The world is changing so rapidly that much of the information we are given remains an abstraction. How many people is 9.5 billion? Oh, wait, now the number is 11 billion. This is the estimate of the world population in 2050. What does that mean, exactly? Probably a great deal, but the ideas are so abstract it is difficult to picture what it means. But for anyone considering starting a business today, or next year, consider that you will still be in business in 2050, and that number will matter a great deal to you and your business.
While it is hard to imagine 11 billion, or to form a picture of this number in our minds, we can form pictures of cities, and there is no question the people of the near-future will almost all live in cities. Cities we can picture. We have some experience with them; we all have ideas about their challenges and rewards. In thinking about your business, many people have a grand idea, and they work from the grand idea down to the details that will impact and influence how that idea is brought to life. It might be a good idea to think up from the grand idea, to place it firmly into the city of the future. This sort of thinking will require us to imagine the future- to imagine supply chains, transportation, methods of payment, energy use, and a number of other variables that could, from the beginning, impact how we will do businesses.
If there is one word to describe humans, it is variety. We all need socks, but when we think about socks, some of us will fantasize about the perfect long-lasting sock fiber, a mix of silk and nylon and maybe a touch of yak, or bison down; this person may be found standing in a field, studying a herd of bison and thinking about how to get some of that fiber. Another person, faced with the idea of socks, gets out the needles and silk and begins to knit a design of spiderweb delicacy and beauty. Another person imagines a drone, flying through the air, a pair of socks clutched in a mechanical claw. Another thinks of a way to use suit-buying behavior to design a sock subscription service that automatically matches socks needed to suits purchased, and even gives a yearly pair of athletic socks, though Sunday afternoons are most often spent taking naps rather than playing ball in the park. Another person designs a hybrid sock-shoe; another a sock with an exoskeleton for fitting prosthetic feet. Someone designs a 3-D knitting printer, with franchise capabilities, so people can walk down the street, stick their foot into a booth, and have a perfectly fitting sock knitted for them at once. One sock at a time, because only one gets that first hole in the toe, right? The only thing we can know without a doubt is that sock-people somewhere are thinking about socks. Imagining the future.
And when we imagine that unique idea, we need to find our tribe. There are a multitude of handspinners across the world who are experimenting with a precious supply of bison down at this very moment, plucked from barbed-wire fences in the American West, spinning and plying to make the magical fiber that will never wear out and will also smell fresh as a daisy when you take your shoes off after work. For these folks, socks means the fiber, and they can talk about and think about fiber, make samples and send test yarn to knitter friends, and some of them are going to figure it out and they will probably share the idea with everyone, though the sheer excitement of the moment. If one of those fiber folks finds her idea, and wants to develop that yarn, she is going to have a tribe ready to crowdfund the business.
Many of us tend to be magpies, and the ideas and challenges of the future-world give us so many ideas the inside of our heads looks like the sky, full of stars. To successfully imagine the future, and then crowdfund it, it helps to focus in and find your tribe. It is difficult to follow more than one dream at a time. Perhaps the biggest challenge for those who imagine the future is to narrow the field of vision down to the one small piece of it you are going to change. But if you can, you can crowdfund the future.