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ChangingMinds Blog! > Blog Archive > 04-Nov-11


Friday 04-November-11

Selling the future

One of the things that occupies much of our thinking is 'what will happen in the future?' It's an age-old question that has provided gainful employment to seers and sages for centuries and more, and in the current global turmoil the question is up front and central.

From ancient oracles to modern fortune-tellers, one of the most common persuasive tools is mystery. The seer dresses and acts strangely. They sit in darkened rooms. They cloak their prediction in riddles or arcane language. This unfamiliarity increases uncertainty which leads their subjects to grasp at the straws of predictions.

Dressing up the forecast is another classic method. If you use vague terms, then it will fit many circumstances (try reading all the newspaper horoscopes -- you will likely find that most make sense for you). Today, credible forecasters do not use crystal balls, yet they may leverage atmosphere, signs and symbols to make their scryings more attractive.

I recently went to a lecture by a prominent futurist, who talked about some of the possible things to come. He consulted with governments and big-company strategists. He talked about possibilities from nanotech to macro-economic financial shift. He even foretold, with a wry grin, the demise of the futurist.

Even (and perhaps especially) futurists must persuade, and he had a colourful map that was loosely based on a design icon: the London Underground map. From what he said it has been wildly popular and has, I would suspect, contributed disproportionately to his bottom line.

It is one thing to see the future and another to effectively communicate and sell it. If you would convince others of your business vision or product strategy, then lessons from futurists would include both adding mystique and anchoring it in know visual metaphors..

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