Future Planning Using Predictions about 2050

When collaborating on your team’s annual goals, it is helpful to think several years out and then work backward.  Looking ahead 10 years used to be the norm, but with changes in our world coming so fast and furiously, teams often only look out 3 years at a time so they can be more agile with their strategy.

So, what about looking 50 years out?  That may seem ridiculous at first, but I saw Marika McCauley-Sines, Vice President of Global Sustainability at Mars, Inc., take her team through a 2050 visioning exercise and it was quite powerful and mind-jarring.  The dialogue around our potential world in 2050 was thought-provoking, focusing on critical issues including human rights and farmer’s income.

Guiding a team to imagine that far into the future encourages them to ponder potential trends and think innovatively about the current plans.

Here is the process Marika used to prepare her team to plan goals for the next year. 

1. Gather 2050 predictions for a Brilliant World or Breakdown.

First, she gathered predictions for our world in 2050 from numerous sources.  Then, she organized them into two categories: Breakdown and Brilliant.  The list of predictions in Breakdown assumes we will be worse off in 2050.  On the other hand, the list of predictions for Brilliant assumes we will be much better off in 2050.

2.  Review the 2050 predictions with your team.

To begin the team activity, Marika shared the following predictions for 2050 on a slide and quickly reviewed them. See below for specific predictions she sited:

Breakdown – Predictions of Decline and Chaos:

  • Climate breakdown – no more rainforests, fish to eat, cities flooded, and biodiversity systems collapse
  • Frequent extreme weather events
  • Water scarcity crisis
  • Data theft and cyber attacks
  • Increased conflict and use of WMDs
  • Superbugs and disease outbreaks
  • Mass hunger and collapse of agriculture
  • Mass unemployment, robots’ rule
  • Increasing extreme poverty
  • Awful air quality
  • Cities overcrowded and tense
  • Large-scale migration
  • Total transparency driving and loss of privacy
  • Cocoa & coffee are luxuries
Brilliant – Predictions of Hope and Progress:
  • Transport electric & efficient
  • Walkable and harmonious mega-cities
  • Few single-use packages & efficient recycling
  • End of animal-proteins – cheaper plant-based
  • IT access and e-banking for all
  • Total transparency empowering workers
  • Sunshine rooting out corruption
  • Clean and better-distributed energy
  • Enough food through regenerative agriculture
  • No more smallholders – alternative jobs
  • Automation drives better jobs, therefore, increasing incomes
  • Youths demand and value peace
  • Businesses report ‘total impact’, market rewards and investments
  • Clean air and water – too expensive to pollute

3. Poll the team to find out which predictions they believe will be true in 2050.

Marika asked, “Which do you think is more likely to be true in 2050… Breakdown or Brilliant?  Move to the left side of the room for Breakdown and the right side of the room for Brilliant.”

A lively discussion about who believed Breakdown or Brilliant to be more likely and why. The team was divided, but to her surprise, more than half leaned toward Breakdown.

4. Discuss how the team is currently positioned to meet near term goals.  

After the team dialogued about their own predictions for 2050, she divided the large team into 4 small teams and challenged them to answer the following questions and prepare to present their thinking two days later, just before the team worked on goals and objectives for the year ahead:

  • “How well are we positioned in today’s operating environment, and bearing in mind the future?”
  • “How will our team contribute to our organization’s mission and goals over the next 5 years?”
  • “What should we focus on this year?”

Outcomes

The result was that the teams came to the table with thoughtful ideas about the areas of focus for the team.  Because they looked so far out into the future first, their viewpoints were expanded.  Thus, they were more innovative and thoughtful about their plans because of the futuristic perspective they had begun with.

Summary

The next time you are doing future planning with your team, consider sharing the 2050 predictions to get people thinking proactively and innovatively.  Rather than focusing on the immediate future, get your team to look far into the future first, then create plans that drive toward the desired future state.  By thinking out 50 years it inspires a fresh, innovative look at the immediate future.

About the Author: Leigh Ann Rodgers, Founder of Better Teams, is an IAF Certified Professional Facilitator with 20 years of experience in the human development field. Leigh Ann is a skilled meeting facilitator, trainer, and coach working across the globe to help leaders cultivate teams that are happy and high-performing. Learn about her Better Teams Model and Team Assessment here.

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