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Innovation What Does it Mean to Futurize Your Business?

One of the reasons I write a blog is so I can share my experiences and thoughts with people like you and other people in business, with the hope that my experiences might teach you something. I don’t want you to fall into the same traps I’ve fallen into—and trust me, I’ve fallen into quite a few over the years and learned a thing or two. I guess my urge to talk about my experiences is an age-related thing. When I was young (many years ago!) I didn’t have the experience and wisdom I do now and made some poor decisions and bad judgement calls. Now that I’m older and have learned a lot, I see things a lot more clearly. It’s an age-related thing, I know. I don’t feel that old, but my reflection tells me a different story.

Do you remember the movie Back to the Future? How Michael J. Fox’s character went back in time to fix something that happened in the present? Well, you don’t have a DeLorean, but you’ve got me, and with the wisdom I’m about to share, you can change your future. I’m talking about a term I use constantly today—futurize.

In the past, I was always reactive. I only did things when I needed to. I was like a lot of companies and people today, only doing the things that make sense right now. I didn’t think about the future, I only thought about what made sense that day, or week. Not about what made sense ten years down the road. After a while, I realized that this behaviour didn’t work well for the organization or for me. It was really stressful. Every day was a fight. Work became unpleasant. I knew I needed to change something. I needed to do things differently.

The problem is that I, like all of you reading, am a biological entity (I can hear the jokes now) and am fundamentally fearful. Making a change means being proactive, and being proactive comes with risk. We all know a bunch of stories about people taking risks and failing. A lot of armchair people might call these risk takers losers or criticize them for their so-called failure. Well, it’s easy to see what went wrong after the fact, and hard to build yourself up enough to take a risk. No one wants to be called a loser or failure, and we don’t take risks for just that reason. Entire books have been written on this subject. If a risk does pay off, we call the risk-taker “lucky” but there is more to it than luck.

I guess, with a few years under my belt, I decided that luck has nothing to do with winning or succeeding. The people who take risks and win are people who commit to a vision of success. They futurize their business, their company, or themselves.

To futurize is to look at what you want the future to look like, and to incrementally work towards it, planning every day and taking calculated risks. Now, I know what you’re thinking. “This is really hard” or “this takes too much work” or even “I don’t know if I have the right vision.” Well, here is my advice. At some point, you are going to have to trust yourself. You might get called a loser, but don’t become a loser. I think the people who become losers are the people who do not fully commit to the outcome, and when things get dicey, they bail. Some people might say that they cut their losses or abandoned a sinking ship, but how did the ship get to that point in the first place? A lack of commitment, an abundance of fear, a combination, you chose. You need to commit to your vision and realize the fear is inside your head and sometimes, the ship is only sinking in your mind. If you commit, you can succeed.

It’s okay to fail. You will. People will call you a loser, but failure is just a road to success—as long as you overcome your fear. When things don’t go as planned, our first thought is always that we’ve failed. We don’t automatically think about what we’ve learned or see any success. I guess this is just part of our genetic makeup and something we need to overcome.

When I began to futurize Modern Engineering, it seemed like a pretty daunting task. The possibility of failure lurked around every corner, waiting to attack and ruin the future I envisioned. It preyed on my confidence. The constant “what if…” and fear. But I didn’t want to go back into the daily reactive, combat mode that had become so routine. I kept going. Futurization gave me a goal to work towards instead of just reacting. Small successes worked to solidify the path that I was on and gave me the confidence to keep going.

I have, by no means, made it to the future I’ve envisioned for Modern, but I have a path. This is so much better than what I had in the past. Now, I look at every decision I make and see how it fits in with the future I want. If things don’t work or don’t fit right, I just tweak the way the future will look for now. I’m not perfect, you’re not perfect, but by futurizing, your odds of succeeding are a lot better. 

When I futurize, I think about what would be an ideal outcome. Something solid and don’t say “I want to be Rich!” (I know you want to). The nice thing is you can start with small goals and then work your way up. For example, I think, as a business, you can look at your ideal customer and futurize what that relationship should look like. How you are going to help them and what you need in your business and yourself to get there. In theory, if that ideal customer is successful, so are you. 

This is only one example and there are many more. Think about this and let me know your thoughts.