In his book, Physics of the Future: How Science will Shape Human Destiny and our Daily Lives by the Year 2100  Michio Kaku writes  “…the future is already here; it is just unequally distributed.” In Physics of the Future Kaku shares his vision for AI, computers, medicine, nanotechnology, energy, and more by visiting places and people who are experimenting on the frontier of these fields.

Today, we are slowly coming out of a pandemic and wondering what our new emergent will be. It makes me ask myself ….what if the future was already here? In my last two blogs, I explored the concept of a new emergent and the importance of noticing what is actually happening.

Now, I want to share a strategy to help us see the future. The one that’s already here. 

Future Casting and Sky Hooks

When I was teaching graduate school, I had a class on leadership and the future. One assignment was for the students to imagine what the field would be like 20 years from now. To aid their imagination, I invited them to find pockets of innovation,  and visit with those individuals who were experimenting in that space. They brought back their stories and we started to unpack the implications to the field should these pockets become widespread. Finally, I put them into groups to generate the final project for the class, a “future casting” vision of the field. Their presentations were amazing.

There are many articles that define and name the steps of future casting. For the sake of this blog, however, I’ll unpack the topic as a metaphor that helps us notice what is emerging,  and what is being left behind. Casting a line to catch a fish is one visual image I have. We cast the line far beyond where we are standing to drop a hook in a distant place where hopefully fish are looking for food. It is more art than science. And the process goes on infinitely, or as long as we choose to fish.

I once heard the term “skyhook” used to describe how scientists with an unproven theory actually create what often turn out to be major breakthroughs in thinking. The story goes that they hooked their vision to a piece of sky and held on until the day-to-day slog of proof eventually led the way to a new theory. These skyhooks helped them stay focused on the future possibilities while at the same time anchoring them in the present.

It’s hard to know what to expect as we emerge from COVID. There is a lot of noise within our interdependent system, and events keep happening that distract us from the innovations we might notice if we took time to look.

An Invitation to Seek Out Innovations

And so I offer the invitation to you, your teams, and other groups you have in your life to look for skyhooks. Cast out a line to see what you can “hook” in your field, or your life.  Just like it did for my students,  this will surely shift your focus to a broader, more long-term horizon, and help you and see the innovations right in front of you.

We’ve had to make some rapid adaptations during the lockdown, and throughout the entire pandemic. Many of the ideas that became reality had been talked about for years but never adopted until now. The pandemic accelerated what was already there.

Having your team look for skyhooks is one way to see what’s emerging on the horizon, It’s a way to see the future that’s actually already here.