Emerson Exchange

'Jump the Curve' to Foresee Transformative Innovations

The Futurist's Job Is to Focus on the Big Picture and Point Out the 800-pound Gorillas That Others Are Missing Because Their Attention Is Focused Elsewhere

By Jim Montague

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Seeing the future is easier if you take off blinders in the present. That's because many potential and upcoming innovations are already foreseeable given today's capabilities and tools. What's needed to reveal them is awareness and the humility give up stuck-in-a-rut thinking patterns that stifle useful questions and possibilities. Then the will to action can turn these desired futures into new realities. This is easier said than done, of course, but futurist Jack Uldrich lit some sparks in his keynote address to Emerson Global Users Exchange delegates. Uldrich has written more than 10 books, including his latest, Foresight 20/20.

"The futurist's job is to focus on the big picture and point out the 800-pound gorillas that others are missing because their attention is focused elsewhere," said Uldrich. "I want to help future-proof your businesses against all the changes that are coming tomorrow. Many business models are changing quickly, while others are fading away, so it's important to be aware of changes you might not be able to see."

Uldrich reported that developing this keener awareness begins with "jumping the curve" to learn about and understand seemingly futuristic technologies that are already being applied now, but are rapidly dropping in price, increasing in capability and about to mushroom in the mainstream.

"Many large industries say change can't happen fast, but North America was looking at importing natural gas just 10 years ago, and now we're going to export it thanks to the development of new drilling and fracking technologies," added Uldrich. "The opportunities for ingenuity are being greatly extended, but we must have humility, keep an open mind and be aware of them. However, we're conditioned to see the world in one way. So when something really new stares us in the face, it can be hard to see. So we have to work at seeing it, gaining the confidence to innovate into the future we want to build."