The Art and Adventure of Crossing to the Future

Mary O'Hara-Devereaux | | Future of Work


Navigating OUT of the Badlands

“The Badlands” is a metaphor that invites us to embark on a journey of discovery. It is the context in which the complex story of globalization is unfolding.

As we look ahead to the year 2025, the far foothills of the future, we ask ourselves: How do we get from here to there? Navigating out of the Badlands is a metaphor for the journey through the challenging transition zone between 2015 and 2025, where we will experience considerable pain and bewilderment as one way of life ends and we grapple with how to create the next.

My book Navigating the Badlands: Thriving in the Decade of Radical Transformation forecast and described the journey we are just now completing, from 2005 to 2015. Now have made it through the Badlands and are looking out at the next phase of this journey, from 2015 to 2025, which will be all about creating the next new economy and re-inventing our social and political institutions in this globalized world.

The Journey

We all must pass through this rugged transition zone, adapting courageously and creatively to the comprehensive economic and social structural shifts under way, or perish by the wayside. Transitions are always painful, and escape is only an illusion.

These challenges are not centered on the ebb and flow of the business cycle or the stock market. This is not to say these factors will not be part of the journey, but focusing on them at the expense of understanding and responding to the larger forces at play will not lead to a good long-term outcome. They demand the application of the 8 Principles of Leadership to needed to Exit the Badlands.

By using the data and insights in this series of articles to reach a deeper understanding of the powerful forces that even now are transforming the entire context of business, you will gain the opportunity to control your future, rather than be controlled by it.

Our new global context demands that we innovate to create and grow tomorrow’s industries and organizations. It further demands that we build new social institutions, such as a better health care system, and global organizations that can support our shared human goals, since business cannot thrive without a vibrant society and society cannot change if the economy is anemic.

Our dream should be the creation of a vibrant, equitable and fully integrated global society underpinned by robust, worldwide economic growth. To realize this dream we need better, different kinds of leaders and organizations that will match the needs we will face in the new global reality. Today we have a mismatch.

The decisions we make during this transition period will shape the new era. At the end of this process our very sense of identity will break apart, opening the way for the emergence of a new sense of self, appropriate to the new context.

As we confront the unavoidable need for individual and organizational metamorphosis, we must release patterns, mind-sets and behaviors that have no place in the Badlands and beyond. Putting an end to what no longer works is the first phase of any transition, and it is sure to be painful. But with each release we take a step forward, preparing ourselves for the confusing middle phase of this transition where, perhaps for years, nothing will feel solid or provide much continuity.

This is the second phase of all major transitions, in which we thrash about until we learn enough to begin anew. In this middle phase we must make huge social choices and experience their results, learning from our successes and failures. Then we must push on and make more choices. It is through making trade-offs in this environment of prolonged uncertainty and ambiguity that we will construct the new beginnings that lead to the third phase of the transition and the foundation of the next era. This will be an ongoing process of successive approximation.

It will take time and it will take guts.

A Guide to Navigating Out of the Badlands: 2015 to 2025

Over the next several weeks I will continue to share my insights, actions and tools to make this a successful journey as a leader and an organization. I am an optimist, and I believe passionately that we can build a great future that includes all of us—but not without making radical changes to how we work and live, focusing consciously and continually on doing the right thing globally.

We have the resources, both human and material, to do this, but there is no external force or agent that guarantees we will succeed. Participation is not optional. The new environment, with its continual supply of disruptions, will force us to make new choices. To accomplish our mission of shaping the next era, each of us needs to undertake a hero’s journey in quest of a new way of life, embracing the uncertainties along the way and endowing with courage the diverse peoples of our global world. Throughout history the hero’s journey has always been painful; this one will be no different. Luckily we can learn the leadership insights and lessons from the pioneers already beyond the Badlands.

Are you ready to lead the journey of a lifetime?

Upcoming Articles:

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Leadership Insights and Lessons from Pioneers Beyond the Badlands

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8 Principles of Leadership to Exit the Badlands

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Mary O'Hara-Devereaux

Mary O'Hara-Devereaux

Mary O’Hara-Devereaux, Ph.D, Founder and CEO of Global Foresight, is one of the world’s leading futurists, business forecasters and long term strategy advisors. She has over 25 years of global experience providing Blue Chip clients, Fortune 500 executives, senior policy makers and not for profits with reliable customized forecasts that deliver targets no one else can see. Mary is a leading expert in future trends, global business, the future of work, and the future of China and emerging markets.
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