How Clarity Helps You Move from Present Realities to Future Focus

In the months leading up to the year 2020, there was no shortage of social media posts, articles, sermons, and more talking about a “2020 Vision.” For many pastors, it was a dream topic to build a sermon series around – and many did.

A sampling of sermon topics in January 2020 would have shown an intentional look forward into a future of a year or two, or maybe even five years or more.

But when March 2020 rolled around, and the realities of the COVID-19 pandemic began to sink in, the lofty visions of 2020 evaporated. Church leaders around the country and the world began to shrink their vision from the lofty goals of just a few months earlier to, “What are we going to do this weekend?”

Fifteen months later, though that immediacy has lessened somewhat, only to be replaced with even more troubling questions like these:

  • How long is this pandemic going to last?
  • Will we be able to return to normal?
  • What if normal never returns?

In just a few weeks, future thoughts became present realties, and many leaders find themselves stuck there today.

Even when treading water in reality, leaders can get mired in a flood of information and answers about what to do next.

The world around us is evolving at dizzying speed. Tomorrow refuses to cooperate with our best-laid plans—the future routinely pulls the rug from underneath us.

Although people yearn for a return to “normal,” or try to predict the “new normal,” there is no such thing as normal. There is only change. Never-ending, constant change. Sometimes slow, sometimes fast, but constant nonetheless.

Answers to vexing problems are no longer a scarce commodity, and knowledge has never been cheaper. By the time we’ve figured out the facts – by the time Google, Alexa, or Siri can spit out the answer – the world has moved on.

Obviously, answers aren’t irrelevant. You must know some answers before you can begin asking the right questions. But the answers simply serve as a launch pad to discovery. They’re the beginning, not the end.

Our ability to make the most out of uncertainty is what creates the most potential value. We should be fueled not by a desire for a quick catharsis but by intrigue. Where certainty ends, progress begins.

Ozan Varol

THE QUICK SUMMARY – Full-Spectrum Thinking by Bob Johansen

The future will get even more perplexing over the next decade, and we are not ready. The dilemma is that we’re restricted by rigid categorical thinking that freezes people and organizations in neatly defined boxes that often are inaccurate or obsolete. Categories lead us toward certainty but away from clarity, and categorical thinking moves us away from understanding the bigger picture. Sticking with this old way of thinking and seeing isn’t just foolish, it’s dangerous.

Full-spectrum thinking is the ability to seek patterns and clarity outside, across, beyond, or maybe even without any boxes or categories while resisting false certainty and simplistic binary choices. It reveals our commonalities that are hidden in plain view.

Bob Johansen lays out the core concepts of full-spectrum thinking and reveals the role that digital media – including gameful engagement, big-data analytics, visualization, blockchain, and machine learning – will play in facilitating and enhancing it. He offers examples of broader spectrums and new applications in a wide range of areas that will become possible first, then mandatory. This visionary book provides powerful ways to make sense of new opportunities and see the world as it really is.

A SIMPLE SOLUTION

According to author Bob Johansen, in a future loaded with dilemmas, disruption will be rampant, and clarity will be scarce. In his book, The New Leadership Literacies, Johansen wrote that the disruptions of the next decade will be beyond what many people can cope with.

Written in 2017, his words are a clarion call for leaders today. Leaders in 2021, in the midst of the ongoing pandemic, will need to provide enough clarity to make disruption tolerable – even motivational. They will also need to communicate realistic hope through their own stories of clarity.

The best way to lead in a disruptive world is to be very clear where you’re going, tell a great story about it, and then be very flexible about how you bring that future to life.

Clarity emerges in the space between insight and action. Clarity is the ability to see through messes and contradictions to a future that others cannot yet see.

When facing a highly uncertain future, you need to use strategic foresight to think like this:

Now – FUTURE – Next

It is completely appropriate to spend most of your time on the Now, the Action. That is where your organization is, and where you should focus. Incremental innovation is great, as long as it keeps getting results. If you invest in Future – not just Next – you will be able to achieve much greater clarity. Clarity emerges in the space between insight and action.

The future is not always incremental, and it is often disruptive. Trends are patterns of change you can anticipate with confidence, but disruptions are breaks in the pattern of change. Looking long can help you get a better view of where things are going.

Bob Johansen, Full-Spectrum Thinking

A NEXT STEP

When your team is stuck and can’t decide on moving forward, try the following exercise to evaluate ideas according to their level of innovation, their desirability, and feasibility.

  1. Write the idea or decision to be made on a chart tablet, and divide your team into three groups. Here’s the kicker: As leader of the team, try your best to place members of your team into groups that would not be their first choice. Give them 30 minutes to do their group work.
  2. The first group evaluates innovation – is the idea new? The group should evaluate the idea as:
    1. Disruptively new (might cause major consequences)
    2. Totally new (people might become familiar without major consequences)
    3. Improvement (improves something in a way people haven’t noticed before)
  3. The second group evaluates the desirability. Do people want this idea? What kind of needs are fulfilled? Evaluate the ideas as:
    1. Proof of need and desire – there is evidence of need and desire
    2. Assumed need and desire – there are high chances of need and desire
    3. Unknown need and desire
  4. The third group will evaluate the feasibility. How will the idea be developed? Evaluate the idea as:
    1. Highly feasible
    2. Moderately feasible
    3. Not feasible
  5. At the conclusion of the group discussion period, bring everyone together and have each group report the highlights of their discussion, listing them on the chart tablet in the three areas of innovation, desirability, and feasibility.
  6. Utilize the newly discovered information to move forward with your idea or action.

The above exercise was adapted from 75 Tools for Creative Thinking, Booreiland


Part of a regular series on 27gen, entitled Wednesday Weekly Reader

During my elementary school years one of the things I looked forward to the most was the delivery of “My Weekly Reader,” a weekly educational magazine designed for children and containing news-based, current events.

It became a regular part of my love for reading, and helped develop my curiosity about the world around us.

Along with early and ongoing encouragement from my parents – especially my father – reading was established as a passion in my life that I was happy to continually learn from, share with my children, and watch them share with their children.

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