Back to the Future - It’s No Longer Science Fiction

Nick Davis
Sep 28, 2018
Exponential Enterprise

How familiar are you with the logic of futures backcasting? Or the power of generative iteration? And why do I ask?Let’s address why I ask first.Developments in technology, coupled with a vastly improved understanding of the human brain, are fueling exponential rates of change in corporate learning and development. The changes we see coming, which are imminent, will demand new organizational core competencies and leadership skills, among them the aforementioned futures backcasting and generative iteration for strategic business planning. These new methodologies and others like them will help learning leaders deliver programs that support radically changing demands in new and more effective ways.

Thinking in new ways

Futures backcasting, for example, is a powerful strategic planning methodology that starts with the end in mind rather than extrapolating forward into the future. Startlingly simple in its logic, this methodology helps you work backward to identify policies and programs that will connect the future to the present.Generative iteration is equally fundamental and equally game-changing. It’s is a way of thinking that leads to an understanding of why things are happening. Understanding leads to predictions about what we can likely expect to happen in the future, and, most importantly, about how you can exert some control and direction over that future. The value of this methodology lies in how quickly you can generate actionable alternatives to your current thinking.

A new mandate for learning leaders

Learning leaders, in particular, have a unique challenge—and strategic opportunity—to help ensure their organization stays ahead of change rather than being overtaken by it. Adapting to change begins with a new mindset about the world and the future—one that recognizes the immense potential and unprecedented resources we have to solve our biggest challenges.Companies tackling such challenges will need futurists who can boldly and optimistically question the status quo and imagine new possibilities. They’ll need innovators who leverage visual thinking and storytelling to share hypotheses effectively. They will also need technologists who understand and anticipate which emerging technologies will directly impact their industry and which will affect adjacent industries. Companies with exponential leaders who exemplify these traits will be far better positioned to recognize future threats and opportunities as well as create new solutions and business models to address them.

Doctors using Virtual Reality

Groundbreaking research

The thoughts in this post are inspired in part by research conducted in partnership with Cisco Systems, Inc., a global leader in information technology. Our joint research reveals dramatically new collaborations between people and technology that will forever change the way humans learn, and thus how organizations will hire, train, and develop talent.To explore how these trends and others will affect corporate learning and development at your organization, get a complimentary copy of the full research report called Human Learning is About to Change Forever.Through our strategy, leadership, and innovation models and tools—and with guidance from our global network of experts—we help organizations reinvent themselves to better navigate the uncertain future ahead. At Singularity University, we can help you understand and anticipate the potential impact of exponential technologies and trends and know which action to take and when. To learn more, visit