Why Purpose Is A Futurist
On several occasions I have been asked what makes me a credible expert on purpose.
The reality: There is no degree in purpose, and for those of us who are 'experts' on purpose it is something that has come about through our lived experience or what researchers call phenomenology (n) an approach that concentrates on the study of consciousness and the objects of direct experience. In other words it is the 'lived experience'.
For the more than 15 years I have worked as an agent and consultant for Australia's most prominent futurists. Some of those names include Dr. Jordan Nguyen, Mike Walsh, Anders Sorman Nilsson, Michael McQueen and I currently head up the tribe of ridiculous talents science communicators known as Future Crunch.
In terms of lived experience I have spent a-lot of time decoding the mindset of the futurist and I have discovered that if you are a leader looking to adopt a purpose-driven mindset there is a lot you can learn from the world of a futurist.
The Futurist Mindset - The Purpose Perspective
Futurists (n): or futurologists are scientists and social scientists whose specialty is futurology or the attempt to systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present, whether that of human society in particular or of life on Earth in general. They are CEOs, entrepreneurs, authors, keynote speakers and business experts who are purveyors conveyors and translators of the future. They curate a meaningful narrative about a projected tomorrow based on the data available in the present moment. That data may include technological advancements, environmental factors or social trends.
The role of purpose and the role of the futurist may seem worlds apart, however, the role of a futurist is a symbolic archetype that empowers leaders with the mindset to navigate an uncertain future. The leaders of tomorrow will harness purpose as a tool to scan the environment, in order to craft and create the manifestation of optimistic stories leading to impact. As a leader, this provides your people and clients with clarity, certainty, direction and human connection in an ever-changing business landscape.
“ In my view, a futurist’s mind effectively lives in the future, and looks at today as if it’s the past. For me this has meant observing technology and trends as if I’m looking back in time, I make predictions about what’s coming next and either build designs to explore those advancements or wait till they are released to drop them into existing designs waiting for the tech to catch up. When you’re able to view your world with this lens, the natural progression in technological and societal evolution become increasingly apparent.
What I find most interesting is it all goes well beyond simply the technology or science or trends. The most fascinating part for me is how we learn more about what it means to be human. Our advancements give us increased knowledge in our biological makeup and capability, but furthermore, it raises many existential issues about the human condition. Will we advance forward into destruction and even extinction… or will we take control, act as a forward-thinking species, collaborate, create our own next steps in evolution, and ultimately learn to thrive into a new future? I believe that choice belongs to us, and this fills me with purpose every day” Dr Jordan Nguyen
Leading Like A Futurist
Leaders seeking out purposeful engagement on a personal, professional and planetary level will be the leaders who adopt the mindset of the futurist. Here’s why.
1.A Futurist Is Human - So Is Purpose
A futurist is a human being. A person with an innate ability to tell a compelling story. A story that inspires others to take action in navigating an unknown future. A brand cannot be a futurist because a brand cannot write a book, deliver a speech, or inspire emotion in the same way a person can. While purpose can be implemented on an organisational level, purpose is a verb. Just like a futurist, purpose can only be expressed by a human being in action. A brand alone cannot capture purpose because even if a brand is on purpose, it is the human story and action that gives purpose and meaning.
2. A Futurist Translates A Story In Present Tense
The role of the futurist is to translate a projected reality, however, that projected reality is being determined by data available in the present moment. Data that is continually in motion and always evolving. In the same way technology requires software updates, the story shared by the futurist is determined by current information perpetually in flux.
Purpose is also in a state of constant motion. As our world evolves, the narrative we share with ourselves and the world transforms. The meaning we translate from our world evolves. In the same way, a futurist updates their story, our stories of purpose are also upgraded. As we manifest those purposeful stories in the present moment, we in turn create alternate futures.
3.A Futurist Is An Influencer
While purpose is compelling on its own, it is an idea without movement or gravity. In order to create impact a leader must be able to translate an idea into influence in order to transform that idea into a measurable impact.
A futurist has mastered influence. They have the ability to reach large audiences via the amplification of a message. Leaders with a desire to create measurable impact must be able to execute an influencer strategy that enables them to connect and engage with others from the inside out.
4. A Futurist Understands The Science Of Perception
A futurist innately understands the role of perception in the narration of the future. This is why the basis of the narrative a futurist presents is based on credible evidence from the present moment. As pioneers of purpose leaders must also be aware that purpose itself will also be influenced by their personal perception.
Neuroscience teaches us that our perception of reality is not an accurate take on the world as it is. In fact, there is a very fine line between what is real and what is an illusion. When we experience the world via external sensory data our brain converts this raw material into our ‘projected realities’ based on context; life we have experienced prior to that moment in time.
A futurist understands the innate relationship between meaning and our perception of reality. If purpose is an expression of meaning, then the meaning we create cognitively also shapes our reality as we perceive it. In other words, the story we choose about our significance in the world is the same story that creates our perception and experience of the world.
5.A Futurist Tells A Story Of Whats Possible Tomorrow
While the role of the futurist is based on fact, it is in science fiction we see the power of future storytelling as a transformational tool. A famous example of this was when Nichelle Nichols, who played Lieutenant Uhura in Star Trek, was asked by Martin Luther King to not leave the cast because as a black woman she represented a future people could aspire to, where they were judged by their character rather than the colour of their skin.
The futurist shares a story of what's possible, and so does purpose. Through this experience we are able to consider fundamental philosophical questions about human nature and our place on the planet. We are able to explore how society could function differently and in doing so we imagine a new future. A better tomorrow, with the courage to live a new story. To create a better world.
The leaders of tomorrow will be the conscious futurists, with an ability to craft compelling and influential stories. They will be the leaders with an ability to scan an ever-evolving environment, in order to capture and create purposeful stories providing meaning in times of change.
They will have the tools to make courageous decisions and have real conversations. They will be seen, heard and have an ability to influence people en masse. They will be the visionaries empowered to write optimistic stories of a better tomorrow and in doing so create strategic pathways for both purpose and profit.