You’ll read endless stories out there about the traits needed to be successful in business. They’ll talk about grit and intelligence. They’ll cite passion and perseverance. These are all important traits and they’re useful to to be successful between 9 and 5. They’re also handy for the other 16 hours of the day. But there’s a skill that stands out for me that’s talked about less in the context of being successful – and that’s foresight.
It’s always better in business to be right than smart. Smart people can be wrong a lot. –Jeff Bezos (via CNBC)
It’s an intangible skill; incredibly valuable for two intertwined reasons. Foresight is the ability to think through the variety of scenarios that emerge as the result of decision making and accurately predict the outcome of those scenarios. So yea, basically someone who can predict the future and be right more often than not. Sounds hard, but for people with foresight, the future isn’t that cloudy because they’ve been thoughtful about each path and deliberately chosen one based on the prediction that this path leads to a better outcome than the others.
The first (and second) reason foresight is valuable is because reduces resources spent on paths that lead to suboptimal results while simultaneously forcing those same resources down better routes. Great chess players are examples of foresight in action: they look at all the possible scenarios a move on the board could generate and determine if that move is the right one at that time.
How can you spot someone with foresight? In a word, questions. See what kinds of questions arise when your team comes to a decision point. Do you have someone on your team who seems to begin scenario planning right away as if to try to get others to join him or her on their vision quest? You’ve probably got someone with foresight. Harness it, nurture it, and develop it, because if they can predict the future, what else really matters?!