Why is it so hard to focus on the future? — And I mean the future.
Can you imagine what the world is going to be like in 20 years? How will humans live? Will we be able to survive the climate crisis or the next pandemic?
As a species, we have never been in such a time where imaging 20 years ahead was this problematic. We can speculate but cannot be sure. It wasn’t always like this though. 1000 years ago people wouldn’t expect life to change so fast, and the world they lived in would be the exact same one where the next generation will live. We do not need to go back that far; even 20 years ago it was not easy for someone to rightly picture how the internet would change our everyday lives.
But today, disruption has become our normal and we see constant change everywhere. So much so that it has reached a point where Richard Fischer wrote in a BBC Future column:
“The problem is that the ‘now’ commands so much more attention”
While ‘now’ gets shorter and shorter, it is easier to fall into the traps of the ‘present bias’. We are prone to think in short-terms, so many scenarios that may become reality in the future are unimaginable for us. How can we solve complex problems of the world while being stuck on today, especially when problems like climate change are more about the future rather than today?
Ella Saltmarshe and Beatrice Pembroke, founders of Long Time Inquiry writes;
“Culture forms the operating system for our society. […] It’s foundational to the way science, politics, economics, and technology develop. It provides the reflective space to navigate complexity and uncertainty.”
I believe organizations will play a crucial role if we are to change our short-sighted view. We need more organizations that can see beyond yearly quarters and focus on the future so that they can innovate from a wider perspective.
And it all begins with cultures that enable an imagination for the future, and I mean the future.
Find out more about ‘short-termism’ in the link below.