I picked up “Full-Spectrum Thinking: How to Escape Boxes in a Post-Categorical Future” because I am a fan of Bob Johansen. He is the author of “The new leadership literacies”. One of my favourite books about leadership. His new book is very close to my perception pioneering programme.
The future will be a scramble
Bob Johansen is of the same stable as Jane McGonigal. The author of “Imaginable”. It is another book helping you to get a (positive) perspective on the future, and this time using what the author calls full spectrum thinking. The ability to move away from putting things into well-defined boxes or categories, in black and white, binary, polarised, or even certainty and control. Because the future will be a scramble: an asymmetrical patchwork of urgency, panic, imbalance, and hope. The scramble will be fraught with toxic misinformation (not necessarily intentional), disinformation (intentional), and distrust. You can expect an unusual number of unexpected consequences from the scrambling.
Full spectrum thinking
Full-spectrum thinking is about recognising patterns, seeking clarity, and resisting certainty. Accepting chaos, diversity and interconnections. Full-spectrum thinking is about pattern recognition. It is a nonlinear process that opens our thinking beyond categories and established lines of thought. Full-spectrum thinking will be a technology-enabled antidote to mindless labelling, as well as polarised tribal thinking. Full-spectrum thinking will help people strategise with a future-back approach. Similar to “Lead from the future”.
Full-spectrum thinking lives between hindsight and foresight; it empowers our ability to imagine a range of alternative futures or fluid possibilities. Moving from volatility to vision, uncertainty to understanding, complexity to clarity, and ambiguity to agility. The goal of futures thinking is not to predict. The future is unpredictable. The way to evaluate a futurist is to ask if the forecasted future provoked insight and action. The goal of a forecast is to provoke, not to predict. A good forecast is a plausible, internally consistent story about the future that is designed to provoke insight and action.
The ultimate evaluation of a forecast is whether or not it provokes a better decision in the present. Strategy lives between insight and action. Every good strategy is based on a compelling insight.
Some questions and concepts from the book
The book covers questions such as job or vocation, employment vs employability, the question of multiple identities, market segmentation and customer categorisation. Pure moment marketing. Each person will have multiple, fluid, and multilayered identities in physical and virtual space. Using terms such as shape-shifting organisations where hierarchies come and go, distributed authority, distributed governance, cross-culture focus and myside bias. Introducing the leadership skill he calls “dilemma flipping” is a discipline that thrives in the space between deciding too soon (the classic mistake of the problem solver or the true believer) and deciding too late (the classic mistake of the academic). Or the term “youthquake” is one of the terms describing the young people who grew up with digital media and have very high expectations for the world around them. Read “Technosocialism“.
- In the future, perception of and engagement with people who are on the spectrum will move from disease to learning style and from bug to feature,
- In the future, doctors will prescribe video games for the treatment of some conditions such as ADHD, sleep problems, depression, addiction, and concussion recovery.
- Ten years ahead, for example, sensors will be everywhere.
- The growing asset gap between the rich and the poor will, in very tangible but complicated ways, threaten the world. The sure thing is that the rich-poor gap will get increasingly visible and flammable. When rich kids flaunt their wealth, it will be like throwing matches on dry tinder.
- Asymmetric warfare has become a fact of life and will become more common in the future.
- Cyber terrorism and shape-shifting criminal networks will disrupt individual, organisational, and societal life.
- The emergence of a new global system called “durable disorder.”
- Global climate disruption will cause havoc sooner and more severely than most people anticipate.
- Over the next decade, a new wave of digital clarity filters (clarity filters are trusted sense-makers) will emerge to deal with the tangle of toxic misinformation and false certainty.
- Computing in the future will be an immersive and ambient learning environment for humans. It will eventually include haptics: the ability to touch and feel the data around us.
- What we currently call video gaming and storytelling will evolve into media for emotionally laden attention in a wide variety of forms that ultimately will help us make better sense of the world around us.
- Ten years from now, what we call “video gaming” today will be viewed as the most powerful learning medium in history.
- Anything that can be distributed will be distributed.
- In the next war, it will be AI against AI, and the side with the best AI wins. Read “The big nine“.
- Distributed-authority computing is scaling fast, and quantum computing is on the horizon.
- It will be augmented Intelligence, not artificial Intelligence. Read “Radically human“.
- True digital natives will have their own personal economies.
- Simulation literacy must become a core of general education.
- The next generational threshold may mark the “XR natives,” named for their superpowers in moving across realities.
- Ten years from now, valuing experiences over things will be pervasive as the true digital natives become adults and take on leadership roles in the world of work.
- The most profitable ways of doing business in the future will be to deliver transformative services and experiences—for shoppers and for larger social good—not just to sell products. The transformation economy.
- The superempowered construction worker will be a cyborg of incredible power and flexibility.
- Imagine that large machines owned themselves, rented themselves out, and hired humans to repair them.
