One of the first things I learned about the future is that making lots of varied guesses about it is much more productive than trying make a few perfect predictions. That’s because the only thing you can confidently say about tomorrow is that it’ll surprise you.
So, the best way to future proof your brand is to imagine as many different versions of it as you can, then see how you’d react to them. That’s the futurist’s real role – to help you practice being surprised. Then you’ll find out how well you’ll cope with the unexpected and what really defines your business and your brand.
But how do you actually do it? Well, here’s one way that works for me:
Start by blasting out a list of possible future changes. Clones becoming our slaves! Brexit collapsing! Virtual reality replacing TV! The EU collapsing! Robots becoming real! Self-driving cars and trucks taking off! Aliens landing! Teleportation becoming cheap and easy! Whatever takes your fancy.
And be sure to balance the completely reasonable with the totally impossible. If you want to practice being surprised, you need to imagine some properly surprising events.
Utopian or dystopian?
Now think about how all those changes could work out. Free teleportation could be pretty utopian. But what if you’re running a bus company? Your business would disappear overnight. So from that point of view, it’s definitely dystopian.
Go through all of your changes and think about what they’d do to your business. Teleportation would transform estate agents, for example, because location just wouldn’t matter anymore.
What would you do?
Now pick the four changes that would have the biggest impact on what you do and how you do it. Choose a possible utopian, possible dystopian, impossible utopian and impossible dystopian one.
Discuss how you’d respond to each of them. Understand what could stay the same and what would have to change. Think about how you’d find opportunities in the dystopias. Explore any problems the utopias might throw up. Think practically about the impossible changes and impossibly about the practical ones.
What you’ll learn
Each scenario will help you think about how your business might change as the world changes around it. That’s useful in itself, because it gives you a greater sense of its possibilities and limits. And, taken together, all that will help you understand something even more important.
Ask yourself what you’ll always keep on doing for your customers, no matter how crazily the world’s changed. There’ll be something there – a single, central problem you’re always solving for them, no matter what.
Solving that problem is what your business is really about.
People will always need help with it, no matter how the world changes. And they’ll always come to you for that help, because you’re the experts in it. So, to future proof your brand, make sure that solving that problem is at the heart of everything your business says and does.