Is future-proofing a magic trick?

I sometimes meet people at conferences and events who are frustrated in their job, but confident working life will soon be a lot easier . They talk about improvements that are coming, new IT systems or simpler processes that will eliminate many of their daily struggles. Work will be smoother, better, more fun. The business will be future-proofed, and they will reap the rewards for years to come.

I try to bite my lip at this moment. I once bit it so hard it bled.

I used to think like this too. At Microsoft, there was always something ‘coming soon’ that would solve all our troubles. A new customer data tool, a simplified invoicing procedure, maybe just a better version of PowerPoint… These fixes promised to eliminate time-consuming tasks, improve customer experiences, and make us more competitive for the long-term. The future was bright! We just had to dig in, reach this sunlit new horizon, and everything would be groovy.

But things rarely, if ever, got easier. Looking back, most of the time, life just got more complicated. The new IT system wasn’t all that, many colleagues actually preferred working the old way, and the new customer data was unreliable and confusing. And worse still, someone had just dreamt up a radical new way of working that we hadn’t anticipated. Our future-proofing wasn’t really fit for the future.

That’s why I have banned the phrase “future-proof” from my life. There’s no such thing. It’s a lie, a myth, a clever sleight of hand intended to distract us from the reality that work will always be, well, hard work. You cannot future-proof anything. I explain more in the video below:

Transcript of video:

ALLISTER FROST: I don’t believe there’s any such thing as futureproofing. Nothing can be future-proofed. Future-proof is a lie, spread primarily by the technology industry, to make us believe that something we acquire or implement today will remain useful long into the future. It’s absurd!

But futureproofing is such a seductive concept, all kinds of industries have adopted it. We can now future-proof our homes, we invest to future-proof our businesses, and, my personal favourite, you can even get a future-proofed ironing board. It costs just under £4k and is on sale in Harrods in London.

But nothing has ever been future-proofed. To create that, we’d need magical powers to help us anticipate the changes that we’re proofing against.

So, if someone dares to offer you a future-proof solution, I suggest you ask them to describe accurately the future they are proofing against. Their promise will collapse as quickly as their smile.

That’s why you’re more likely to hear me talking about developing a Future Ready Mindset, so you learn continuously through life and adapt quickly as the future reveals itself.

You don’t need anything that claims to be future-proofed, you need a Future Ready Mindset. Give me a shout if you’d like to know more.