Direct Your Future to See Results Today

Here’s a simple yet profound secret to achieving the success you want in your life and career: Change the future you envision and you will change what actions you take, which, in turn, will change your future.

Have you ever thought about the legacy you will leave as CIO: what you want to achieve, what you want to be known for, or what you want your company to achieve based on your leadership?

We know that hard trends (future certainties) provide accurate predictions about specific elements of the future, but combined with soft trends (future maybes) and your ability to influence them, how those elements play out is highly plastic. How your future unfolds is determined to a great degree by the choices you make, and those choices are determined largely by what you see in front of you.

In other words, your vision of the future is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Change your view of the future, and you direct your future.

Directing your future is the conscious exercise of your creative capacity to envision and rewrite your future life and career. Your vision of the future drives your choices and your behaviors, which produce your outcomes and shape your life. You become what you dream, which means that if you want to know what you are becoming, you need to ask, what am I dreaming?

Develop your futureview

The key to your professional and personal success hinges on your ability to project yourself into the future and then look back at your present position from the future’s point of view — what I call your futureview.

I coined the term futureview several decades ago to refer to the mental picture we each hold of our future existence. This is not the same thing as a goal, plan, ambition, or aspiration. Futureview is not what we hope for or are trying to create, it is the picture we actually hold, for better or for worse, of what we expect and believe about our future.

The reason I coined the term is that most of us are not fully aware of what that picture is. We all have a futureview but often without realizing it or examining what it looks like. But not being aware of it does not mean it doesn’t control us, because it most certainly does.

Becoming aware of your own futureview puts a tremendously powerful strategic tool in your hands. It gives you the controls of your own future. Your futureview determines which actions you’ll take and which you’ll avoid taking. Different futureviews create different realities. For example, in the same day, thousands of people buy a given company’s stock, and thousands more dump it. What’s the difference? There is only one: their futureview.

Managing futureview

Volkswagen has a vision for its future. In 2007, just months after Toyota had officially taken the title of world’s leading automaker away from GM, Volkswagen CEO Martin Winkerton announced that his company had set the goal of unseating Toyota within the next ten years. Their target was met with heavy skepticism. The following year VW sold a mere 6.3 million vehicles to Toyota’s 9 million. Yet, by the first quarter of 2009, smack in the midst of the worst months of the global recession, the German company astonished onlookers by dramatically increasing its share of the global market, and by the end of the year VW had indeed overtaken both GM and Toyota as the world’s leading automaker — eight years ahead of schedule.

Volkswagen has taken great care to manage their futureview. What is GM’s futureview? It’s still hard to say.

As a CIO, are you managing the futureview of your employees, regardless of current economic conditions? There are people working in your company right now who are online or on the phone looking for another job. Why? Because of their futureview of working for your company.

There are also people who are planning on staying. Why? Same reason: Because of their futureview of working for your company.

Are you managing the futureview of your business partners, your suppliers, your investors? What about the futureview of your customers?

Most companies put zero effort or energy into directing their people’s futureview, which means for all practical purposes, they put zero effort into directing their future. All the “strategic planning,” “scenario planning,” and other systematic approaches to designing an intended (read: hoped-for) future often fall short of the goal. In a world gone vertical, they typically come to nothing.

Your futureview also determines the future you. The vision we have of our future determines our behaviors, which determine our outcomes. In a very real sense, our futureview is everything. And yet it is something we so seldom think about, we hardly even have the vocabulary to talk about it.

When I want to take a break, I love to take my Harley-Davidson out on the local roads and open it up. One thing that’s especially great about the Harley is that there’s no reverse. That’s true for us, too: we can never truly regain the past; we can only go forward into the future.

The Harley’s rear wheel sits behind me, powered by the engine. That’s exactly what our past does: it sits behind us, and we can use the momentum of our past to drive us forward. But it’s the wheel in front that we use to determine our direction. And anyone who’s ever ridden a motorcycle knows this cardinal rule of the road: You go where you’re looking. If there’s a rock in the road and you look straight at it, you’ll run right over it. Stare at that looming pothole ahead, and you’re ending up in that pothole.

Where you look is where you go.

Where are you looking?

Because we are shifting into a fundamentally different economy, one based on abundance rather than on scarcity, and because of our changing relationship to information, we are seeing three forces come into play that will be critical to shaping our future: communication, collaboration, and trust.

In Part II of this article, due out Oct. 12, Dan will discuss these forces and what you can do about and with them.

Daniel Burrus is considered one of the world’s leading technology forecasters and business strategists, and is the founder and CEO of Burrus Research, a research and consulting firm that monitors global advancements in technology driven trends to help clients better understand how technological, social and business forces are converging to create enormous, untapped opportunities. He is the author of six books, including the national bestseller “Flash Foresight: How To See the Invisible and Do the Impossible” as well as the highly acclaimed Technotrends. Be sure to check out Volume 2 of Daniel’s “Know What’s Next Magazine,” an annual publication on strategies for transforming your business and future.