First it was IQ, then EQ, Eco-Q, DQ, and now FQ. If that sentence was greek to you, well IQ is to measure your intellectual ability, (it should be noted its only one form of intelligence with a massive bias to maths and sciences, for more see here), EQ is thanks to Daniel Goleman and is about measuring your emotional awareness and ability, while Eco-Q is about your Ecological Quotient (there is also HQ – Hazard Quotient – is this area), then there is beginnings of DQ – not Dairy Queen, but rather your Design Quotient, and now the future has arrived with FQ – Future Quotient.

Wednesday night, found me at the launch of The Future Quotient: Seriously Long-Term Innovation, a joint piece of research by Volans and JWT. The research began after a survey by Accenture of CEOs found that 81% of them said that have already embedded sustainability into their companies. This has sparked some controversy for if 81% of the companies have already embedded sustainability into their companies, then why do so few actually seem to think beyond the next quarter? The research then looked at what CEOs and companies meant by sustainability and how many of them are engaged in long-term thinking and acting. Note – long-term does not mean 3-5 year cycles, but rather at least beyond 10, but more often 20, 30, 40 years out or in the case of the Long Now Foundation – 10,000 years out!

The report is full of all kinds of interesting findings and short examples of individuals, companies, organisations, countries, with a high FQ. It raises more questions than answers and invites a community into a discussion around the future, which is very well-timed for this period of uncertainty that we are going through and which people think will end, but more and more people are thinking will continue and become more uncertain for many many years to come. The report highlights how in times of uncertainty “most leaders, decision-makers and policy-makers…are stressed by the protracted downturn…they are hunkering down, lowering their ambitions, and shrinking their timescales.” However, the report argues that the opposite is actually needed, hence the need for a FQ measurement.

I found the notion of time difference in cultures to be fascinating. I have often heard of cultural differences being talked about in terms of different values, different sense of community, but when time has been time about it often has been about the relational aspect of time – that “being present” with someone now is more important than being “on time” for your next appointment. The report talks about the difference in “time-horizons” between cultures, which can have significant impact in how people and organisations relate with each other or even within mixed-culture teams. When I stop to think about it, I can see how this makes sense as the report finds that cultures from South Korea, Japan, China have a long-term time-horizon while places like US & Canada have shorter time-horizons. I assume this is also linked to the incredibly long histories that China, Korea, Japan have as nations in comparison to the relatively young nations of Canada and the US. In reality, it is not something I have thought much about before (perhaps hinting at a low-FQ?)

The report has some great comments about mindsets and paradigms and how individual thought (mindsets) are embedded in individual action (behaviours) which are embedded in collective action (cultures), which in turn are embedded in collective thought (paradigms). So changing one’s individual thought patterns may not result in much actual change! Taking this further, they partnered with Mindtime Technologies which helped to create a tool to begin to measure the different dimensions of FQ leadership: Change (moving from Incremental to Systemic change), Scope (Moving from Narrower to Wider horizons), Analysis (Moving from Shallower to Deeper understanding), Ambition (moving from lower to Higher Ambition), Timescale (moving from shorter to Longer timescales).

And there is so much more in the report – I suggest taking a look at it yourself, it can be found here. There are lots of examples to read through, although I wish there was more descriptions of what the people, organisations, companies, countries are doing. There are tiny snippets and I am left wanting more. In fact, I find that about the whole report – it is a snippet of an idea with huge amounts of thought and conversations sitting behind it, which as a reader we I am privy to, but I want to sit in that room to eavesdrop, to learn, to be stretch, and perhaps to contribute where I can as in these times of uncertainty we need groups of people talking, challenging, sharing as doing things the same way we always have will get us nowhere. There is a convergence of change occurring all around us, but most of us, most organisations, most governments are desperately trying to hold on past glory or things that work in the past, but we don’t realise the world has changed immensely and as the convergence continues to happen in a greater and greater extent, we need big visions and much courage to engage rather than retreat. Join the conversation!

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