Curious Clues to Your Future?

March 10, 2021

Curious Clues to Your Future?

May 29, 2023

I love that MEA holds curiosity as a core value and powerful transformation tool. Curiosity is certainly one of the things I CRAVE, and it has been accentuated during two weeks at our MEA Baja Sabbatical Session. Our workshops on forming developmental questions through Appreciative Inquiry, and Chip’s process of “Spying on the Divine” to cultivate awe both captivate my craving to explore what is new.

It is true, curiosity provides the fuel to transcend the liminal state of crafting our future, living in that gooey, chrysalis stage before the path forward becomes more clear and beautiful.

In addition to journaling and creative visioning as ways to capture your nascent ideas, I’m trying to create CURIOUS CLUES as another way to deliberately peek at my potential future.

CURIOUS CLUES are realities, ideas, concepts and facts that exist in rare form, yet may not yet be broadly known. They are faint but visible signals of your future that may come to you in a daydream, on a bicycle ride, in the shower or while cooking. As futurist William Gibson once said: “The future is already here, it is just not evenly distributed.”

CURIOUS CLUES are examples of happenings in the world that may relate to your passions and desires, from which you can learn, be inspired and envision your future more clearly.

I have used CURIOUS CLUES extensively in the work I do with organizations that are seeking innovation and a transformational future. After my MEA experience, I realize these catalysts for action will be useful for people on their personal journey as well.

Here’s an example from the culinary world, which is one of my passions and past professions. Back in the early 1980’s, after I attended Hotel Restaurant School, I began working for large food companies developing new products. At the time, as I scanned the landscape for new ideas, I noticed Wolfgang Puck experimenting with a new concept called “ethnic fusion,” combining flavors from two or more countries into a new dish. Puck’s restaurant SPAGO made ethnic fusion famous and launched a new wave of playful culinary experimentation, leading to a trend.

Now we see ethnic fusion all over the world. Later on… around 2008 food trucks in Los Angeles were sporting new combinations such as Korean BBQ Tacos, which signaled the rise of gourmet food trucks which we see in many cities everywhere. These two examples were early clues to the future, which made me curious, forming my belief system on the power of following clues.

How to Create CURIOUS CLUES

CURIOUS CLUES are faint intimations of the future conveyed with images, headlines and prose that balance “what is” with “what could be.” They can emerge from your intuition, from conversations, internet searches, conferences or even music you hear. My advice is to create each clue separately and make several so you can view all the clues you create together, observing patterns.

1) Give your clue a headline that beams with energy and possibility. Make it sound like a news headline, movie or book title or maybe even a poem.

2) Describe your clue with an image. You can use a personal photo, grab something from the internet or even hand-drawn. Your photo can be a literal depiction or a metaphor.

3) Describe your clue with 3-4 sentences of your own prose or poetry that convey what the clue is, how it works, the impact it is having on people, the emotional and physical qualities.

4) Pose “catalytic” questions that raise eyebrows and make you think: “C’EST WHAT?” Write your questions in ways that invite further exploration by beginning the sentences with questions such as: how might I…”, or “what if I could….”, or “what are the implications five years forward?”

5) Try creating 5-10 clues over time. Once you have created a suite of clues, observe them together. Look for patterns and identify potential actions to explore further. Reach out to people related to the clues, and ask about their thinking. Write your observations and reactions each time you see the clues together. Go deeper in your exploration. Keep probing for meaning, trusting your intuition even when the clue seems ambiguous or far-fetched at first.

CURIOUS CLUES won’t provide hard answers, but they can map your exploration in more future-focused ways. You will likely be surprised how the clues reveal real options and clarity for what is yet to come next in the upcoming phase of your life.


Michael Perman is CEO of C’EST WHAT? LLC, the Mindful Innovation firm, which advises organizations and people on how best to craft their future. He is also the author of CRAVING THE FUTURE, Transforming our Deepest Desires into New Realities, and podcast by the same name. Michael and his wife Jordana live in Portland, Oregon and are both grads of MEA programs.

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