The beauty of working in a startup (and something that I’m grateful for everyday) is the opportunity to constantly think about the future.
Every startup has a lofty vision for how the future will unfold and how to change the world for the better.
It’s that unwavering belief in the future that motivates people like you and me to join.
At startups, we’re solving hard problems that no other company has cracked yet. And every day, we set off into the unknown with only our vision of the future as our guiding compass.
Moreover, we need on top of every innovation for each of our respective industries, as well as every trend and macro-event.
We need know everything that can materially change or accelerate our vision of the future.
However, this unrelenting focus on the future can eventually fade away as our time is filled with rote day-to-day activities: attending Zoom calls, reading emails, and writing docs.
Compounded with my recent switch into Product from a more high-level, strategic role (more on this in a future post), it’s sometimes hard to associate the mundane tasks — as well as the “non-mundane” but slow march of building more features — with the vision that excited me in the first place.
In response to this, I figured I would start a blog series called “The Crazy Future” — as a way to dedicate a few hours of week to thinking about the future and the absurd inventions that I’ll potentially see in my life time.
I’ll start with what I know — payments, fintech, and blockchain — and eventually move onto my thoughts on the future of retail, real estate, healthcare, etc.
As a TLDR (although I highly encourage you to read the whole post), the main theme of Backcasting is that absolutely game-changing ideas come from visionaries who have a clear picture of the future and work to make it a reality.
“The significant problems cannot be solved by the same thinking that created them.” — Einstein
By predicting the future by using data points from the present, we make incremental improvements to existing solutions. We assume that today’s problems are the problems of future.
Instead, we should put a stake on the ground of what the future will be and work backwards until present day.
Backcasting has four steps: step 0, 1, 2, and 3.
Step 0: A mindset shift towards Backcasting from the future.
“Getting out of the present and standing in the future is the first key to finding a breakthrough.“ — Mike Maples Jr.
Step 1: Identify inflection points that can materially change the course of humanity. These can be single events with long lasting ramifications (e.g., Covid) or macro-trends that have been slowly building up and are due to explode (e.g., smartphone adoption in the early 2010s).
Step 2: Articulate the potential futures that will arise from the inflection points.
This is where the fun thinking comes in, and where I will focus the majority of my blog series.
Mike advocates for a “Plausible,” “Possible,” and “Preposterous” framework — coming up with three potential futures that increase in absurdity and unlikelihood.
In the “Plausible” future, I’ll share my thoughts on a relatively reasonable outcome from certain inflection points.
In the “Possible” future, I’ll get more creative on how the world will unfold.
In the “Preposterous” future, I’ll become a full-on sci-fi writer. This is where I get the chance to put on my Elon Musk hat on and spout crackpot theories and hope they land.
Step 3: Gather breakthrough insights
This is the phase of loose validation of my futures. I’ll speak to SMEs on the assumptions and likelihoods of my futures, as well as the unforeseen implications of them.
I won’t focus my series too much on this step of Backcasting, although I may do a follow-up on 1–2 posts if I feel like they’re especially interesting.
I won’t be doing a “Crazy Future” post every week. I still want to dedicate time to breaking down product that I love (and hate), and reflect on some major events in the fintech and crypto spaces.
Thank you to absolutely every single person who takes the time to read my posts. It means so much that you’ve joined me on this journey of writing in prose (vs. my bullet-point-riddled slides). I should do an appreciation post soon :)
Stay tuned, and I hope you enjoy!