Insight and Foresight
Developing your insight and foresight can make a significant impact on the creation and sustainability of your startup. Collective and individual change is necessary if we are to make progress–the idea that the world can become increasingly better in terms of science, technology, modernization, liberty, democracy, and quality of life.
We have to examine the causes and conditions of how we got to where we are if we want to go from the dark of not knowing into the light of awareness. Then we have to climb the steep staircase of change.
We live in a world where “our economic system institutionalizes greed, our militarism is institutionalized ill will, while the media institutionalize delusion,” says Dr David Loy of Xavier University in Cincinnati.
Even if you do not fully subscribe to this view of our Western industrial world, how do you suppose these tendencies come about?
In any culture norms arise from the repetition of statements and behaviors over time. Those who challenge these norms are often called social activists, since they seem to threaten the order of our society. Those who want to overthrow the system are called revolutionaries. Changing the norms is very difficult as we all know.
This pattern is no different at the individual level. We repeat and act on the stories we tell ourselves over and over, until they become habits. Changing personal habits is notoriously difficult, in the same way as changing the way society goes about its business.
However, we can develop our insight and discover our ability to have foresight. And as entrepreneurs these kinds of seeing are vital to our success. Otherwise we will go on repeating our mistakes and never make a breakthrough.
We have to maintain our awareness of what is going on inside of ourselves. This metacognition is knowing about knowing, being aware of what it is we are thinking about and how we are feeling.
Insight, inner knowing, or intuition is something that you can develop. Not only can you develop it, you can increase your confidence in it.
Our brains are very strongly influenced by our culture and language and we often talk about things being “second nature”. What we really mean by this is that our perception of the way things are has been ingrained from an early age.
Our minds like to know where they ‘stand’. It makes both deductive and holistic thinking operate more smoothly. However what we have to learn is to step outside our self-taught stories and be able to see things from the angles of others as well as our own.
In addition, insight and foresight depend upon ‘going inside’ and use all our faculties including picking up on our felt senses. The way to work on this is to observe those situations when we ‘just knew’ something that was borne out in practice. It will be almost like keeping a mental log of events and results of things on which we have had insights. We need to move from states to traits. Once we have recognized a good state of mind, we need to reinforce it to the point that it becomes a trait. Practice makes perfect we were always told when young.
One good way of doing this is through insight meditation. Friends of mine, Patton Hyman (an attorney) and Michael Carroll run Applied Mindfulness Training, which organizes in-house and public training on how qualities cultivated in meditation carry over into everyday and working life. Another place you might profitably visit is the website of Victor Rosansky, a long time colleague of mine, who applies the latest brain science to the art of entrepreneurship.
“Foresight involves extracting the theme from a series of events before they completely unfold, and it is a great advantage in life,” says Norman Doidge, author of The Brain That Changes Itself: Stories of Personal Triumph from the Frontiers of Brain Science.
He adds, “The person with foresight doesn’t have to experience the entire series of events to know what is likely coming.” In other words, the person can make a good forecast with the evidence available being incomplete. This seems to fly in the face of conventional management wisdom and the call for hard data.
The game-changing entrepreneur, however is almost always going to have to act without perfect data–hence the importance of insight and foresight. Waiting until all the evidence is in, will almost certainly mean missing the boat. It may be a matter of connecting the dots, but more than that, you can discover your ability to have foresight, not by studying it in books, but by
- Analyzing the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) of potential decisions.
- Environmental scanning, or keeping our eyes open and maintaining mindfulness.
- Debating issues in groups, to refine appreciation of intelligence gathering.
- Networking with those who share our own convictions, and with others who do not.
- Using many tools, techniques and methodologies to consider possible futures.
It is a matter of zoning in on those things which are not immediately apparent. To some extent it means applying beginner’s mind to whatever it is that you are considering. But don’t hesitate to use tools to help you. Brainstorming is the most likely candidate, but be sure to follow the rules set out here. Another one worth trying is the Fishbone Technique.
When you have applied a cross-sight approach, don’t stay so focussed on that detail that the big picture you identified through insight and foresight, that they are ignored.
Here is something you can do to develop your Insight & Foresight: go to the 30-Second MBA, an ongoing video “curriculum” of really good advice from the trenches, directly from people who are making business happen.