Predicting the future

“Anticipates change” almost sounds like code for predicting the future. That is a tough requirement to be innovative.  Leaders need to predict the future! If only the Magic 8 Ball ( really worked as a leadership tool.magic8ball

What does it mean to anticipate needed changes, to build capacity for the future, to be prepared and able to respond as new realities appear? The world of higher education is no longer predictable yet leaders are asked to see into the future to be successful. While we still do not have the ability to “see the future” (at least most of us), leaders do have a Magic 8 Ball at their disposal that can help them take action in the present to be successful in the future.

Michael Watkins, in The First 90 Days, Updated and Expanded: Proven Strategies for Getting Up to Speed Faster and Smarter (2013), describes a process of horizontal and vertical conversations for leaders in transition. Given the continuous changes occurring in higher education, leaders are now always in transition. Conducting these conversations  on a regular basis with a wide variety of stakeholders will help you expand your vision and be able to better identify, anticipate and prepare for the unpredictable future you and your team face. They are your Magic 8 Ball for innovative leadership!

Watkins provides great detail in his book but the process involves leaders proactively holding regular conversations with stakeholders from all areas of their institution, at the same leadership level, with more senior leaders, less senior leaders and all levels of front-line staff and faculty. The conversations are primarily listening events with questions focused on better understanding, from their perspective, what challenges, opportunities and issues they believe your institution is facing and why.

By actively seeking out and listening to a wide variety of stakeholders outside of your day-to-day colleagues, and assimilating what you hear, you can move from a “hazy” view of the future to a clear path to success!


Todd Thorsgaard


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