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Are you a futurist or a strategist?
Is there really that much of a difference?
I listened with great interest to Brian David Johnson talk about the future. From his first words, he disclaims any predictive ability. He cannot tell you what will happen.
He can, instead, help you think through what might happen. In a conversation from last year, based on his book "The Future You," Johnson walked listeners through the frame for his methodology. He helps his clients understand and visualize their aim (what they want). He then helps them identify their sources of help, opportunities to leverage, and the threats they may encounter on the way. And then finally he helps them "backcast" from that envisioned future success to figure out the first steps on the road to take to get there.
That sounds a lot like what a strategist does. Visualize some desired end. I like to call this the North Star. Then think through how you'll get to that North Star. My personal metaphor for this is the compass. Build a compass to help you navigate a dangerous world on your way to North-Star-nirvana.
Does it matter what we call ourselves if we are basically in the same business?
For starters, let's observe that "futurist" is as loaded, maybe even more loaded a term as "strategist." They carry baggage. So there are pitfalls that come with both.
A futurist, like Johnson, will always point out that they don't carry crystal balls with them. They can't tell you what numbers to pick on your lotto ticket, they can't tell you what college your kid must attend to make millions.
Strategists have become ubiquitous, a penny a dozen. That title's worn out in every sense of the word "worn." Everyone's "strategic" nowadays. Businesses use it to elevate their brand, like the garbage truck I saw drive past a few years back, with an enormous side-logo, "STRATEGIC WASTE MANAGEMENT."
But, somehow, even if both futurists and strategists both engage in the pursuit of a better tomorrow, I think the title difference is meaningful.
For starters, a futurist and a strategist would likely balk at swapping titles. It matters to them. So it probably should matter to the rest of us.
More important, their emphases are different. I suspect a strategist would focus on how to get "there," while a futurist would focus on getting to the best "there." It's subtle, but important.
The strategist may spend greater time on specifying the steps and jumps and turns it'll take to get to the pot of gold. The futurist may seek to spend more time thinking through the beauty and shininess and desirability of the coins in the pot of gold sought. One's a laser vision on the journey, the other's lasers are pointed farther down-field at the journey's end.
I think both have strengths, and both do identify a North Star and then a compass for calculating how to get there. It may well be that we can find crossover points that strengthen one another. A good place to start would be a deeper read into Brian David Johnson's book, "The Future You."
This is a re-post of an essay from July, 2022.