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Associations can think like a futurist


“The coronavirus pandemic has thrown all our future plans into disarray, and we still don’t know what’s around the corner in the next few weeks and months. In an uncertain future, many people fall into the trap of setting smaller goals or making short-term plans. But that’s the wrong approach. Instead of only planning for what you can see, use scenario planning as a tool for working with uncertainty and creating flexible plans.”

Reading this drew me to the webinar, “Think Like a Futurist,” organized by the Australasian Society of Association Executives (AuSAE). Like my organization the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives (PCAAE), the AuSAE is also a founding member of the Asia-Pacific Federation of Association Organizations (Apfao).

The featured speaker was Gihan Perera, a futurist, conference speaker, author and consultant, whose company bearing his name gives organization leaders a glimpse of what’s ahead and how they can become “fit for the future,” both in their professional and personal lives. Futurists are those who attempt to systematically explore predictions and possibilities about the future and how they can emerge from the present.

To think like a futurist, Gihan presented, among others, three “Ps”—platform, plan, and perspective—aimed to tickle your imagination into thinking about ideas and future actions for your own association.

Platform is about your current organization’s strategic posture. In sequential order: Is it reactive, responsive, proactive or disruptive?

It is reactive if you aim to merely head off the crisis, responsive if you aim to recover, and proactive if you aim to grow. However, Gihan said you can also leapfrog from reactive to disruptive straight away and grow further.

He used the “workplace of the future” as an example. This will be WFH (work from home) if reactive, RTO (return to office) if responsive, WFA (work from anywhere) if proactive, and use of “fluid teams” if disruptive.

In a 2008 article, Deborah Mackin, founder of New Directions Consulting, defined “fluid teams” as “experts from disparate functions and geographies who must get a temporary project or task up and running, sometimes with completely different priorities, beliefs and values.”

Plan is about scenario planning.

For this, Gihan cited the “Pestle” analysis, which is a look at all important factors that might affect the success or failure of your organization. “Pestle” is an acronym for political, economic, social, technological, legal and environment.

The current coronavirus pandemic was given as an example with the following scenarios that could evolve: eradicating the virus globally, eliminating the virus locally, finding a vaccine, finding treatment, and the virus becoming endemic.

In the end, Gihan said that the question to ask when planning is, “What problem do you solve?”

Perspective is about going deeper, wider, and further in your way of thinking.

One of the examples Gihan gave here was Emirates, the world’s first airline to provide free global cover for Covid-19 health expenses and quarantine costs whenever you fly with them. This talks about safety and peace of mind for the customer.

So, are you ready to think like a futurist?

The column contributor, Octavio “Bobby” Peralta, is concurrently the secretary-general of the Association of Development Financing Institutions in Asia and the Pacific and the Founder & CEO of the Philippine Council of Associations and Association Executives. PCAAE is holding the Associations Summit 8 on November 25 and 26, 2020 at the Philippine International Convention Center which is expected to draw over 200 association professionals here and abroad. The two-day event is supported by Adfiap, the Tourism Promotions Board, and the PICC. E-mail [email protected] for more details on AS8.

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