What Comes Next? • Alicia Llewellyn & Nicholas Skytland

Shaping the Future in an Ever-Changing World – A Guide for Christian Leaders

January 2021 • Paperback • 978-0-8024-1966-8

Our mission as Christians was the same yesterday as it is today and will be tomorrow. The world, however, is changing faster than ever before, and keeping up feels impossible. The realities of human life – from how we develop relationships to how we use technology to have impact – therefore change rapidly too. It’s critical that Christian leaders take this into consideration as they plan for their organizations’ future.

In What Comes Next?, strategists and innovation experts Nick Skytland and Ali Llewellyn use the eight elements of their Futures Framework to teach us how to help shape the future, be visionary, and grow our businesses and ministries. This futures-thinking process is a proven solution for executives, entrepreneurs, pastors, and anyone in between who struggles to respond to an ever-changing world.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Alicia Llewellyn is co-founder of Quite Uncommon, a technology firm that helps organizations build, test, and launch new and innovative ideas. She is also a strategist and collaboration leader at NASA, currently directing the 1958 Coworking Space at the Johnson Space Center. She has more than two decades of cross-sector experience in growing effective teams and building engaged communities with resiliency and foresight – including for some of the largest hackathons in the world. Ali has served as a teacher, a team trainer, a youth pastor, and the Director of Ministries at Antioch Community Church in Houston, TX. This background in education, communication, and theology provides the clarity and articulation necessary to help organizations and communities take their mission to the next level. 

Nicholas Skytland is co-founder of Quite Uncommon, a technology firm that helps organizations build, test, and launch new and innovative ideas. He is also the Deputy Chief of the Exploration Technology Office at NASA. His technical and leadership experience has helped him build high-performing teams and pioneer new ways of doing business in both government and industry for over two decades. He has trained astronauts, designed next-generation spacesuits, developed open-source technology, led missional movements, and created some of the largest purpose-driven collaborations in history. Outside of work he is an experienced diver and avid triathlete, having completed more than twenty Ironman races. He lives in Houston with his wife and three kids, and serves as an elder at Clear Creek Community Church.

CONTENT PREVIEW

Do you know what comes next?

After this season is over, after the next deadline is met, after that audacious goal you’ve set is accomplished, what does the future hold for you and your organization, church, or ministry?

Over the years, it’s a question we’ve asked Christian leaders such as yourself as we’ve worked with them to build, test, and launch new and innovative ideas into the world. And, what we’ve noticed is that, for many leaders, thinking about the future sometimes leaves them feeling exhausted, discouraged, or fearful. 

You may feel overwhelmed because you don’t have time to think about what comes next. It feels impractical. You have bills to pay, deadlines to keep, and an organization to run. And, even if you did have extra minutes in your day, you aren’t sure where you’d start. You can barely keep up with the latest breaking news story, software update, or global trend that’s threatening to disrupt everything you’re working to do.

Thinking about the future can also be discouraging. Maybe your current reality isn’t what your former self once envisioned, so it seems pointless to imagine alternatives. The years have taught you that your plans rarely unfold as you anticipated.

If that’s you, you aren’t alone. Most of us have sacrificed and prepared hard for the future we eagerly worked toward. We listened to our parents, followed the advice of our mentors, read all the latest leadership books, made a strategic plan, and brought the right people onto our teams. Yet when it comes to the impact we hoped to have, it rarely looks like what we expected when we get there. On the few occasions when it does, we often feel in retrospect like it was as much serendipity as it was intentionality.

Our planning for the future often depends on an approach we learned in childhood. We draw a straight line from today to next year and prepare for the future based on our recent experiences, best guesses, and current gut feelings. We attempt to predict what’s next based on our familiar past behaviors instead of on future possibilities. The problem with this is that the potential of this approach is limited by what we currently know and have personally experienced. We don’t make room for the unknown and the unfamiliar.

As we grow wiser and realize that none of us has a crystal ball that will predict the future, it can make us feel even more lost or irrelevant in a world that is relentlessly changing in unexpected ways. If we’re honest with ourselves, we might admit we’re worried that our clear and defined straight line is being erased altogether. Or, maybe we’ve been following the wrong line all this time?

The fear of uncertainty strikes us all at some point, especially when things don’t go as we thought they would or should. But there’s a better way to respond in this uncertain world. Rather than feel overwhelmed, discouraged, or fearful, we can approach the future as explorers. Explorers, by definition, are people who journey through the unfamiliar to learn about it. It’s the explorers who sailed uncharted waters, discovered new lands, circumnavigated the globe, set foot on the moon, and ventured deep into space. Exploration requires being brave, overcoming your fears, and permitting yourself to take the first step.

ENDORSEMENTS

Did you know it is actually easier to invent the future than to predict the future? Like no other generation before us, we have the opportunity to create transformational change. Drawing from their experience in government, disaster relief, refugee care, tech startups, innovation hacks, and advancement of the kingdom, Nick and Ali provide the motivation and framework to actually craft the future we want to live in. This book will inform, inspire, and equip you to make a difference.

– Eric Swanson
Leadership Network, coauthor of The Externally Focused Church and To Transform a City

It is rare to find people who are as genuine, true to their beliefs, and willing to stand by them as Ali and Nick. Together, they have written such a simple but powerful book that describes how all of us can be true to our faith and yet achieve personal and professional success. I highly recommend you read this book before your next meeting, group project, or deadline. It will change your life. It did mine.

– Chris Vein
Former Deputy United States Chief Technology Officer for Government Innovation, The White House