What if we could not look back?

Polestar, the brand new Swedish EVs latest design proposes a car without a rear view mirror. The design includes the latest technology in high resolution cameras for a clear view behind you, with some doubting the safety of it all. You can read more about this here.

The design brought up the question for me of the importance of looking back in our lives and in our businesses.

And if, for discussion’s sake, we were to evolve into beings that no longer had the ability to look back, only forward. How would this impact our lives?

Looking back allows you to see how far you have come. I find it necessary, especially on low motivation days, to look back and see I have in fact come much further than I imagined. When a leader does that it builds confidence.

Ranjay Gulati, in his article in HBR claims that more leaders want to look forward to innovate and create disruption instead of embracing the past. Research has shown, he claims, that successful companies are guided by their original and core values.

I particularly find intriguing his description of a mythical Ghanaian bird, a Sankofi, that “is typically portrayed as twisting its head backward to secure a precious egg while keeping its feet facing forward. Indeed, the word sankofa (which comes to us from the Akan tribe) can be translated as ‘go back to the past and bring forward that which is useful.'”

According to Rita Bailey, founder of Up to Something LLC, remaining in the past can result in predominantly reactive action, as opposed to proactive.

She lists questions you can ask of yourself or your team to determine if your thinking is reactive or proactive.

Backwards-facing questions:

1. What’s broken?
2. What needs to be fixed? (Checking a box or moving forward?)
3. What problems can you solve? (Once fixed, will it help you move forward?)
4. What’s wrong? (Is it time to move from what’s wrong to what could be?)
You don’t need to spend time fixing what’s broken, you can instead look forward and look at what you wish to create.

Forward-facing questions

1. What future do you imagine for yourself and your organization?
2. How will you bring your vision or imagined future into reality?
3. Who do you aspire to become?
4. How might you take responsibility to leverage your talent to accomplish a shared vision?

Whilst I see the benefits of looking at the past for legacy and learning, I like to work with clients to look at and create their future vision and who they want to be as they deliver on it.

What do you think?

Posted in

Leave a Comment