In one sense, Three Horizons: The Patterning of Hope is business book about a simple framework for thinking about the future. At its simplest, Three Horizons offers a new visual tool for understanding three sequential business patterns that play out over time
But this book is about much more than simply stretching out our thinking to embrace the short, medium, and long term so that senior executives can have a coordinated way of managing innovation. In his book, Bill Sharpe introduces the Three Horizons framework as a prompt for developing a ‘future consciousness’ – a rich and multi-faceted perception of the future potential of the present moment. It explores how to put that awareness to work to create the present realities that we, right now, can only aspire to. By showing us how the future exists in the present, Three Horizons offers a way of creating transformational change that has a chance of succeeding, a way of dealing with uncertainty because it offers a viable way of seeing the future in the present.
In short, hidden in Three Horizon’s intuitive simplicity, there’s an important insight about the new 21st Century world that we’re living and working in. Between the established patterns of the first horizon that this book describes and the emergence of new patterns that show up in the third horizon, Sharpe’s 3 Horizon model provides a framework that maps a shift from the 20th Century world that was to the 21st Century world that's emerging. A new world that needs attention and effort right now. It does this by highlighting how important it is for us to identify which of our 20th Century patterns are no longer useful, how emerging trends can shape the future, and what visionary action is needed to collectively move us towards a viable future.
What makes Three Horizons so useful is that it draws attention to the three horizons as three experiential qualities of the future in the present moment, and this allows us to see that we have evidence about the future in how people (including ourselves) are behaving now. The outcome of Three Horizons work is a map of transformational potential that enables us to act with some skill, freedom, and creativity in the present, both individually and together. Thus, we develop Three Horizons practice as the cultivation of our future consciousness – an awareness of the potential of the present moment.
Overall, Three Horizons is a road map for developing a ‘future consciousness.’ As such, it’s a rich and multi-faceted offers an much needed awareness of the future potential that exists in the present moment – and explores how to put that awareness to work to create the futures we aspire to. It offers a way of creating transformational change that has a chance of succeeding, a way of dealing with uncertainty and a way of seeing the future in the present.
Especially in his final section, Sharpe outlines the potential of future consciousness as a shared practice, exploring his intuition that “we have within us a far deeper capacity for shared life than we are using, and that we are suffering from an attempt to know our way into the future instead of live our way.”