Chapter 5. Career Options - Great Ways to Be a Foresight Leader

2. Academic (Scholar-Educator)

Philip Tetlock, Good Judgment Proj.

Philip Tetlock,
Good Judgment Proj.

[Examples: Gar Alperovitz, Janna Anderson, J. Scott Armstrong, Eric Assadourian, Jesse Ausubel, Peter Bishop, Nick Bostrom, Stewart Brand, Erik Brynjolfsson, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita, Stuart Candy, John Casti, Chien-Fu Chen, Jose Cordeiro, Jim Dator, Liam Fahey, Jay Gary, Jennifer Gidley, Michele Godet, Fabienne Goux-Baudiment, Peter Hayward, Francis Heylighen, Andy Hines, Barbara Hubbard, Barry Hughes, Sohail Inayatullah, Jari Kaivo-oja, Tuomo Kuosa, Michael Lee, Eleanora Masini, Ian Miles, Lee Rainie, Tom Rath, Jeremy Rifkin, Rene Rohrbeck, Hans Rosling, Paul Saffo, Zia Sardar, Juergen Schmidhuber, Wendy Schultz, Clay Shirky, Nick Silver, Richard Slaughter, Vaclav Smil, Philip Tetlock, Alvin Toffler, Anthony Townsend, Kees van der Heijden, Joseph Voros, Markku Wilenius, Austin Williams, Michael Zey, Jonathan Zittrain]

The academic (scholar-educator) foresight role is also primarily developmentally-oriented, and only secondarily evolutionary (creative, experimental) so we list it next. It is perhaps the third most commonly reognized foresight role, after the consultant and the creative. The academic foresight professional is uniquely important for grounding our profession, and formally training new entrants to the field. These individuals see themselves primarily as foresight investigators or teachers. Their primary drives are to learn, investigate, describe, analyze, test/ground their knowledge, and to help others to do these as well. The best scholars are good at research, systematizing, validating, and explaining in ways that help others to become learners and scholars. Research can happen under any of the five foresight roles, depending on its goals and context, so doing research in and of itself doesn’t commit you to any of the five roles. But the conceptual grounding of research and learning, if that is your cup of tea, happens in the academic role.

Again, by definition academics are primarily developmental, whether they presently recognize it or not. They may employ creative and experimental methods, but in their role as foresight investigative experts, like consultants they are tasked with evaluating the results of their experiments, and they warrant they are on a path to objectively better results. Ironically, this is true even when they strive to prove that there is “no predictability” or structure to various aspects of the future, a position which makes good sense in many business situations, but which is is also dangerously wrong some of the time. Such scholars are attesting that their predictionless perspective is objectively (predictably) a more correct view of reality. For creatives, innovators, and entrepreneurs by contrast, experimentation, novelty, or market reward are the primary foresight drives, and post-experiment review or validation of their foresight work come later (or not) by market success.

Foresight M.S. and certificate programs are a great way to grow new self-identifying foresight professionals, and some of these will seek to be scholars. Those who pursue doctoral degrees in any subject, including the few Ph.D. programs that specialize in foresight, are particularly helpful for grounding and expanding our field. We suggest that good foresight scholars should have strong analytic skills, a few years of consulting experience (since most foresight program graduates will become organizational futurists, entrepreneurs, or consultants), and be a bit entrepreneurial themselves (as community builders or product-service developers), since foresight as a field is underdeveloped at present, with many opportunities and challenges to grow and raise its profile.

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