- For those not ready to make a living within the gig economy, this world will be close to slave labour: microtasks for micro pennies.
- There is a clear directional shift from old power to new power. New Power is the deployment of mass participation and peer coordination to create change and shift outcomes. Read “Cascades”.
- Much of the innovation in this emerging world comes from entrepreneurs, the military, and criminals.
- Ten years from now, most of us will be superempowered cyborgs.
- Separating human and computing resources will be increasingly difficult.
- A wide spectrum of individual augmented people and superminds will be commonplace in organisations and society.
- Digital networks will force down profit margins and turn many products into low- or no-margin commodities. They will also introduce a spectrum of new business opportunities with much higher margins focusing on services, subscriptions, experiences, and personal or organisational transformations.
- The key challenge of distributed-authority computing over the next decade will be how to distribute tasks between humans and computing. What will humans do best? What will computing do best?
- Looking ten years ahead, organisation charts will be dynamic, and hierarchies will come and go. It won’t be the end of hierarchy, but it will be the end of static hierarchy.
- In the future, most human resources practitioners will be gamers. Human and computer resources will blend in new ways as the line between humans and machines gets increasingly blurred.
- Every person becomes the CEO of their own body. The rise of transhumanism.
- Over the next decade, sensors will be very cheap, very small, and very connected. An increasing proportion of those sensors will be inside our bodies. Health care won’t just be outside in. It will be inside out.
- Ten years from now, the edges will be more important than the centre.
Lessons from the military
He predicts a different type of organisation. Hierarchies only work up to a certain limit of complexity, which we have now surpassed. Moving away from command and control. Read “Humanocracy“. For example, the Army is prototyping a future where hierarchies are no longer static; they will be animated. Where clarity is hierarchical regarding direction, it is also very adaptive to unforeseen circumstances. Using mission command, commander intent, situational awareness and after-action review. Read “The Habit of Excellence“.
Imagine a shape-shifting organisation that has no centre, grows from the edges, has hierarchies that come and go, and cannot be controlled. Where leaders sit at the foundation of shape-shifting organisations. Leaders will still be a source of clarity, but the leader will not always be on top. Read “Future-Proof Your Business“.
After studying new spiritual movements for the last few years, researchers have concluded that we are in a “very juicy moment in history,” where meaning-making is a growth industry. Are we approaching an inflexion point? They think we are, and I would like to believe that we are. Six core meaning-making themes were recurring across a wide spectrum of the activities they studied:
- Community: valuing and fostering deep relationships that centre on service to others.
- Personal transformation: making a conscious and dedicated effort to develop one’s own body, mind, and spirit.
- Social transformation: pursuing justice and beauty in the world through the creation of networks for good.
- Purpose finding: clarifying, articulating, and acting on one’s personal mission in life.
- Creativity: allowing time and space to activate the imagination and engage in play.
- Accountability: holding oneself and others responsible for working toward defined goals.
Meaning will be connected to physical and mental health and well-being. A body-hacking mindset will be linked with meaning-making. Self-knowledge of your brain will make understanding the process of meaning-making easier. In other words, over the next decade, neuroscience will become practical.
Leadership and full spectrum thinking
As a leader, you will need to perform best at the edge of your own competence, not just in your own areas of expertise. Leaders will need to seed and nurture hope. Full-spectrum thinking is a robust way to visualise, understand, and make the future better. Full-spectrum thinking is the ability to seek patterns and clarity across gradients of possibility—outside, across, beyond, or maybe even without any boxes or categories while resisting false certainty.
- Though 10-year forecasting is easier than 1-year or 2-year forecasting, you must look beyond ten years to get the best view.
- Africa and China are seen as “high delta” because of the speed of the change.
- Look for future forces. A future force is an external wave of change so large that it is difficult to imagine much you can do about it.
- Almost by definition, breakthroughs require serendipity. That serendipity arises from diverse preparedness. It derives from someone noticing and knowing how to interpret strange phenomena.”
- Look for the unevenly distributed futures that are already here in your world of today.
- Signals serve as evidence to show that a future forecast or futures scenario is plausible and at least showing some sign of life already.
- Identify signals and develop a signals database of full-spectrum thinking and full-spectrum thinkers in your organisation today.
- Reward and elevate signals awareness in any way that you can.
- Clarity filters will provide an increasingly robust lens on the information overload we all face.
The scrambled future will be an asymmetrical patchwork of urgency, panic, imbalance, and hope. As the present gets more complicated, the value of full-spectrum thinking will become clearer and more urgent. The book is a glowing endorsement for perception pioneering. Many people have certainty, but few have clarity. You can and should change that.
I came across perception pioneering for the first time in “Rethinking Strategy: How to anticipate the future, slow down change, and improve decision making”. In an increasingly uncertain environment, organisations must develop the sensitivity to anticipate emerging market shifts and turn future ambiguity into an ongoing strategic advantage. You need to be able to predict the future.