Future-Back Thinking - in conversation with Corwin Harper
“The imagined future transforms the present.”
Higher risk-taking is impacted by the urgency of short-term and long-term actions. In today’s fast-paced business environment, there is less time to play it safe and more learning on the job. The new future-focused leadership and outlook are encompassed by skills like adaptability, innovation, and courage.
We are in conversation with Corwin Harper, a believer in the power of future back thinking. With over 35 years of experience in various industries, Corwin is well versed in the importance of being future-focused, and the benefits it has on any organization.
The age-old playbook for organizational strategies has been shaken up by the newest addition to the index — future back thinking. This approach is all about how enterprises can anticipate a disrupted world of the future, and execute a long-term growth strategy starting today. How do you apply this approach and what drew you to it? What makes it superior to other approaches?
“Future back thinking is a unique approach to strategy and organizational development that empowers leaders to envision breakthrough initiatives and kickstart long-term growth. Leaders then further implement the needful to bring the plans to life. This approach is also called Backcasting and is often adopted by futurists. It stems from the idea of envisioning a future — seeing what position an organization is in and then working towards that. This approach allows one to choose the path they want to go down, and avoid potential obstacles which may come up.
“I first applied future back thinking during my time in the military. It starts with developing an inspiring vision that is fully actionable. This starts with painting a picture of future environments, specifying a time horizon, and focusing on a ‘future’ that is distant enough to stretch thinking, but not so far-off that it is unrelatable. The next stage involves translating this into a clear strategy, and finally preparing for and managing its implementation. This way of thinking started during my time in the military, but I was determined to translate it into my professional career. I envision the future state of my business or organization, consider the core business, the adjacent business, and new growth.
“This method is also perfect for navigating guardrails — potential obstacles that one may not be able to identify beforehand. The goal is to have a high-performing team — with high morale and eager participants. It is essential to pay attention to people — because they are at the core of every organization. An employee could face a variety of obstacles, which in turn becomes an obstacle for the entire organization. You must pay attention to employee behavior. An employee can face obstacles in many ways. Understanding what these obstacles are can help you identify and remove them, leading to greater employee satisfaction and higher productivity. All this is possible with the future back thinking method.
“My ideal way of applying future back thinking is to analyze the future 3 years, 5 years, and 10 years hence. These are doable timelines that can allow my team and I to carefully understand and analyze today’s strategy to ensure a better tomorrow.”
Thanks for sharing, Corwin.
About Corwin: An empathetic and authentic leader who champions improving humanity through healthcare, Corwin Harper has contributed over 35 years of experience in various areas, from healthcare systems to fiduciary and governance to economic development. Corwin’s strengths include analyzing and assessing situations to create multi-year strategy plans, and he has the vision to identify new business opportunities where others fail to see the potential. Through his innovation as a transformational healthcare leader, he aims at creating a more human world with a strong focus on social and educational equity to improve humanity for all.
Currently, I serve as chief executive of Cedars-Sinai Health System, a leading nonprofit hospital and health system in…