The Difference Between Insight, Foresight and Hindsight

Heiner Karst

insight foresight hindsight

Are you one of those “type-A” personalities focused on results, results, results? You know, head down, rear-end up, just driving outcomes? Leaving little time to step back and reflect on how you’re doing? On what impact you are having on those around you, and what your relentless drive might be costing you? Personally? Professionally? Or in your organization or business? Indeed without insight, foresight or maybe even without hindsight?Or perhaps you work with or for such personalities? So you know exactly what I’m talking about? How often would they admit that in all the running, the only time they “take stock” is in hindsight? You know, after everything has been said and done and delivered (and hopefully paid)?And how often is that hindsight too little and too late? No matter how strong the learnings it generated – if the perpetrator had the time (or the remaining energy) to listen? Unfortunately, the examples we see coming out of Canberra are no better. Staying in power means more and more short-term emphasis on getting voted back in rather than meeting the nation’s strategic needs. Greed is omnipresent – whether greed for money or for power.

The Disruption Treadmill

Today’s competitive business world is all go-go-go and then some, if we want to stay ahead or even alive in business. Disruption is the name of the game. Long term planning is gone. Being able to “milk” an advantage may only give us a couple of years, at best, before someone has a better idea or a better way to deliver it. And we’re witnessing even more alarming examples on a global political and economic scale.

Are we Learning from our Mistakes?

Over the past decade I have worked with hundreds of corporate executives, business owners and high-potential professionals transitioning into management or leadership across varying geographies, cultures, business sizes or industries in over 20 countries. That gives me a pretty good feel for what many business people are thinking and struggling with. And I’ve come to one very firm conclusion: There is a growing impatience with the waning values and the lack of learning from our mistakes. Which leads to the obvious question: How do we get ourselves away from this melee?

Time for a Different Approach?

One approach is gathering a groundswell type momentum across the globe: It is the notion of growing our consciousness, of developing an awareness of what’s really happening and what’s really important to us. Many such people are finding the need to “step back” from time to time instead of relentlessly just “stepping up,” to reflect on what their purpose is. To (re-)establish the meaning behind what they’re doing. And what’s really happening around them that they can and can’t influence. I’ve met a number of players and organisations recently focused on bringing “mindfulness” into the corporate playing field, with quite some remarkable and measurable results. The resulting benefit? A “slowing down before shooting” and enabling a greater awareness of purpose and what is going on “in the moment.”

How Can Insight and Foresight beat Hindsight?

We can do this simply through finding the undisturbed space to create ten or even just five minutes of inwardly focused peace or quietening of the mind. That little breathing space gives us a chance to quieten the left-brain mind-chatter. Our big-picture right brain gets a chance to excel at what it does best – reflect and give creative insights. These are insights that we simply can’t see or notice when we’re running at 100 miles an hour. And instead of reflecting on the trainwreck (subtle or visible) in hindsight after the event, when all the “collateral” damage is already done (despite the growth in profits or bonus income it generated), we can actually leverage these insights very productively. How? Well, by mapping them into our professionally-developed risk management and governance processes, including the planning, budgeting, SWOT analysis etc; so we can build the necessary foresight into the initiatives which the insights enabled; and we avoid the train-wreck hindsights in the first place.

So What?

Indeed there’s never been a better time all year than the impending end of year. Here is an ideal opportunity to use that time off, no matter how short that might have to be for you this year, to create some undisturbed reflection time. It’s a chance to take stock of where we’re at in our roles: at work, in our business, or in our teams or organisations – and just as importantly, in our lives. We can take this moment to remind ourselves of what we originally set out to achieve in the first place. Let’s set some more meaningful goals than just the normal growth KPIs we feel obliged to emphasize. Imagine the difference this could make. What if just doing this created the wherewithal for you to be able to look back at this time next year, 2019, in satisfaction of having truly made a difference, rather than looking back in regret, about what could have been? This is a choice, you know. Not doing it is just as much a decision as doing it. And there are so many, many positively successful examples of those who’ve gone before you and benefitted from doing it. You cannot ignore it.If this has piqued your interest, you can find out more about how we can help by taking your success personally. Contact Heiner Karst here.

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