Future Strategies for Individual and Organizational Health

A word of caution when reading any forecast of the future

The view of the future always holds a special place in my thinking as a place where imagination or dreaming is an accepted strategy. In reality, the future can only be envisioned by utilizing our current tools, techniques, knowledge, and imagination, although any vision of the future is limited by our biases, including self-serving rewards. This limitation often leads to the suppression of new knowledge or over-stating the reality. In addition, a prediction of the future could be biased by attempting to have the prediction serve as a competitive advantage or other profitable motives.

We know retrospectively predicting the future is the most accurate method while prospectively predicting the future is limited as described above. The 2009 book, Zero Trends: Health as a Serious Economic Strategy was written as a retrospective (capstone) book covering nearly thirty years of research publications while including a prospective prediction of the future in The Solution section of the book. The 2016 book, Shared Values-Shared Results: Positive Organizational Health as a Win-Win Philosophy was written in the same vein: research studies from several wide ranging disciplines (retrospective) coupled with future (prospective) strategies and techniques to get to a Win-Win Philosophy. Both books can be found on our website or on Amazon.com or CreateSpace.com.

The Future is now: 2016 to 2025

In terms of successful organizations, we believe advances in developing Positive Organizational Health will have a major impact upon the way the organization develops positive individual health including wellness and well-being. We believe the work in individual and organizational health will merge into one integrated strategy as a Win-Win for both the individual and organization.

The first step in the process of implementing positive organizational health includes awakening individuals and organizations to human and organizational potential and to mutually beneficial human and financial results. Additional early steps are to obtain agreement on creating shared values, purpose, mission, vision and expected results. Developing and implementing techniques from systems thinking and human centered design thinking will facilitate involvement and engagement of employee viewpoints from throughout the workforce. Development of positive individual relationships and a caring organization will encourage engagement, loyalty, and commitment resulting in high performance and retention.

Forecasting the Future for Individual and Organizational Health, Wellness and Well-being (2016-2040)

This forecast is derived from three of our “Predicting the Future” articles published over the past five years, with an emphasis on the 2016 article¹. See article here.

In the AJLM article we chose to discuss in great detail several factors we believe will influence organizational health and performance within the next two decades. The following are very brief summaries of each of the major factors and how they will be impacting health in 2040 or before.

1. Evolving new lifestyles, relationships, and caring will impact the rapid rate of discovery and dissemination of information and increasingly lead to even more rapid changes in lifestyles, relationships and caring. Some of the themes that will play an important role in the future of individual and organizational health include:

  • Personal and organizational values are the basis of our purpose, mission, vision, relationships, and caring
  • Context and other people matter as we reach for our human and organizational potential
  • Self-leadership skills impact our desire and ability to grow and thrive under changing conditions
  • Within all age-groups, where we choose to live and work is crucial to our view of life
  • Evolving lifestyles and relationships are impacted even more directly by population lifestyles, healthcare costs and availability; wealth and socioeconomic influence; and wealth distribution)

2. New insights about the mind-body connections and the convergence of compelling evidence from diverse disciplines will result in rapid discoveries of new relationships.

  • The plasticity of our brains indicate our continuing ability to learn and relearn
  • Mindfulness teaches us the ability to focus and accept our emotions, sensations, and awareness of the environment around us
  • We have learned to reshape our habits, our health, and our genetic heritage
  • We understand the impact of our physical self on our brain, mind and behaviors

3. Positive environments, cultures and climates will increasingly becoming the targets of employers to improve employee health, wellness and well-being.

  • We recognize and respect the evolving role of human and group relationships
  • We purposefully incorporate our ability to architect healthier milieus

4. New wellness and well-being technologies, as in all facets of life, may overwhelm consumers and the population in general.

  • Thousands of mobile applications, including wearables which monitor fitness, lifestyle, habits, biometrics, sleep, etc. are available
  • At home devices are developed at an increasing rate, which are accessible to a large number of people while approximately 15%-21% of the population uses these in their daily lives. Caution: this technology trend is at an early stage and more has to be learned about the accuracy, sustainability, effectiveness, and the health and psychological impact of these devices.

5. Dealing with changing work styles along with changing technologies impacts how we interact with others.

  • 24×7-availability is a major concern as tech devices may interfere with concentration, sleep, quality of performance, response times, etc. What is the impact on overall health?
  • More technology-based work designs are associated with sedentary environments which includes increased sitting time
  • Multitasking is becoming more common due to work requiring several levels of complexity while utilizing several different devices

6. Learning new life skills will be essential if we want to adapt, cope, thrive, and flourish not only in the physical aspects of health, but in the mental, intellectual, spiritual, social, emotional, environmental, and financial dimensions of health.

7. Successful aging will require a new set of survival skills as the population increasingly ages into the relatively unfamiliar later years of lifespan.

  • New life skills, awareness, and training emerge to maintain cognitive functioning
  • New community and social resources emerge to maintain individual and population health, wellness and well-being

8. New definitions and understandings of health, illness, wellness, and well-being.

  • These new understandings often remain tied to private product development as stated in the first paragraph, “In reality, the future can only be envisioned by utilizing our current tools, techniques, knowledge, and imagination, although the future is limited by our biases, including self-serving rewards.”
  • Designing and projecting the future based on the realities of current reality and definitions need to be accepted with great skepticism.

Summary

The illness-wellness advances we made in the past 35 years have set the foundation for the increasing rate of advances that will be necessary if we are to meet the population needs during the next 25 years. The initial connection between health risks, wellness, well-being, survival, cognitive functioning and overall quality of life has been proposed, but there remains the need for more knowledge of the complexity of the connections. The challenges will require more upstream, complex, and interactive thinking than ever before.

For more information visit our websites at Edington Associates and Institute for Positive Organizational Health.


¹Edington, Dee W., Alyssa B. Schultz, Jennifer S. Pitts, and Angela Camilleri’. State of the Art Reviews: The Future of Health Promotion in the 21st Century: A Focus on the Working Population. American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine. 10(4): 242-252, 2016