Why “WTF?!” is possibly the most important question today
“WTF?!” This is probably one of the most important questions we ought to ask these days. No, it is not the obscene expression or question some people think of. WTF stands for “What’s the future?”
In a world in turmoil — climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, exponential digital change, other large-scale environmental damage and politically motivated violence (war, civil war, terrorism, weapons of mass destruction), extreme poverty, and rapid population growth — the WTF question is more pressing than ever. But how do we approach this question? Where do we start?
It is easy to expect others to come up with ideas. Whoever “others” means: politicians, scientists, managers, etc. But what about us? And what about you? What’s your answer to the WTF question? And what do you do about it?
Besides, what’s the timeframe of the future? A day, a year, two years, a decade?
So, when we ask the WTF question, where do we start?
I invite you to an experiment.
Let’s explore possible answers to the WTF question together. For this purpose, grab a piece of paper and write down the answers or ideas to the following set of questions:
Let’s make it personal
The first question is not the actual WTF question. This would be too general. Instead, let’s go back a step. Let’s start with, “what’s important to me? What matters most? And why?”
Next, “how and where do I want to work?”
Note that I haven’t added any time dimension to this question. In other words, you can interpret the question any way you like. For example, it could be, “how and where do I want to work today?” Or, “how and where do I want to work in the future?” Choose whatever future timeframe comes up to your mind. It could be today, tomorrow, a week from today or a month, years or decades. You choose.
Now, imagine you will have reached your vision of how and where you want to work, answer the following question, “what can I do today or say within the next couple of days that could bring me closer to my vision?”
Write down anything that pops up in your mind or that your heart or intuition tells you to.
From ‘me’ to ‘we’
Next, let’s widen our perspective and include our immediate environment and peers in exploring the future. The next set of questions revolve around the question, “what’s the future for us?” Or, “what’s our future?”
Again, take your piece of paper and write down your response to the question, “how and where do we want to work?”
Then, answer the next question: “What can or do we have to do today or say within the next couple of days that could bring us closer to this vision?”
Finally, “how does this relate to my personal aspirations? How can I and we bring the me and we together? Where does it overlap?”
The future of business
Last but not least, let’s look at work or business itself. Here are the questions:
- “How do we want our business to be like?”
- “What can I and we do within the next couple of weeks that is in our sphere of influence and that brings us closer this vision?”
- “How do both the vision of and actions for our future business relate to my personal aspirations and actions? How does it relate to the communal aspirations and actions? And how can I and we bring all three dimensions, i.e., personal, group, and business, closer together? Where does it overlap?”
In my book “Human Business” I am outlining how a future business that puts us humans into the center of all its practice looks like and how it can be designed. The business of human business is to generate value for and by people. As such it is significantly different from the traditional firm that focuses on itself and short-term profits. The good news is that human businesses already exist. Alas, if your own business you are working in is not human yet, why not help evolve it?
One more time: WTF?!
The future is too precious to leave it to some outside people, traditional managers, organizations or technology to define. The future is ours to shape and secure. Yes, it takes courage and stamina. Let’s start exploring ideas and answers to the simple questions, “what’s important to me? What’s important to us? How and where do we want to live and work in the future? And, what can we do today that brings us closer to our vision?”
What’s the future? It is us.
I want to thank my friend and role-model Marc Buckley for introducing me to the interpretation of the WTF question. At the of each of his interviews on his podcast Inside Ideas he asks his guests the WTF question. His guests come from a variety of backgrounds and the answers to the WTF vary alike. They all have in common that they are inspiring just as the whole Inside Ideas podcast and Marc. I highly recommend his podcast.