Saturday, April 26, 2008

Getting There Early to FutureThink

Seems all I've been doing lately is exploring future trends and what that means for the Episcopal Church specifically and my life generally.

During that ill-fated, luggage-losing trip to St. Louis in February, I sat through a two-part workshop presented by the Palo Alto think-tank, Institute For The Future. (Sounds kinda scary, doesn't it?) IFTF had been called in to study the Church and how we might address stuff now by knowing what's on the horizon. The group developed a road map for the future kind-of-thing based on Bob Johansen's book, Get There Early. Most of the trends, called "dilemmas" in the book, aren't surprising (personal technology, health care, young vs. old) but how those trends might play out - lots of very interesting scenarios - are surprising, or at least, surprising enough to make me think, "Hmmmm." It's all about change and being aware of these dilemmas, even if we're not sure of how to address them.

I spent most of Thursday in a seminar presented by Edie Weiner, co-author of a book called FutureThink. Again, we looked at trends for the future in different ways. One of my favorite Weiner concepts is that of "educated incapacity," which I run up against (and am guilty of) all the time. Sometimes you know so much about something, have so much experience, that you can't get outside of that to see what's on the horizon and how things are changing. It's about looking at things through the eyes of an alien from Mars. (Gin would help, I think!)

The new life-span metric is a major theme in both books. One lesson I came away with was, hey, it's no biggie if your kid doesn't graduate college at 22. Said kid will live to 90-100+. Plenty of time to pick up that sheepskin later on. Shoot, as long as the kid moves out of the house by the time they're 22, he/she can spend a decade (or two) being a ski instructor or tramping through Europe. (Again, as long as I'm not paying for it . . . )

And it is true - we are not the same 50-year-olds our grandparents were. We are healthier. We have our own teeth. (Thanks, Crest.) We aren't thinking of retirement as a rocking chair and a porch, though that sounds mighty nice, some days. Either we can't retire for financial reasons, or we use retirement to launch yet another career. Since we're all in the middle of it, it's hard to see all the ways this extended life-span thing impacts the old ways of doing things.

Anyway, as thought-provoking as all this future-change-prepare stuff is, it doesn't go anywhere if we aren't given a forum to discuss, research, dream about what's happening and how we creatively address our dilemmas on a regular basis. We need to flesh it out constantly to stay on top of things. It doesn't sound very churchy, does it? (Only because I'm not couching it in churchy terms - but I can if you want me to.) So, we'll see if our powers-that-be institute a way of fleshing this out, or if we just move on and continue down the road stuck in our old routines.

As for me, I see lunch in my immediate future. Beyond that, well, I do not know.


Elsie said...

"We are not the same 50-year-olds our grandparents were." You said it, Mary. I have a framed photo of my late grandma sitting on a table. Recently we realized that she was just 50 in the photo, but she looks elderly! My mom said, "that's what 50 looked like back then." You're right -- I thank Crest daily now, along with my hairstylist (remember "only my hairdresser knows for sure"?). As bad as things sometimes seem in this day and age, we're really quite lucky, aren't we?

As for the future and what it means for the Episcopal Church, I can't wait to find out!

Garth said...

The future of the Episcopal Church is in the Steampunk movement! Your Bishops will look awesome dressed in H.G. Wells top hats and aviator glasses. Trust me on this one.