by Roger Martin
We are all utterly capable of being ‘future ready’ but most of us in most organizations switch off our future readiness without realizing it. Increasingly, we are taught to be rigorously scientific. What rigorously scientific means is that we should prove a proposition to be true through either deductive or inductive logic before taking action on it. That sounds good: if you can’t prove something is truly a good idea, why would you want to do it? It would be decidedly unscientific to embark on something unproven.
While this sounds very good and highly rigorous, this pattern of thinking has a downside: it is not possible to prove any new idea in advance with deductive or inductive logic. This was the important but all-too-obscure insight of a turn of the 20th century Amercian pragmatist philosopher by the name of Charles Saunders Peirce. New ideas come about not through strict deduction or induction but through what Peirce referred to as a ‘logical leap of the mind’ or ‘inference to the best explanation’ and gave it a name: abductive logic. However, if after we have a logical leap of the mind that produces a new idea and then think that to be scientifically rigorous we must revert to deduction and induction to prove it, we will inadvertently kill it. The consequence is that the future will simply be a logical extension of the past not an invention of something new and better.
So to be truly future ready, we have to embrace the third fundamental form of logic: abductive logic or as I call it, the logic of what might be…
Roger Martin is the award-winning author of The Opposable Mind (2007), The Design of Business (2009) and Fixing the Game (2011) and frequent contributor to Harvard Business Review, Financial Times, BusinessWeek and other leading international publications. He has been named the 32nd top management thinker in the world (The Times and Forbes.com), one of the ten most influential business professors in the world (BusinessWeek) and one of the 27 most influential designers in the world (BusinessWeek). He has served as Dean of The Rotman School of Management at University of Toronto since 1998. He also serves as a board member of leading global corporations (Thomson Reuters Corporation and Research in Motion) and as a strategic advisor to the CEOs of several others, including P&G and Steelcase. You can read more of Roger’s insights at http://rogerlmartin.com/ and http://blog.martinprosperity.org/.