One aspect of our future is a certainty: We’re going to have to adapt and adopt totally new ways of thinking. So says futurist and AFP 2023 Mindshift keynote speaker, Erica Orange.
“We’re reaching a zero point where the time between transformations and disruptions is collapsing in on itself such that our ability to adapt and respond becomes significantly harder,” said Orange.
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of The Future Hunters, one of the world’s leading futurist consulting firms, Orange analyzes emerging sociocultural, technological, economic, geopolitical and environmental trends, and identifies the strategic implications (the So what?) of those trends for influential Fortune 500 companies, trade associations and public sector clients.
She has authored numerous industry white papers and has been featured in news outlets including Forbes, NPR, Time, Inc, Wired, Bloomberg, and CBS This Morning. In 2020, Orange was named by Forbes as one of the world’s 50 Top Female Futurists.
This reimagined, futurist method of thinking is what Orange will share in her keynote session at AFP 2023. Treasury and finance professionals can expect to learn strategies for challenging core thinking in order to better identify and translate trends into actionable strategies, while creating new, future-proofed opportunities for your organization.
“We need to get comfortable abandoning information we hold sacred, but which no longer serves us for the future we’re moving into,” she said.
The journey to becoming a futurist started when Orange was able to retrain her mind to see events and trends as a series of patterns, to recognize the interconnectedness between disparate signals. “It’s like one big puzzle,” Orange said. “We are given the pieces, but it requires a combination of both pattern recognition and open-mindedness to put the pieces together into a cohesive portrait, and then take that portrait and decipher what it could mean for different industries.”
Orange says that holding fast to old ways of thinking can cloud our minds, and prevent us from seeing the future for what it is — and, most critically, what strategies are effective and appropriate for where the future is moving. Instead, we need to engage and ignite our imagination and reimagination. We need to challenge everything we thought we knew in order to adopt and adapt to totally new ways of thinking.
A company she considers a cautionary tale in this sphere of thought is Kodak. Here was a giant of the industry that became so wedded to its strategy that it lost its vision. They held the how of what they did so close to the vest that they lost their why — missing out on what they could have become, owned and stood for. “… the future doesn’t follow one path,” said Orange. “Things rarely unfold unidirectionally. Everything is multidirectional, and it’s about exploring all of those paths simultaneously. There are multiple realities and multiple futures.”
This futuristic trend is what The Future Hunters have termed “templosion”: an implosion of events happening in shorter and shorter periods of time, or time on steroids. This applies to strategic planning cycles, corporate lifespans, even the way we communicate.
How does she see this playing out? Orange cites two major ways: generational compression and the rate at which technology is changing. The first refers to how generations have traditionally been segmented into 12–15-year cohorts, but because of the rate of change, this should now, according to Orange, be 2-3-year cohorts. She uses her college experience as an example. She was born in 1981 and recalls going to a physical library to study and do research. In comparison, someone born just two years later was in college at the dawn of social media — two completely different experiences, just two years apart.
Regarding the second way, in order to keep up with the rate of technological change, Orange said it’s no longer enough to be smart, we need to be intelligent. We need to hone our critical thinking skills and be able to figure out solutions to problems we haven’t encountered. And we must become lifelong learners because what we learn this year will most likely be obsolete next year.
You can start practicing the art of reimagining now. As new trends arise, stop and ask yourself what they mean, and how they could change the world. Put aside what you know and consider alternate realities. There are plenty to consider, from AI to the metaverse.
“[My] biggest piece of advice for any entity today is to engage in strategic foresight, and have the discipline to engage in truly long-term thinking,” said Orange. “‘Getting is right’ is a sliding scale.”
Dare to reimagine your organization’s future by attending Erica Orange’s Mindshift Keynote, Reimagination in a Time of Change, this October at AFP 2023.