The concept of Prospection in Positive Psychology in its simplest form is to utilise the mind to define what the future looks like, this is significantly different from the more common retrospective approaches. It is also similar to the concept of objective or goal setting in a business coaching environment but is more holistic in its aim. The business world has many metaphors for goal setting such as “GROW” or “SMART” but in the coaching environment these are often solely discussed from an enthusiastic standpoint and do not include risk.

Prospection and forecasting

If we are truly going to look at Prospection or Goal setting in the personal environment perhaps we should look at the world of commercial forecasting to define a more realistic future and to prepare effectively for the journey ahead. A commercial analyst will look at many different parameters when beginning to forecast a product launch or the company budget for the year ahead. Much like Prospection the analyst will not just rely on historical events but look forward into the disruption that may occur in the future, utilising research to understand the factors that may happen. This could be to looking at the product patent websites to see what the competition is developing or to look closely at the behaviour of their most innovative customers to predict how the more conservative customers will change over time. These forecasts may be used to prepare a company for a restructure, sometimes involving mass redundancy, or presented to the City directly impacting the share value of the organisation. This means it is vital that the forecasts are as accurate as possible and hence there is a huge amount of science behind the subject.

The importance of risk

An important part of any forecast is looking at risk, in essence what could take the business off track in the years ahead. Examples of risk, found from the research highlighted above could be disruptions such as the potential launch of a new competitor in the market place or a new technology that makes the current product redundant (iPad v Walkman?). These risks are important for a business to understand as they will need to prepare to counteract them in their future strategy. So moving back to Prospection, how can we learn from this?

Defining the future

If we are sitting down and looking at defining what the future looks like and how we are going to get there, we must consider the factors that may disrupt the journey. Life events are important to consider as the person can prepare for them in case they do happen. Sometimes even the most simple life events can take our eye off achieving our goals and by enabling awareness of them as part of Prospection we can move around them and continue to our destination.

An analysts forecast will never be a straight line on a chart and perhaps the road to a Prospective future should not be a straight journey from A to B. By considering the risks at the beginning of any meaningful process, the person will be more prepared to handle future obstacles and success should be more achievable.

About the Author: Tony Cox is a Senior Director of a healthcare consultancy and a qualified business coach. He has spent his career in Business Insights alongside experience in Sales and Marketing. He is currently learning the wider aspects of Positive Psychology from his amazing wife, Caralyn Cox.


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