Problem-Solving from a Future Perspective

By Paul R. Scheele Ph.D. | Articles

Problem-Solving from a Future Perspective

When I first read the subtitle of MIT professor C. Otto Scharmer’s book, Theory U: Leading from the future as it emerges (2010), it immediately resonated with how I had assisted clients in my previous two decades of consulting work.

Scharmer’s book explains how, by using our imagination to envision the successful accomplishment of a goal, we can gain an advantageous perspective that will guide our decision-making and problem-solving.

Typically, when we try to solve a problem, we review our history. What’s worked before? What mistakes have we made in the past what we should avoid? But if the last 5-10 years have taught us anything, we’ve discovered that the past has not been the best predictor of the future.

A client who was stuck in her decision-making about the next step for growing her business was on the horns of a dilemma. One part of her felt that the best route to success was to play it safe during uncertain times, avoid making costly mistakes, stick with what was already working, try to reduce costs while improving present systems.

Another part of her insisted she would succeed by growth; expanding her product offerings, venturing into new markets with creative selling strategies, and learning how to meet additional needs from her already large customer base.

Through an imaginative process of looking into the future and meeting with an elder version of herself—one who had succeeded and successfully retired from business life—immediately gave her the insights she needed. Her elder self said that she should follow her heart and boldly step forward with the same entrepreneurial spirit that had helped her start her business. Leave the management of systems and safety measures to those who had a better feel for it and devote her mental and emotional problem-solving to how she could reach for the stars.

Her insight reminded me of the Star Trek opening: “To boldly go where no one has gone before!” This also is an idea which the philosopher Goethe wrote:

“What you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Only engage and then the mind grows heated. Begin it, and then the work will be completed.”

It all begins with how you use your imagination. Venture into your future and check out what it can show you.

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