Published on: January 4, 2010by Kevin Coupe
The beginning of a new year, or a new decade for that matter, seems like a good time to contemplate the future. To set goals, and to consider what is possible in terms of both personal and professional development.
The future, however, can be a tricky subject about which to prognosticate.
Take, for example, the movie 2010, which was released in 1984 as a much-anticipated sequel to the legendary 2001: A Space Odyssey. 2010 wasn’t an enormous success, owing in part to the fact that is was a sequel to one of the iconic science fiction movies of all time that was directed by Peter Hyams instead of Stanley Kubrick; the film 2010 also had a more literal narrative than the original film, looking to answer the seemingly unanswerable questions posed by the Kubrick film that was by turns metaphorical and allegorical.
(To be fair, novelist Arthur C. Clarke, who wrote the original novels “2001”and “2010,” was involved with both productions. But that didn’t stop the two movies from appearing not just to have had different parentage, but have been produced on different planets.)
Sure, they had to look a quarter century into the future, so there was no reason for the folks behind 2010 to guess that the Houston Astrodome would no longer be the home of the Houston Astros, as is mentioned in one aside by an astronaut played by John Lithgow.
But it is interesting to note that in the film’s view of the year 2010, mankind is embarking on a second manned space flight to Jupiter. Not only have we largely stopped reaching out to other planets, but our version of a space station is a lot more modest than the one envisioned by the screenwriters. One could argue that the filmmakers had too much imagination, or that humanity has too little; either way, they got it wrong.
While 2010 correctly guessed that the world would be facing enormous political pressures and international crises, the film believed that they would be between the US and Russia and focused in Central America; terrorism isn’t mentioned, radical Islam isn’t a plot point, and an old fashioned naval blockade seems to be the military tactic of choice. (Oh, for the good old days!)
One correct prediction by the film was the ubiquity of laptop computers. I vividly remember, when I saw the film’s original release, being jazzed by the depiction of Roy Scheider’s character as sitting on a beach working on a Mac laptop; they may have gotten the shape of the laptop wrong (and used the old multicolored Apple logo), but the essence of the projection was right on. (They didn’t get the sophistication of operating systems and graphics right, however - all the computers in the film have clunky interfaces that are about as modern as an Atari Pong game.)
So, what do we learn from this dissection of a 26-year-old movie?
For one thing, nobody knows - really knows - anything. Even the very best predictions by the most esteemed futurists are, at their core, guesses. Informed guesses, perhaps. Lucky guesses, sometimes. But guesses nonetheless.
But it doesn’t matter. You have to prepare for what can happen, not what you think might happen. “Readiness is all,” as Shakespeare wrote in “Hamlet.”
The coming year will be replete with enormous challenges. Retailers and manufacturers will be working to gauge the speed and extent to which the economy will recover from the free fall of just 14 months ago. This will impact not just the kinds of products and services that they offer, but their inventory levels and the extent to which they invest in people, in training, in infrastructure and innovation.
It is likely that during the next 12 months, some companies will change ownership, some executives will change companies or be dismissed outright, and some brands (both national and private) will surge while others will fade. There will be persistent food safety challenges, and the possibility that consumer confidence in the integrity of the food supply will continue to erode, a little bit at a time. It is even possible that some new competitor will come on the scene with a game-changing innovation that catches everybody by surprise...everybody, that is, but the consumers who have been yearning for such an innovation without even realizing it.
You have to prepare for what can happen, not what you think might happen.
Some of it we will get right. Some of it we will get wrong. There will be times that the strategies will be right and the tactics will be wrong, and other times when people and companies will confuse strategic and tactical thinking, and then wonder why progress is elusive.
But the most important thing, it seems to me, is to continue to focus on innovation, to not be afraid of making mistakes, to not be timid. We all know who the industry innovators are, and who they have been for the past years and decades...but for the industry to continue to be successful - to be relevant - that list must grow.
In 2010, we have to strike the word “conventional” from our vocabularies. We cannot just be reactive, but have to find ways to peer around the corner and see what may and could happen.
2010 imagined a man using a laptop computer on a beach, and it ended up being just a a fraction of the actual progress made by the actual 2010.
That is some of what I thought about while watching a 26-year-old movie. The challenge is this - to look not 26 years into the future, but two years, six years, 12 years...and to use our imaginations as much as our calculators.
”Content Guy” Kevin Coupe is the co-author, with Michael Sansolo, of the new book, “THE BIG PICTURE: Essential Business Lessons From The Movies,” available by clicking here .
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