of Futuring will positively impact the capacity of organizations to see multiple sets of opportunities in their horizons. The results will better aid leaders and organizations with the processes of strategic thinking, planning, and implementation. In short, these leaders and organizations will be better able than others in building organizational resiliency, longevity, and readiness in an increasing globalized economy.

[1] Ackerman, F. & Eden, C. (2011). Making Strategy: Mapping Out Strategic Success (2nd Ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.
[2] Canton, J. (2015). Future Smart: Managing The Game-Changing Trends That Will Transform Your World. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press.
[3] Park, C. (2017). America at the Crossroads: Explosive Trends Shaping America’s Future and What You Can Do About It. Christian Education Journal, 14(1), pp. 194-197.
[4] Slaughter, R. A. (1993, April). Futures concepts. Futures. 25(3), pp. 289-315.