Why is it so important ?
Not only since the pandemic - but which acted as catalyst in global awareness - we learned that our world has grown increasingly complex and uncertain, as compared to the world we were used to, or rather, the way we perceived it, some decades ago.
Everything has become exponential, from technology to climate change to social, economic & political challenges, and black, white and green swans lurk around every corner.
Exogenous shocks like the pandemic illustrate the vulnerability of mere efficiency driven monocultures. In many situations, multiple cause and effects as well as direct and indirect feedback loops in complex systems have grown almost impossible to fully understand and control upfront.
We therefore need to develop a different attitude in dealing with uncertainty, complexity and the future in general, turning those into an asset rather than a threat.
Complicated vs. Complex
The result is that we tend to continue to treat every future challenge, every problem like a complicated problem: Meaning a challenge or problem that can be solved if you put the right experts together to define one or more "good practices" and to deal with and manage the challenge. We know that this governance model yields increasingly unexpected consequences due to the lack of a holistic understanding of what is at stake.
This because, in today's reality, many of these problems and challenges are complex problems and challenges (as opposed to complicated problems, where multiple causes and effects are not immediately visible anymore), where a solution or way of dealing with is not immediately visible, even to groups of experts. We live in complex systems that ask for solutions & understandings beyond the mechanistic and engineering way of thinking. Those systems require systems thinking and skills in complexity management if we want to be able to deal with the many challenges that humanity faces, including business and come up with resilient solutions. The CYNEFIN framework for complexity management by Dave Snowden is a powerful framework, that is increasingly used by many futurists, planners, strategists, politicians and managers.
The discipline of anticipation
The discipline of anticipation is the ability to become aware of assumptions about the future, and mastering it allows us to view uncertainty as a resource, rather than an enemy of planning. By imagining different futures, individuals can become aware of their capacity to shape and invent new anticipatory assumptions, and the act of shifting this ability to anticipate from an unconscious to a conscious state is the start of becoming futures literate.