Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Will We Know the Future When We See It?

First Chronicles mentions the people of Issachar “who had understanding of the times” (12:32) and were able to instruct Israel what to do.  Wouldn’t it be a blessing to have such a gift—to be able to understand exactly what is going on in our time and discern the right path to follow?  Occasionally we see persons with this gift in business, government, or the church.  These individuals seem to be able to understand not only what is “trending,” but what is important to pursue in order to assure a successful future.

Not everyone has the gift.  Although the remark may be apocryphal, many point to a statement attributed to Thomas J. Watson, chairman of the board of International Business Machines in 1943 to prove it is hard to predict the future:  "'I think there is a world market for about five computers.

Although few may have the gift, there are some actions that we might embrace in order to catch a glimpse of “the next big thing” that will change society or empower the ministry of the church.

First, we can keep our eyes and ears open.  Leaders need to be exposed to new and even controversial ideas.  This means reading outside your field, especially publications like Fast Company.  Browsing through and listening to TED Talks is also very stimulating and encourages creative thinking.

Second, we can learn from others and ask a lot of questions.  When Patrick Lencioni’s consulting company begins working with an organization, they go in with a blank slate—they have done little or no research and they come asking questions.  They want to provide what the organization needs rather than sell what they do.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions that provide clarity and insight.  The only “bad” question is the one you did not ask.

Third, we must value what has worked but not hold it too tightly.  Everything was new and innovative at one point from the pipe organ to the rotary telephone.   Although some things—inventions, processes, and programs—endure and are adapted over time to maintain their effectiveness, others need to be given a respectful funeral.  We can give thanks for what has served us faithfully, but we must recognize when it is time to move on.

Fourth we must be willing to experiment and experience.   Before we commit too completely to a new idea, try it out in small ways or visit places where it is being done.  When I was involved in a building program several years ago, the architect suggested that we use a new type of floor covering.  A wise member of the committee asked, “Is there some place where this has been used for awhile that we can visit?”  We will want to try things for ourselves, but we can also learn from others’ experiences. 

Fifth, we can play with possibilities.  Before we get too deep into the planning process or implementation phase, we should take a step back, see if the pieces can be arranged differently, or ask if there are other ways to approach this that we have not considered.  An idea may be the “hot item” right now, but is it something that promises to endure over time?

Although the origin of the quote is not clear, this statement has a lot of truth to it: “The best way to predict the future is to invent it.”  We help to create the future for our organizations by the choice of what we will embrace and encourage.  I pray we will have the wisdom of the people of Issachar in doing so.











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