Abraham Lincoln said that the best way to predict the future is to create it. Usually we associate it with forcing one’s way into the desired future, and attribute it to great leaders, mighty influencers or restless rebels. But what is the easiest way to do so? Creating it in you imagination. You can start it right now, effortlessly, costlessly and - what is most important - limitlessly. The only thing which may limit you is - ironically - your imagination. Ok, you may ask - but what is the practical use of something which happens just in my imagination (especially in business realm)? Good question. And here is a story.
In the early 70’s the world economy was wobbled by an Oil Embargo imposed by OPEC countries, which resulted in soaring crude oil prices and a dramatic shortage of stock, all main players in oil industry shook in their foundations. All but Royal Dutch/Shell. Whilst this was a sizeable problem for its competitors, for Shell it became an unusual opportunity for further development and they thrived in the panicked market. How come? Was Shell more mighty than other players? Had more resources? Did better deals in advance? No. So what was the difference then? The imagination - its practical application.
As far back as early 60’s Shell has introduced the programme of creating different scenarios for the future. Not planning nor forecasting nor making choices – simply fantasising about various turns of events. Just fantasising. They had created a special team (which is still operating) and ‘what-iffing’ became a part of their culture. And from the very beginning the priority was given to challenging the common, indisputable assumption on the limitlessness of oil resources, thus its supply. And very quickly that was proven to be a salutary step.
When the Oil Crisis erupted in 1973 they were simply prepared for the turn of events, which shocked other players of petroleum industry. Shell executives were mentally prepared for the worst many years before the problem occurred, just because they had already ‘experienced it’... in imagination. Their programme of scenarios was – as they called it – ‘methodical fantasising’, and from the very beginning has had its place in the corporate structure. Thanks to that they exactly knew what to do to minimise the effect of crisis and capitalise on emerging opportunities in other sectors of energy industry. The world rattled but not Shell. Now that is proactivity. They treated it as unlimited field for making use of intuition and for sketching possible strategies instead of making deep analysis.
It doesn’t matter if we deal with global problems or daily issues, if we think of decades or following month – we should find a space for ‘methodical fantasising’ among our day-to-day routines. It doesn’t require special places, special people, special divisions. You can start right now – in your imagination. So, what are the absolute axioms in your domain?
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