Earlier this week, I watched an excerpt of a conference in which a number of well-known speakers were talking about the accelerating rate of change today, fueled by compounding developments in technology and science. At one point, the keynote speaker talked metaphorically about a fork in the road between “What If?” and “If Only” – the difference between embracing change and our opportunity to develop big ideas, versus putting our heads in the sand like ostriches, and then regretting we didn’t jump at these opportunities when they were first emerging. This really stuck with me, and I quickly mapped it on a Post-it note as a simple, right-facing visual map, with the two paths converging.
As I thought about these two paths over the next several days, it occurred to me that “What If?” is the path of bold exploration, of considering a wealth of futures and possibilities. It is the path of creativity, of dreaming up the Big Ideas that will help bring about a better future for ourselves and others.
The other path, “If Only,” is one of regrets, of possibilities never explored out of fear or simple inertia. It’s the path of opportunities overlooked and chances not taken. It is the way of the risk averse, of the person who has tremendous gifts and ideas, but habitually fails to utilize them – or lacks the drive and discipline needed to bring them to fruition.
Finally, I got to thinking this morning about the role of mind mapping software in this process. Among other things, it is a powerful tool for thinking about the future – for exploring what ifs and possibilities. You can use it to lay out potential future scenarios and map out their likely implications, such as:
- What if we had access to 100 times as much information as we do today?
- What if energy was so abundant, it was essentially free? What would that mean to our business?
- What if our supply chain could instantly react to changes in component availability, shipping delays and other factors beyond our control?
What is YOUR tool for thinking about the future of your career and your organization? Do you have one? I know what mine is!