Future Quotient – Loving Future Generations

The following post was first published by At Etmanski on his blog on November 1st, 2011.

200 Japanese pensioners volunteered to begin the cleanup of the Fukushima power plant earlier this year. The self-proclaimed ‘Skilled Veterans Corp,’ asserted that they, not younger people, should risk radiation because, “they are more likely to die of natural causes before the cancers take hold.”

This example jumped out as a loving illustration of future thinking in, Future Quotient, a report just released by Volans a leading UK consultancy, think tank and innovation lab and JWT. Authored by John Elkington, Alastair Morton and Charmian Love (a talented young Canadian many of us hope to some day lure back to Canada), Future Quotient is designed to stimulate thinking in advance of of the 2012’s UN Summit on Sustainable Development in Rio.

The report’s implications are broader.
It offers a thoughtful analysis for those wanting to ensure our current interest in social innovation doesn’t just rearrange the chairs on the Titanic but instead helps correct its course. Or for those wanting to improve the legacy we are leaving to our future generations.

Here is their juxtaposition of present versus future thinking.

Present Thinking: A team or organisation dominated by present thinking will tend to evolve a cultural time frame that is near-term. They will focus on current trends driving the present towards a predetermined or desired goal. They will be highly organised, with changes in plans seen as disruptions to continuity, the end game of present thinkers. The future is not something to be explored and exploited; it is something to be navigated. Present thinkers try to get the job done, on time and on budget.

Future Thinking: A team or organization weighted towards future thinking focuses on what’s next. They move towards areas of chaos and uncertainty where new ideas and possibilities emerge, the end game of future thinkers. Quick to change course and adapt. Highly tolerant to risk and ambiguity a future-thinking team will engage in speculation and be driven by challenges. They will pursue possibility, often with little more that their intutition to guide them.

Future Quotient includes a survey of over 4000 Volans clients (business, government, community) assessing their ability to think and act with long term horizons in mind. The consensus – thinking and acting long-term will be increasingly important.

However the overwhelming majority of respondents felt our ability to think long-term—let alone intergenerationally—is weakening. With very few exceptions, leaders, decision-makers and policy-makers are not yet thinking and acting for the longer term. Indeed, stressed by the protracted downturn, too often they are hunkering down, lowering their ambitions and shrinking their timescales.

Rather than simply diagnose the report also inspires.

So do we trust to luck and allow a new economy to emerge wherever it chooses to do so, or do we seize the opportunity to create and shape the new order? In The Future Quotient we choose the second option. Now, more than ever, it is time for businesses and their brands, governments and civil society organizations to test and build their capacity to meet the needs of both present and future generations.

It offers 50 examples of individuals or initiatives who have a high future quotient and are invested in serious long term innovation. They include initiatives like the Clock of the Long Now (a clock buried deep in a Texas mountain and designed to run for 10,000 years. It is meant to shift our relationship with time from chronos to kairos); individuals like James Lovelock originator of the Gaia Theory (the earth as a whole is a self regulating system)) and political movements like the Arab Spring (liberating new energies that could be devoted to democracy and sustainability.)

They challenge. For example, in a section entitled Green the Greys they suggest: “Older people, in addition to being politically active and more conservative, also tend to have their pensions invested in incumbent, older order industries and companies.”

They educate – offering a guide to expanding your future quotient.

And they take hope from political leaders like Ontario Premier Dalton McGinty: The responsibility of leadership is to represent the future to the present.

For anyone interested in playing long this report offers practical first steps. A journey that can only begin with love.


Click here for a recent SIG sponsored webinar with Charmian Love co-author of Future Quotient and Toronto based Tony Pigott CEO of JWT and key contributor to the report. It’s available for download or playback.

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About Al Etmanski

Al Etmanski is a community organizer, social entrepreneur and author. He is an Ashoka fellow and a faculty member of John McKnight’s Asset-Based Community Development Institute. He is founding partner of Social Innovation Generation (SiG) and BC Partners for Social Impact and co-founder of Planned Lifetime Advocacy Network (PLAN). He blogs at www.aletmanski.com. His new book, Impact-Six Patterns to Spread Your Social Innovation is already a Canadian best seller.


  1. As concerning the Word of life, Luke 10 section 25-28 says: On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” He answered: ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.”
    Luke 18 section 18-25 says: A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'” “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said. When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth. Jesus looked at him and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! Indeed, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
    Matthew 5 section 43-48 says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
    In Old Testament, the Jewish people and their ancestors were given the Law to observe. First, What Adam and Eve should observe was that they could not eat the fruits from the tree of wisdom. Then, their son Cain was told that he should not kill. As sins became increased, the laws were also added more. Up to the generation of Moses, the Law in Old Testament was given to Israelites. We know that the Law is good and the Law is used to punish people who commit sins, but people cannot obey the Law because the sinful spirits are in people. Even that we know stealing and giving false testimony are sinful, but greedy and pride spirits in us drive us to do sinful things. So as Old Testament prophesied we need to get rid of our sinful nature from our spirits.
    Jeremiah 31 section 31-33 says: “The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
    Ezekiel 36 section 24-27 says: “‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws.
    The prophecies are fulfilled when Jesus begins to teach love. The two greatest commandments are ” ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.'” Love is above the Law and if people have love they are free from the law of sin and death. People who are full of love will not think about stealing or giving false testimony but are merciful and they feed hungry people or give thirsty people something to drink or invite strangers in or clothe people who need clothes. The Law is for people who commit sins. Nobody will say that he will get reward because he does not steal before. But love is the grace we get. And with love we will get eternal life.
    Romans 13 section 8-10 says: Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
    Luke 17 section 20-21 says: Once, having been asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus replied, “The kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say,’ Here it is,’ or ‘ There it is,’ because the kingdom of God is within you.”
    John 4 section 23-24 says: Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”

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