With over three decades helping organizations around the world prepare and shape the future, Bob Johansen, distinguished fellow at the Institute for the Future (IFTF) and author of 10 bestsellers, breaks down purpose when it comes to the future of work, the importance of compassion and empathy as the pace of AI and ML accelerates, and being able to have as much flexibility and agility when planning for the long term. But as a futurist, Johansen is always in a position to spell out that he and others at the IFTF aren\u2019t fortune tellers. \u201cThe way you evaluate a futurist is does our foresight provoke your insight,\u201d he says. \u201cSo we are not here to predict; we are here to provoke.\u201d\n\nIn one of his bestsellers, Full-Spectrum Thinking, he drills down into \u201cofficing,\u201d which is the way we work, rather than offices, which is where we work. \u201cWhat\u2019s next is what we call the officeverse,\u201d he says. \u201cThe kind of any time, any place world.\u201d Seeing that remote working continues to be a pressing issue still finding its footing after nearly three years in beta testing, the work surrounding feasible solutions seems to compound as time goes on, with some intending a full return to office while others have forged the company future on remote models. So the question remains when, as well as why, do you want to go back to the office.\n\nAmong the spectrums of choice he details, including purpose and outcomes, CIOs, CEOs and other top executives have to be in the business of cultivating community. \u201cThis is really the future of diversity, equity and inclusion,\u201d he says. \u201cWe think of it as the spectrum of belongingness.\u201d\n\nThis echoes some existing sentiment, especially around D&I, for instance, but the discipline of success lies in not only thinking 10 years ahead but also walking it back to the present to account for progress\u2014a model that has given the IFTF a consistent track record of successfully forecasting futures. \u201cI think the most important thing for IT leaders right now is that ability to think future back,\u201d he says. \u201cSo if you can look 10 years out and work backwards, that will help you develop your clarity, but moderate your certainty.\u201d\n\nSo whatever your model for longevity is, the question you should ask is whether or not you\u2019ve lived your forecast.\n\nJohansen spoke to Dan Roberts, host of the Tech Whisperers podcast, during CIO\u2019s recent Future of Work Summit about the art of forecasting, not predicting, and remaining agile through transitions that test the balance of humanity and technology.\n\nHere are some edited excerpts of that conversation. Watch the full video below for more insights.\n\nOn the purpose of offices: In the midst of the COVID-19 shutdown, people were asking, and are still asking, when can we go back to offices. As we did our research, however, the basic question to start with is why have an office at all. What is the purpose of the office? This is applying full-spectrum thinking to the question. We should talk most about what is pressing now, not just for CIOs, but for heads of real estate, HR and, most importantly, for CEOs and top executives. The basic question is all about purpose and intent, and the spectrum spans from the individual to the collective. The next is about outcomes. So if purpose is about intent, outcomes is about results. What are the results you are seeking? And the spectrum here runs from profit\u2014like shareholder value\u2014to prosperity, which is really thinking larger about stakeholder value. So outcome is particularly important and really interesting in the business field now. You see more businesses asking not just shareholder value, but stakeholder value. What is the impact of a company on the larger society?\n\nOn compassion: When you think digital and IT people, we moved from a world that was largely analog to one that\u2019s almost exclusively digital. But we\u2019re moving back to a world that\u2019s digitally analog, with things like big data visualization. It\u2019s not full circle because we\u2019re not going back; it\u2019s like a spiral going out. But the more digital we become, the more we have to think in full-spectrum ways across gradients of possibility and not just either\/or. So another spectrum is cultivating community. This is really the future of diversity, equity and inclusion. We think of it as the spectrum of belongingness.\n\nOn agility: How can we choose more stable organizational structures and become more dynamic and responsive? I teach at the Army War College and I get to meet three-star generals and talk about strategy and leadership. And in the military, what they say is if you want to be agile, flexible and shape shifting, you have to be clear where you\u2019re going and flexible how you get there. I don\u2019t have a military background, but I was at the graduate school for the army with a group of senior Deloitte partners and some CEOs the week before 9\/11. And they introduced this idea, the VUCA world: Volatile, Uncertainty, Complex, and Ambiguous. I got intrigued because it\u2019s a very good starting point for understanding the next decade. I\u2019ve ended up flipping VUCA into a positive and I\u2019ve realized that looking 10 years ahead, volatility yields to vision. So while vision will be disproportionately rewarded, uncertainty yields to understanding, complexity yields to clarity, and ambiguity yields to agility. So that is really the positive VUCA: Vision, Understanding, Clarity, and Agility. To me, that\u2019s the foundation of leadership. I think the most important thing for IT leaders right now is that ability to think future back. So if you can look 10 years out and work backwards, that will help you develop your clarity, but moderate your certainty. Because I can assure you, this future\u2014this VUCA world\u2014is going to reward clarity of where you\u2019re going, and flexibility in how you get there. But that same future is going to punish certainty. And here there is a temptation\u2014in the IT field or in engineering\u2014to go for problem-solving. Go for the answer you already know. And that can often get you in trouble. So you want to be clear you can\u2019t be certain. And we have to learn to thrive in that world.\n\nOn metrics: It\u2019s been said a lot that data is the new oil. And there is some sense in which that is right, but it is not just data. It\u2019s data analytics and the use of context and human judgment to decide. The good news is we have all these tools for data visualization and volumes of data\u2014about our own bodies\u2014to help us make healthier choices. The bad news is, we don\u2019t know what to do with all the data. So in a real sense, it\u2019s not just big data, it\u2019s analytics, visualization, and coming up with more analog ways of engaging and more full-spectrum ways of engaging with data. Data is really important but it\u2019s going to be data in the sense of spectrums of choice, not in the sense of it being the answer. Because often the deeper you go into the data, the more complicated it becomes. The best leaders I know are saying you end up deciding with maybe 60% or 70% of the data you wish you had. That you can\u2019t wait until you know what you are doing is right.