Before you begin:
These are assignments that I have turned in for my TECH 4310 Future of Energy and Environment class, these are my own thoughts and you may not take them without citing them. I will not post them all, but a majority of them.
The book that this reflection is on is titled Thinking About the Future; Guidelines for Strategic Foresight edited by Andy Hines and Peter Bishop.
After constructing many alternative futures, such as the one I constructed last week (in which I successfully turned in an assignment late and got full credit due to its…boldness), it is critical to ask the question, “So what?” This question ties the future to the present, in a way that the organization can clearly understand how this whole strategic foresight activity is going to pay off for them. I found this chapter to not only be helpful for professional strategic foresight, but as I kept reading, I saw an interesting way that this could help with personal relationships as well.
“What if” is a powerful question, it sparks the imagination, and challenges the individual or organization to really think about those alternative futures that they have come up with. These questions force the organization/people involved to stop and really think if this particular future occurred, what would it do, what implications does it have if one thing happens over another, what are the implications if they do nothing?
Once those and other questions have been asked and answered, you must continue asking those questions and finding the key differences between each outcome.
I have never come across a situation in which one decision has not changed other events or caused me to make decisions that I thought I would never make.
The deeper you go, the more implications you find, the more prepared you/the organization will be. If you have thought about something, and really thought about the effects that could occur, you will already be ahead of the game and more prepared because you’ve already thought about that scenario becoming a reality, come up with alternatives to that, or put together contingency plans.
As many young adults do, I have made some rather poor decisions because I never thought of the outcomes, even the initial outcome, that could happen. If I did, and it was a rare occasion when I did think about the implications of my actions, I never thought about how it might impact other people. The same is true for an organization, if they fail to look at the entire system, their “other people”, they will inevitably miss something important.
Reflection allows you to identify any assumptions and biases that have been made, particularly unconscious assumptions, in regards to the alternative futures that have been laid out. It is all well and good to be a driven person or an organization has that mindset, as you usually get a lot of things accomplished, but if you go too fast and don’t allow for reflection on business/personal decisions that have been made, you will miss an assumption that was hidden or not thought of. Those assumptions can mean the success or failure of a foresight activity.
When all the individual sections of the whole system have been thought of, whether they be stakeholders or forces that directly and indirectly influence the system, it is important to prioritize them, identify what is most important to the company/individual/team. Then revisit the list of assumptions again, even if it is painfully time consuming or makes people uncomfortable. By doing this you again force the organization or people involved to stop, but the more assumptions you uncover, the more valuable the foresight activity becomes.
I have recently seen this happen in action, when an assumption I had made just this last week was found to be completely wrong. My assumption was that people would actually understand their roles in the organization after being handed a piece of paper spelling it out for them. I failed to think of the idea that some may not read the paper, understand the entirety of their responsibilities, or even care. Because of this assumption, I found that, naturally, there was confusion about who was responsible for what. This confusion led to extreme turmoil within the group and it is still unresolved.* However, now that I know this, I can take steps to fix the problem and prevent this sort of thing from occurring again.
This is where I finished reading the section titled, “Assume Nothing; Question Everything”. This is where I finally had a “lightbulb” moment: I had assumed that I could rely on people to read a document, only they hadn’t. So, I started thinking about this from other people’s perspectives, not just my own, or a few people. I thought of it, not only from my perspective of being ignored and being made to look foolish, but from the perspectives of someone who was completely lost in what they were supposed to do, of someone who just wanted to be here because it would look good on a résumé, of someone who was totally invested in seeing this organization work out, and from someone who was just there to have fun. It was hard, frustrating, emotional, and one of the hardest things I’ve done in a while.
Before thinking about this situation I was in, I wanted to get up from the table and walk away from it all, I didn’t want to deal with the issues because, frankly, I don’t have time for that, but this is something that is important to me.
It has now become my mission to make my opinions and views heard, to listen to others, and to ask the tough questions to authority figures.
It is intimidating, but I feel it will not only help me grow as an individual, but help the group grow and function in a way that will work for everyone. I want to have a successful organization that advances our members’ potential, enhances their abilities to be prepared to enter the job market with useful tools, and enhance their respect for not just the individual, but for others as well. This is my vision for my organization. Granted I still need to fully flesh it out, but there is a plan to change the way that I approach this.
It is my hope that by changing my approach that I can change others attitudes and approaches. Yes, this is a lofty goal, but if my goal is not lofty, then I won’t feel satisfied that I gave it my all and tried my hardest. I do not feel as though my vision for my organization is overly ambitious. I think people are capable of change and are able to set aside differences for the good of the whole.
I see individual sections of the organization working correctly, I can see what the organization can be capable of. Since this is a new organization, I cannot look back to see what has worked in the past, but I don’t have to pave the way myself. There are plenty of organizations that have gone through the “start-up” phase, and those are the places I am looking to find solutions. I am very aware that this has the potential to fail, or that people may laugh at my ideas, but I am not going to let that stop me from trying.
Challenging my assumptions about myself and others has given me great insight into how people “tick”. The issues in the organization were resolved by coming together, talking about the issues that I had seen, and then coming up with solutions. If I had not taken time to reflect on my actions, words, and reactions then nothing would have changed. I would have been just as frustrated and angry, instead, the individuals in the organization were made aware of issues that they had not noticed, or even thought were issues.
In the end, I can say my vision succeeded. Attitudes were changed, for the better, respect was shown to everyone, and everyone had an opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns and I intend to carry that into this next year.