One of my coaching clients recently recommended that I read the 1987 classic Odessey, by John Sculley – who is famous for succeeding Steve Jobs during the first Apple turnaround. Back in 1987 Sculley implemented ideas that we’re still waking up to today.
His pretext for what I call Leading from the Future (I used to have a blog by that title, and it’s also a subtext of Theory U by Otto Scharmer) is that, because the future is increasingly unpredictable, traditional ‘planning’ can turn out to be a crap shoot.
Once again, the ideas on Leading from the Future are resurfacing in a new book by Douglas Rushkoff called Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now published just this year.
The point of it all is (as Rushkoff’s title hints) that focus on the current moment is the best indicator we have for not only predicting the future – more important, focus on the current moment informs us of what’s possible, where we’re heading, and how to create the future we want.
Here’s a place to start NOW
Sculley is hip to the coaching mantra: Solutions are often obvious once you get the questions right.
He details how part of Apple’s strategic planning process was to ‘project ourselves out into the future and then work backwards to the present’. I’ve personally been using this same technique, in a variation called A Walk Through Time – based on NLP, since 1999 to help teams to start with the future they envision and work their way backwards in time to knit together the pieces of a more cohesive present. Since 2005, with my partner Liz Dallas, we’ve used her Visionary A to B Leadership Model to help leaders and teams work from their Now to future possibility to cohesive strategies. The trick is to shift your attention from Planning for the Future to Leading from the Future. This shift creates the opportunity for insight and the new, more relevant actions that spawn from there. Insight into now is key.
And that’s why I’m such a champion of coaching. The inquiry process that seeks to get the right questions is the mother of all inventions. We no longer have time to invest in scenario and strategic planning that looks forward. Instead, let’s invest in what we do know, our NOW, and ask the right questions…maybe even with the help of a coach?