As a leader, when you create a vision it makes sense that your attention is fixed towards the future, right?
Well, perhaps not...
Research undertaken by Omar A. El Sawy in the 1980's at the University of Southern California* suggests that this is not necessarily the case.
In an study conducted with 34 CEO's, he asked half the group to think of 10 events that might happen to them in their personal future, dating each item, and then to think of 10 events from their pasts. The second group were asked to do the task the other way round, thinking first about their pasts and then their futures.
He discovered that while both groups had similar past horizons, the second group's future horizon was consistently almost double that of the first's.
Sawy's explanation for this phenomenon is that we make sense of our world retrospectively, with all understanding coming from reflection, looking back in time. So to gain a longer view into the future, first look back!
And as you look back, you may find that events waiting to happen have been right under your nose. Take the internet as an example. It's been around since the late 1960's but the commercial technology needed to make it viable for public use didn't arrive until the 1990's. Rudolf Diesel invented the first diesel engine in 1897 but diesels have only recently been developed to the level of refinement that makes them such a hit in the car market today.
Are you paying attention to what's right in front of you? Have you noticed the trends and patterns that exist around you?
Call to Action:
- Identify what you are truly passionate about. If you are paying attention to something, it's most likely because you are passionate about it. Without passion attention wanders.
- Go back in time and list 10 events linked to your passion. Date them.
- Now look for trends or patterns. What do you notice?
- Then list and date 10 events you think might or will happen to you in the future.
- Lastly, ask: “What would be 10 times better than that?”
* O. A. El Sawy, “Temporal Biases in Strategic Attention” research paper,1988, University of Southern California