Existential threats and exponential opportunities

Existential threats and exponential opportunities

Existential threats and exponential opportunities

“What is missing from your to-do list?“

Fifteen years ago, Donald Rumsfeld was somewhat ridiculed for his statement about ‘known knowns’, ‘known unknowns’, and ‘unknown unknowns’. But in the last fifteen years these terms have become increasingly widely-used. They describe neatly the reality for many planning business strategy: you can account for your experience and project forward based on known factors, but it’s much harder to incorporate things from beyond your own experience.

This is the role of the Applied Futurist: to bring a different, wider perspective. To bring information from beyond the experience of the client, and a framework to make it relevant to their specific environment and challenges.

ETs & EOs

What we’re really looking for is existential threats and exponential opportunities. Some more mundane, marginal ideas might drop out of the process. But it’s these super-scale challenges that come from left-field that are so often absent from the to-do list.

Until recently I’ve worried that too much of my work ends up being about threats, rather than opportunities. More than once people have said to me when working through the Intersections process that they only see the pressures on their organisation growing. But I’ve realised recently that you can rarely separate existential threats from exponential opportunities.

Is it a rocket, or a missile? Existential threat or exponential opportunity?

Few organisations are as unique as they think they are. What are challenges for them are almost certainly challenges for their peers. If you can solve an existential threat, you either gain competitive advantage, or create a valuable solution that you can share. Threat becomes opportunity.

What’s on the horizon?

So, what’s missing from your to-do list? Almost certainly the majority of existential threats and exponential opportunities. Time to think about scanning the horizon.

Next week I run my next course in Futurism for Business at the University of Salford. You can find more information on these course, and book online, at https://futurism-tools.com

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This article is by Tom Cheesewright. This post forms part of the Future of Business series. For more posts on this subject, visit the Future of Business page.

Tom Cheesewright


Futurist speaker Tom Cheesewright is one of the UK's leading commentators on technology and tomorrow. Tom has worked with a huge range of organisations across a variety of markets, to help them to see a clear vision of tomorrow, share that vision and respond with agility. Tom draws on his experience to create original, compelling talks that are keyed to the experience of the audience but which surprise and shock with unexpected facts and examples.

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