CRAFTing the Future – The Cone of Possibilities

In times of increasing change and complexity, it can be difficult to envision the futures with any certainty.

Adaptability is a key success factor for any leader and organisation today. But the true is that adapting to change is no longer enough for a leader. It is essential but not enough. You need to lead the change and you need to create the future. If you are adapting, you are only following and you are already behind.

You always need to look ahead by considering different possibilities and scenarios. You need to be sharp about what are the trends and anticipate change in order to have plans in place. You need to think and see ahead like a Futurist.

Futurists use a framework to help them to think about all the possibilities called the Cone of Possibilities.

When you look through the cone/funnel you can see all kind of possibilities. You are at the left end where today is marked. And you are looking into the funnel to see the future. There is a time horizon which determines how far you are able to see. The shorter the time horizon the more predictable things usually are. Further on as the time horizon expands the number of possibilities and scenarios starts increasing.

There are several types of possibilities you need to consider:

  1. All possible futures: full range of events that could unfold
  2. Plausible futures: a set of possible but not likely scenarios
  3. Probable futures: possibilities most likely to happen
  4. Preferred futures: what you want to happen

You and your leadership team can do an exercise of coming up with several possibilities and scenarios in each of these categories. You might find that the future might be a combination of various possibilities you anticipate.

These possibilities rather subjective depends on many factors like….

  • your ability to identify patterns (Pattern-recognition skills for leaders),
  • how knowledgeable you are about the global and industry trends,
  • the ongoing geopolitical events, and any other macro forces
  • spending time for scanning for signals that might give you a clue into what the future might bring.

Therefore, you have to be very connected to all your key stakeholders both internal and external and all available resources in order to stay sharp.

You as a leader should always work on minimizing being surprised by what might future might bring. The point is to get to think in respect of all possibilities and scenarios instead of focusing on a single possibility and scenario which is what most leaders today are more comfortable with according to the research carried out by Jacob Morgan.

Instead of asking ‘What is the future of work?’ you should ask yourself ‘What kind of future do you want to build and how are you going to build it?’

As Abraham Lincoln put it: “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” And that is what the C stands for in CRAFT Leadership. You learn how to create the future for yourself and for your organisation.

Questions to consider:

  • What are all the scenarios and possibilities?
  • Why might each of the scenarios/possibilities happen or not happen?
  • What else might happen?
  • What do I want to happen and how can I make it happen?
  • What factors might influence why this will or won’t happen?


Source: The Future Leader: 9 Skills and Mindsets to Succeed in the Next Decade by Jacob Morgan, How Leaders Dream Boldly to Bring New Futures to Life by Lisa Key Solomon

Go back...