The Role of the Future in Training & Development Today

A focus on the future is about building competence in an organization in the context of careers, strategic planning, and vision.

Trends alone are not reliable predictors of the future. So how do the smartest organizations grapple with the question: “What does my leadership need to look like to be successful in the next 10 to 15 years?” Is this a question Training & Development departments should, or even can, explore as they set out to design today’s curriculum?

According to Yvette Montero Salvatico, managing director of global foresight, innovation, and strategic design firm Kedge, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” And it isn’t even about thinking ahead. “The future isn’t really about the future. It’s about today,” Salvatico says. She explains that a focus on the future is about building competence in an organization in the context of careers, strategic planning, and vision.

Strategic foresight, Salvatico explains, is a critical best practice in Training & Development. The good news is that it is not as mysterious as one might think. “Far from claiming they can predict the future, true futurists take a current strategy and test it against various possible and probable directions,” says Salvatico. “Many firms miss that first step, and it’s very dangerous to do that.”

She recommends the following approach to begin successfully using strategic foresight as a best practice in Training & Development:

1. Discover: Filter your biases. If you think something sounds ridiculous, ask yourself why you think that. Salvatico explains that in order to bring people 10 to 15 years into the future, they must learn to suspend their disbeliefs.

2. Explore: Scan the environment. This goes beyond your own field. A competitive analysis is not enough. When contemplating the skill set your organization will need in the future, Salvatico says it is crucial to look beyond a projection of current trends facing your organization and your industry. She says it is about making sense of how current trends collide to make new trends and value shifts. Citing the example of Kodak and Polaroid being caught off guard when they were usurped by smart phones, Salvatico reminds us that the biggest disruptors often come from beyond one’s industry.

Exploration of the macro-environment must cover the critical facets described by Kedge in the acronym, STEEP: Society, Technology, Environment, Economy, and Politics. This helps rewire your brain to see other opportunities. When contemplating the future of your organization’s talent, for example, consider shifts in values related to career, trends in home ownership, and changing demographics.

3. Map: Develop future scenarios and test current strategies against them. Salvatico explains that an organization can start with three possible scenarios (and typically elements of all three will come to pass):

  • Being in a negative environment
  • Being in a positive environment
  • Being in a neutral environment

Test your strategy against each scenario to ensure it would be successful in all three environments. When mapping these scenarios, look for a commonality.

4. Create: Leverage your new mindset and knowledge about possible future scenarios to design specific action plans beginning with the aspiration in mind.

“We live in an age where we can create the future,” believes Salvatico. “Leverage the push of the future, but be more purposeful.”

E-mail ngoodman@global-dynamics.com to share your experiences and best practices using strategic foresight in designing your organization’s curriculum for potential inclusion in a future article.

Neal Goodman, Ph.D., is president of Global Dynamics, Inc., a training and development firm specializing in globalization, cultural intelligence, effective virtual workplaces, and diversity and inclusion. He can be reached at 305.682.7883 and at ngoodman@globaldynamics. com. For more information, visit www.globaldynamics.com.

Neal Goodman, Ph.D., is president of Global Dynamics, Inc., a training and development firm specializing in globalization, cultural intelligence, effective virtual workplaces, and diversity and inclusion. He can be reached at 305.682.7883 and at ngoodman@global-dynamics.com. For more information, visit: http://www.global-dynamics.com.