Another skill needed to lead from the future is systems thinking, the ability to connect the dots.

Just as a reminder, the four skills (we’re looking at) needed to lead from the future are

1) SIMPLIFY: the drive to simplify
2) MAKE: the instinct to make
3) THRIVE: the hunger to make the world thrive
4) CONNECT: the imagination to connect seemingly unrelated dots

When thinking about the future, it is not enough to ask what happens next? We must also ask, what happens because of what happens next?

At the personal level this means reconsidering any idea that goes something like this: Well if it doesn’t hurt anyone else, what’s wrong with it? The idea here assumes a nonexistent isolation, and extreme individualism that fails to recognize that we are all connected. The creation is an interconnected system made up of interconnected systems.

At the environmental level, it means seeing the big picture in little actions. For example, recognizing that littering plastic in my neighborhood may end up fortifying the Pacific Garbage Gyre.

I think the science of evolution, the merger of man with machine, the race for genetic enhancements, and the full mapping of the wild and largely unexplored universe we call the human brain will create new ways to think about God.

I think the rising tide of those who are exploring how to be spiritual without being religious will highlight just how religious the human species is. Yes, even the nonreligious, the secularist, and the atheist.

And these are the obvious connections.

Here are a few others that may be less obvious …

What’s happening? We are developing the world’s first affectionate robots.

What happens because this happens? MIGRATION. The affectionate robots being developed in Japan (that will be commercially available next year) may eventually ( say, 5-7 years) lessen demand for filipino migration to Canada.

What else happens because this happens? CHURCH. Pastors of filipino churches in Canada, pay attention. If you depend on these migrant workers for your membership roles, start working on your plan B.

What else happens because this happens? SEXUALITY. Affectionate Sexbots will end human sex trafficking. Or, at least, put a huge dent in it. At the same time, as  human “sex work” goes mainstream, prostitution will go upscale as sex therapists — think of the consort on the popular television series, Firefly — or as technology “pimps.”

The list goes on. Start with any change and, with a little imagination, you can begin to map, hundreds of other resulting changes. (One tool we use for this in our IMN training is the Futures Wheel.) You get the idea.

Leading from the future will mean stepping back and seeing the Big picture. It means thinking in systems. It also means understanding the small picture, the little things, and recognizing how a little action may impact the whole.

At the theological level, remember the profoundly “systems thinking” element of the cross of Christ. We need to ask, How does the death of Jesus on the cross impact the world? And, for a spiritual reflection, think of how Jesus’ words might impact the whole world: “love your neighbor as yourself.”

All things are connected.

Alex McManus

Author, Makers of Fire: the spirituality of leading from the future

Preorder your copy now.

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