On a lovely fresh morning, we went mountain biking in the largest known meteorite crater on earth. The crater located at Vredefort in South Africa. The overall diameter of this crater is about 300 kilometers. The wild-card event of the meteorite hitting earth turned a depth of 17 kilometers of rock layers upside-down, which led to a significant change of events many years later: gold, which is otherwise located at a depth of about 3 kilometers, was found on the surface of the earth. The resulting South African history developed very differently due to this single highly uncertain but very impactful event.
This meteorite impact was a long time ago, but as we prepared for the mountain bike ride, we had to start thinking of the future: which route should we ride amongst all the possible routes? Before we set off, we had a good look at the overall landscape surrounding us. On the satellite photographs of the circular meteorite crater, we found a little hill close by in the fairly flat valley. This hill was composed of rock that had melted due to the intense heat of the impact explosion. These rocks had been mined in an old quarry because of the beautiful patterns that the fluid rock made amidst many other rock fragments. By first seeing the overall system, we were able to plan out our route, get a rough idea of where to travel, and anticipate some of the challenges along the way. We then knew how to get to the little hill.
As we started cycling in the cool morning breeze, the shortest route would have been to head straight towards the little hill which we could see in the distance. The others in the group were too skeptical to follow unknown paths through the brush and grass. Instead, we followed the wide tar road that took us on a long loop to the other side of the hill. This was fine with everybody. Once we were closer, a small jeep track took us right into the quarry. By then the group had established sufficient trust that these paths were actually leading to the desired location. They became more willing to move along these smaller and less used paths.
Once we came to the top of the hill, an amazing change in perspective happened: all of us could see our starting point in the distance! Our group became ready to even take new routes. To get back home, we scouted out narrow footpaths that the cattle had taken through the bush. This was a lot more risky, because we might have had to backtrack if a path just stopped, or we could even have gotten lost when the location became unclear. Our group struggled to follow these fuzzy paths, because they were not completely clearly visible. We kept our vision focused on our goal, which kept us going. Only once we returned exactly to our starting point did everybody rejoice that we had found the best route home!
As you think about taking a team into the future with you, you might consider these questions:
1. While you are thinking ahead, how can you help others to see the overall picture?
2. How can you prepare people to “see” where they will be going, even when paths are unclear?
3. In which way can you help your team to build trust in the route that you are guiding them?
4. What will help you obtain consensus for moving ahead to reach the goal?
5. How can you prepare each team member for the rough challenges they will encounter en route?
6. How can the team remain motivated and enthusiastic along the journey?
7. Which unexplored paths would you want to leave aside for the sake of staying with the team?
8. How can your team celebrate once you have reached the desired goal?
Future thinking becomes useful when the insights about potential developments from past events are used in the present. Well, until the next meteorite hits, we hopefully will be able to plan and implement a few more exciting mountain biking trips with our teams riding into their future!