While working at the Rodale Institute several years ago ,we were surprised to learn that Robert Rodale, former Institute director and editor of Organic Gardening magazine was an Olympic skeet shooter. On further thought this made sense. In skeet shooting, one needs to trace the trajectory of the clay pigeon, imagine its future path, and aim leading it to impact it at some future as yet unrealized point. Rodale was expert at seeing the potential of existing trends. It was only natural that he would excel at doing this visually as well.
To many, the idea of tracing trajectory to imagine future potential may seem abstract and even unprofessional. Most marketing and planning is done looking to the past to guide it. This has been compared to driving by looking in the rear-view mirror. While it is essential to look at the past to imagine the future, it is the as yet unrealised future where we are headed. We will aim much better if we focus on that unrealised potential point.
The practical ramifications can be enormous. Norbert Wiener in his seminal book Cybernetics talks in the introduction about the urgent need of the allies to design anti-aircraft guns that could effectively protect England from the Luftwaffe . The speed of the planes meant that they could not be shot-down by aiming at them. They needed to be led. In addition, gunners needed to be able to also take evasive action into account. Living systems are not entirely predictable. They cannot be counted on to follow simple paths. When hunting game birds one uses the existing trajectory of the bird to trace its likely course, imagine this future potential, and aim. If the bird does not follow this path, a second shot may be possible. In Planning we cannot predict all future events. TIt may be risky to base everything on a single projection and single shot. It is better to enable a community to understand their place and how to imagine its future trajectory while being alert for deviations and changes from this path. Only in this way can a community be resilient and adaptive in the face of inevitable change.
It is more like falconing than hunting. In falconing, one does not directly aim at the game bird. One must breed or select a falcon and train it to be able to trace the trajectory of the bird, swoop to impact it t a future point, adapt to changes in flight, and return with the prey. The effort and time is far greater than in gunning, but the effects are far more certain and long lasting and the potential is much greater. It is the difference between developing to a predetermined end, and setting up a developmental process that will enable the community to self-determine and evolve long into the future: to have evolving aims.