Friday, November 5, 2010

Shiny and Bright

We project all sorts of ideas onto the future. But since it doesn't exist, except in our imaginations, the future is like a Rorschach Test revealing more about our thoughts and emotions in the present. Curiously though, the further ahead people look in time then the more confident they are in the present about the future. Robin Hanson calls it 'far thinking'.

But dwelling too much on the future, especially the long term, can be unhealthy. It deteriorates into daydreaming, and becomes a barrier to action. Then again, so can dwelling too much on the present or the near term. Such a focus becomes distracting, and a barrier to focus. We need both - especially in business.

Right now the short term looms large in Ireland. Today's bond markets, next month's budget, next year's spending cuts and tax increases. It's all very important. But it's all very limited. Worse, the difficulties we confront in the short term cloud the opportunities that are available in the medium to long term. And there are real opportunities. Take today's report from the UK's Foresight Horizon Scanning Centre on Technology and Innovation Futures: UK Growth Opportunities for the 2020s. Not only is it an inspirational guide to where Irish businesses should focus in relation to growth opportunities in the UK, it is even backed up by a highly detailed Technology Annex regarding 55 specific future technologies and innovations.

The only viable solution to the mess our politicians and bankers have created here in Ireland is to pursue opportunities for growth that will enable us to undo the damage and renew our economy and society. And we don't even have to discover the opportunities for ourselves: our next door neighbours have provided a very handy guide to get us started. The future is shiny and bright, we need to let it break through the clouds now gathered overhead.

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