This is Part 2 of this post. If you have not read Part 1, you will find that here.
Reverse Engineering the Future We DO Want
There is something that DOES work to solve the large, systemic problems our organizations and our communities face today. And that is to aim our efforts out beyond “zero” – out beyond just solving our problems – and to instead solve those problems as one among many steps towards creating something positive.
What works is to aim at the positive, affirming future we want to create, and then reverse engineer that future.
Rather than tethering our efforts to what we do NOT like about today, reverse engineering begins by tethering our plans to the future we DO want. The process then consciously considers the cause-and-effect steps that will work backwards to create the path to that future.
This is not about predicting possible scenarios or aiming at pie-in-the-sky fantasies. It is instead about asking the most realistic of questions: “What has to happen (cause) for X to be the result (effect)? And what has to happen before that can happen? And what before that?”
Along the way, we will link arms with anyone who wants the same thing we want – some who share our organization’s mission, and some who are seemingly far outside its scope. We will consider all the different cause-and-effect steps we can think of. And when something unforeseen intervenes, we will continue to keep walking in the direction of our dream.
There are so many benefits to vision-based planning, the most obvious being that those plans actually work! However the part that always brings me the greatest joy as a facilitator is that unlike problem-solving plans, vision-based planning starts at the point where everyone agrees.
That is just the opposite of problem-solving plans! Because those plans begin with today, they start with everything we bring to the table right then – our fears, our baggage, our turf issues, our political postures and positions, our sense of scarcity. With all those personal hurdles to get past before we can even consider finding points of agreement, is it any wonder that planning sessions can become contentious?
However, when we begin the discussion at the future we want to create, we are beginning at the point where we all agree. We all want vibrant, healthy, resilient, compassionate places to live. Anyone imagining such a future does so with a smile.
From that place of agreement, as we step backwards through all the cause-and-effect preconditions to that future, we continue to agree. By the time we arrive at a point of disagreement, our expectation is that we will find a win-win path to our common goal.
As I noted in the video, we reverse engineer everything we do in our lives, from getting to the airport on time, to figuring out what time we have to leave the office to get our kids to soccer.
It is time, then, that we in the Community Benefit Sector stop seeking to narrowly fix our organizations and our world. It is time we stop seeking to end poverty and disease (and organizational dysfunction).
It is time we start aiming at creating an equitable, peaceful world.
Once we do that, we will find a thousand inter-related ways to end suffering along the way.
(Part 3 concludes this series with examples of what this approach looks like in action – complete with a video! You can find that here.)
Reverse engineering the future is simple and comprehensive. Learn more in The Pollyanna Principles.