We routinely make numerous decisions based on information about the future. We check the weather and traffic forecasts; read predictions on what the stock markets will do next, and plan for our long-term retirement.
The importance of how we think about the future cannot be understated. The cost of following perilous pathways, or the opportunity cost of not investing in prosperous pathways, can be great. Think of how valuable it would be to know what will happen next, at least with greater certainty. The challenge is to cultivate our ‘future intelligence’ to enable us to peer further into the future? One option is to predict the future by examining and extrapolating historical trends. However, in today’s world, the key challenge is knowing how to anticipate disruptive developments, such as the rapid adoption of automation or the move from traditional bricks and mortar retail to online shopping.
The benefits of future thinking lays in how it alters our perceptions about how certain decisions may play out. It prompts us to move out of our usual thought processes. Bringing collective intelligence and a future thinking perspective helps inform better decision-making in a very real way.
The Town of Hilton Head Island, with support from Future iQ, is undertaking a community based visioning process. This project is called ‘Hilton Head Island – Our Future’. The big challenge in this process is to envisage what the future of Hilton Head Island could look like, and to prepare for the future opportunities and consequences. We cannot know with certainty what will happen, but we can explore future pathways. We can gather the collective intelligence of diverse perspectives to help each other better understand our shared future. ‘Hilton Head Island – Our Future’ will involve a high level of stakeholder engagement and input. Participatory scenario-building activities have also been built into the process. These scenarios will offer some unique views of the future of the Island, and will build on previous studies on the future of Hilton Head Island. The goal is to identify plausible future pathways for Hilton Head Island and to clarify preferred futures, while highlighting potential pathways to perilous futures.
As we look out to the next ten or twenty years, there are some key issues facing Hilton Head Island. An aging population and loss of young adult generations from the island are factors which impact the workforce, transportation and housing on the island. Attracting new people to Hilton Head Island to ensure that it retains its status as a world-class destination is important. How do we balance this with managing increased traffic congestion from extra visitors and maintaining the character of the Island? As people are tending to shop online rather than visit local shops, what will this mean for the retail outlets on the Island and for tourism? With severe weather patterns, how will Hilton Head Island ensure that it is protected and a place which is attractive to new residents and visitors?
The ‘Hilton Head Island – Our Future’ vision and planning process aims to explore these types of major future-shaping issues. The process, running through 2017, will include a Think-Tank workshop, detailed stakeholder surveys and interviews, focus group sessions and consistent online updates with the ‘Hilton Head Island – Our Future’ web portal and associated Social Media pages.