by Sharon Morris, ALA, Colorado State Library
Thinking about the future is an odd thing. How do we imagine something that has not yet been? The best thing to do is to open our minds up to new ways of thinking. Below are some strategies to try.
- Embrace uncertainty. The thirteenth century poet, Rumi, said, “Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment.” In other words, to see things differently, one must start with confusion.
- Take time to dream. Take a walk, stare out the window, sit quietly and let your mind float from subject to subject. Notice any images or vivid memories that come to mind. Be nowhere and everywhere. Imagine and dream.
- Talk it out. Share your ideas about the future with other future-minded people. They will keep you looking ahead. They will help you expand your own thoughts and ideas. Also, listen to them. It is often easier to see what’s next for others than for ourselves.
- Join forces. Form a confab with others who read about the future so you can keep each other up on things. Share blogs like this one with each other. Schedule time regularly to talk about new innovations and ideas that each of you is discovering.
- Don’t just imagine, try stuff. If you have an idea, do something to make it happen. Jump in and explore. Start small with a pilot project. Even mistakes and failure can lead to wildly unexpected innovation.
- Read widely. Review blogs, journals, and publications from other fields to determine how they envision the future. This kind of environmental scanning can help you identify common themes and issues that may indicate the salient future trends.
- Be curious about problems. At times, issues in organizations point to a need for systemic change. Finding opportunities where others see only barriers will open new paths to the future.
- Give up perfection. We no longer have time to be mired in the drive to do things perfectly. We have to do what is good enough now so we save time to explore what can be.
- Use our values. When you hear of a new technology, tool, or resource, view it through the lens of our values: access for all, intellectual freedom, privacy, and intellectual property rights. Will the emerging technology or innovation enhance or challenge those values? If there is a conflict, how might you resolve it?
- See space. When learning to draw, students are encouraged to sketch the space around an object instead of the object. This gets them past their preconceived notions of what a common place object “looks like” and actually gets them to see the real shape. This attention to space rather than the object can apply to many things. You can notice the silence between words as much as the conversation. You can give attention to the time between activities as well as the activities. This builds awareness at a different level and opens us up to perceiving things in new ways.
–If you have remarks or would like to contribute your own strategies for being future-minded, please add them to the comments below.–