Developing a Culture of Foresight by Taking Five Minutes for the Future (1 of 8 Ways)

“We live with our gaze firmly fixed on a point about two seconds into the future . . . both the past and the future as mental categories are threatened by the tyranny of the moment.”
Tyranny of the Moment: Fast and Slow Time in the Information Age, Thomas Hylland

One of the greatest challenges of my career has been to get people, often employees, to think a little more about the future for the benefit of the organization, as well as them personally.  The obstacle to this is simple – we are all too busy to do so.  It appears a luxury, not a necessity.  The immediacy of the present shoves out the importance of the future.  This is especially pronounced during tough economic times.

Five years ago I came up with an idea to counter this.  It’s called Five Minutes for the Future.  It’s based on the assumption that we can all take at least five minutes every few days to consider some aspect of the future that may relate to the organization we work in or our own personal lives.  When introducing this to our employees I asked them not to take offense to this – that I wasn’t implying that they don’t think about the future or plan ahead.  None of us would be successful if we neglected this aspect of our lives.

In the introductory email I sent to them I explained that they could anticipate periodically receiving brief summaries of new developments, trends or issues that may have implications important to them and/or the business.  And, of course, I encouraged their feedback.

Here are some I have distributed:

A device, in the prototype phase, that is portable and can indicate in five minutes whether or not a person is infected with a certain virus.
Notification of the First Annual Consumer Genetics Show held in 2009.
Legislation introduced in New York and New Jersey requiring RNs to attain bachelor’s degrees within 10 years of licensure.
A miniature digestible computer chip attached to a conventional medication that sends a signal to a device worn on the skin.  This band-aid-like device, in turn, wirelessly transmits information to doctors with readings about the patient’s vital signs.

My final comment in my introductory email was “Most of your are younger than I am.  You will be living and working with these developments long after I retire.  Even if you don’t find them intellectually intriguing you must keep up with them or you will be rendered obsolete.”  (For those of you who don’t know me, yes, I’m in the healthcare field).

So, if you are even somewhat interested in developing a culture of foresight in your organization or department try Five Minutes for the Future.  It works.

I will describe seven additional ways to develop a culture of foresight in future posts.  They are all practical and effective.


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