FOSTER FORETHOUGHT:  Step One for Smart Strategic Thinking

FOSTER FORETHOUGHT_Step One for Smart Strategic

FOSTER FORETHOUGHT that is deeper, broader and more frequent than ever before. This is step one for smart strategic thinking.

The History of Forethought

The Greek gods, according to the ancient myth, assigned two brothers the responsibility of putting life on earth—Epimetheus, whose name in Greek means Hindsight, and Prometheus, whose name means Forethought. Epimetheus went first and populated the earth with all the animals. Then it fell to Prometheus to create man.
Forethought_The First Gift o Prometheus_lelandrussell.conPrometheus saw that his brother had given the animals all of the powerful physical attributes.  He asked himself, “What gift can I give to mankind?”  Prometheus realized that man could prevail against more physically powerful adversaries only if he could outthink them; thus his first gift to mankind was Forethought–the capacity to think ahead.

The Benefits of Fostering Forethought

Forethought yields many benefits. For example, when you think ahead you lower the possibility of being blindsided by something unexpected. When you anticipate problems, you don’t end up wasting time later with after-the-fact damage control. When you recognize opportunities early and seize them quickly, you reap the most rewards.

But the most important benefit of Forethought is the opportunity to be first to the future. This is a compelling competitive advantage.

Think about it. Who was the first person to walk on the moon? Neil Armstrong made that one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind. Who was the second man to walk on the moon? Most people don’t remember.

The Bar for Forethought Is Rising 

When circumstances can change in the twinkling of an electronic eye, Forethought is essential. This is a well-known fact. The world’s foremost experts on leadership, Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, have found “Forward-Looking” to be rated as a top leadership characteristic for over thirty years.

So Forethought is not a new issue. What’s new is that the BAR for Forethought is RISING.

Forethought now must be more frequent because the rate of CHANGE continues to accelerate. What used to take months and years now occurs in days and hours. What is true today may not be true tomorrow. Assumptions cannot be taken for granted. Strategies must be continually reassessed.

The confluence of rapid technological change, interwoven financial markets, and increasing competition creates unprecedented challenges. It also compounds the consequences of our decisions. That’s why Forethought today must be broader and deeper than ever before.

Forethought_Faster, Deeper, Broader Thinking

Forethought with Collective Intelligence

While Forethought is critical for 21st Century Leaders, it is easier said than done. We are bombarded by so much about what’s going on, it’s hard to know where we should be going. The volume and complexity are overwhelming. It is nearly impossible for an individual or small group to have a complete perspective. That is why we need to expand the circle of participation and tap the power of Collective Intelligence.  

FORETHOUGHT_Prediction Markets_lelandrussell.comLet’s look at one example. A prediction market is a method of synthesizing the inspired hunches and informed guesses of a vast audience. One of the pioneers in this area is Iowa Electronic Markets (IEM), which was founded in 1988 by the University of Iowa’s College of Business. The IEM has often been used to predict the results of political elections with a greater accuracy than traditional polls. But prediction markets also have practical business applications.

Many leading organizations have used prediction markets to improve their Forethought in a variety of areas.

For years, Hewlett-Packard used internal prediction markets to fine-tune its sales campaigns.

Best Buy’s internal prediction market was called “TagTrade.” Rank-and-file employees could buy or sell shares in proposed new products, giving management an early indication of which ideas should be most profitable.

Google conducted one of the largest corporate experiments with prediction markets. Participants were allotted an artificial currency called “Goobles”.  They could use it to “purchase” “securities” that paid off in Goobles if a specified event occurred.

Some of the other organizations that have used internal prediction markets include Abbott Labs, Arcelor Mittal, Chrysler, Corning, Electronic Arts, Eli Lilly, Frito Lay, General Electric, Intel, InterContinental Hotels, Masterfoods, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia, Pfizer, Qualcomm, and Siemens.

Why are artificial prediction markets so effective?

Large, diverse groups tend to be better at predicting the future than an individual or an elite few (when their viewpoints are aggregated).

FOSTERING FORETHOUGHT: A Best Practice for 21st Century Leaders

Forethought informed by Collective Intelligence is a Best Practice for 21st Century Leaders.  Given the complexity of our environment, this Think Together approach makes sense.  It is a practical path to being first to the future.


21st Century Leaders, consider three questions:

  • Are you raising the bar for Forethought in your organization?
  • Is your Forethought more frequent, broader and deeper than ever before?
  • Have you considered an internal decision market?

If “no” is the answer to any of these questions, Let’s Connect.

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Learn more about the Cardinal Rule, THINK TOGETHER.

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