“We are all immigrants to the future.” I love this statement, which I’ve pilfered from fellow futurist Marina Gorbis’ insightful new book, The Nature of the Future.
The metaphor of an immigrant is useful to individuals and organizations seeking to future-proof themselves. For starters, today’s business, political and social climate is changing at such a rapid pace that most individuals and organizations will soon have no alternative but to “immigrate to the future” if they wish to survive.
The emphasis on survival—and not simply success—is an important distinction because when survival is at stake people must move quickly and often they can only take the most essential items. Therefore, as you and your organization, prepare for the future, I’ll ask you a simple question: What would you pack in your trunk?
Old knowledge (think outdated textbooks) is out; so too are physical possessions and credentials (i.e. diplomas and past awards). At best, they are of limited value and, at worst, they are useless.
What then would be beneficial? What could help you transition to and create a new life? Maps or guides to the new world—even if incomplete—might be helpful; as would tools that are flexible and adaptable as well as skills that could help you demonstrate your creativity and imagination.
Whatever you think should be in your suitcase of tomorrow it is probably worth developing today. (The corollary to this is that it is unwise to over-invest in todays “what is” at the expense of tomorrow’s “what could be.”)
The future is also likely to discriminate against your “accent” which will be reflected in the way you speak, think and act. If it carries the thick sound of yesterday’s customs, habits, beliefs and paradigms—fairly or not—you may be judged negatively.
To minimize the accent, remain humble and open to unlearning the old and learning the new. As generations of past immigrants have realized, learning from the younger generation often offers the quickest path to assimilation. To this end, if don’t already have a “reverse mentor,” I’d encourage you to get one. Think of it as an investment in a tutor who is trying to teach you the language of tomorrow.
Most immigrants I believe approach their new land with an equal sense of excitement and fear. (Those whose fear outweighed their excitement probably never emigrated and remained behind in the old world.) In the long run, however, most immigrants’ fear dissipated and their excitement was justified.
Why? Because the act of immigration allows people to reinvent themselves.
The future provides this same opportunity. It is an exciting time to be alive.
As Andre Gide wrote years ago, “Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.” So go ahead and immigrate to the future … just remember to pack lightly, stay humble and never forget that only individuals with the courage to leave their native lands and lose sight of the shore will create the future.
Interested in other posts related to future-proofing yourself and your organization? Check out these past posts by futurist Jack Uldrich: