Back to the Future: how future-proof is your business?


Everybody from the 80s or 90s remembers the cult movies Back to the Future I, II and III, starring Michael J. Fox. Back to the Future II predicted that in 2015 we would drive flying cars on bio-fuel, we would have Nike’s with self-tying laces, we would be skateboarding on hover boards, be eating inflatable mini pizza’s and we all would be video-calling. Now having arrived in 2015, not all has come true, but it’s not a bad score overall!

Hollywood has a large history in predicting future scenario’s and has produced, next to the Back to the Future series, many other big sci-fi hits. Thinking about the future is fun and gets many people excited. Getting frightened by the apocalypse that is waiting for us or even fall in love with our operating system, like in the movie Her. 

Where does your company stand in the next 20 years?

Apart from some strikingly realistic scenario’s in the movie Her, often directors couldn’t be more wrong. Predicting the future is generally very hard. And in the end, we only can try to estimate as best as we can what is going to happen. The same thing applies for the far future scenarios of your company, over let’s say the next 10 to 20 years. It  seems impossible to get it right , but so important to make the attempt. Nobody wants to be the next Kodak in the way that they missed out on the digitalization of photography.

Although it’s totally fair that most organisations have mission statements and business strategies that reflect the next 3 to 5 years, it’s very wise to start dreaming and philosophizing about where the world will be 15 years from now. To think about questions like:

  • What if smart household robots run around in every household?
  • What if consumers don’t go to the store anymore, but all 3D print their products at home?
  • What happens if the circular economy or the sharing economy really lifts-off?
  • What does it mean if 40% of the world lives in big cities?
  • What if all energy supply will be derived from renewable energy sources?

Actually these are all examples of technological, sociological and sustainable developments that are quite likely to influence organizations enormously.

‘You’re not thinking fourth dimensionally’

Shouldn’t all managers and CEO’s think like Hollywood directors once in a while? To try to find the the fourth dimension in their business, to quote Doc. Emmett Brown from Back to the Future. The dimension that takes their business to the next level. And makes them not only able to the predict the future but also makes them more adaptive and able to determine their impact on society and the world. Sometimes that what seems most absurd, can be the start of a fertile and new direction for your company.

Sensing and understanding global developments and future changes on macro-level, are part of making business future-proof. Although not directly, it will always hit you in the long-term, as the world we live in today in totally interconnected. It’s not the strongest that will win, it are those who are most adaptive.

So be aware, before you know it the future stands on your doorstep!