Chapter 13. Visions and Challenges – Priorities for Professionals

Bias Against Personal Foresight

We’ve said that personal, organizational, global and universal foresight are four main practice domains in our profession. Being human, with limited time and attention, it is easy for any of us to enjoy and be well-versed in one or two of these, and to be poor and little interested in the others. But that cognitive bias can hurt us when we deal with issues relevant to the neglected domains.

Those who are good at organizational foresight can go up to global or down to personal without too much effort. It’s a good place to “center” your expertise. But those who excel in personal foresight can commonly neglect global issues. Likewise, those good at global or universal foresight can easily be poor self-managers, not paying attention to their and their families personal futures.

After neglecting universal foresight, a topic we’ve already discussed as perhaps our field’s greatest bias, personal foresight seems to be the next most commonly shortchanged domain in our emerging profession. Do you know the old joke about the absent-minded futurist who pays little attention to their surroundings and can’t remember his appointments a few hours from now? There are quite a few futurists who love abstract thinking to the point of neglecting all the concrete, practical things they need to do to today to grow their personal effectiveness. Many don’t plan, invest, make lists, prioritize, and try to get better every day at running their personal lives.

Futurists can become so out of touch with their own selves, and the emotional states of others, that they develop low empathy and poor listening skills. When they get onto their favorite subjects they may become narrow-minded pontificators, listening only for the point where they get to talk, and preferring the realm of abstract principles over people and their concerns. They may even narrow their realm of interest to just those few things they have passion for, ignoring the damage they cause to their personal and professional relationships by being so focused and unaware. I’ve been guilty of this at times, particularly earlier in my career, but I’ve also learned to grow out of it, with better self-awareness and self-management.

In Chapter 3 we introduced the Emotion-Cognition-Action (ECA) cycle, a variation of the Perception-Decision-Action cycle which argues that our emotional intelligence, the perceptions, decisions and biases of our emotional brain, are even more fundamental than our cognitive intelligence, and its biases. Please keep the ECA cycle in mind when thinking about how to improve your personal foresight. It starts with better emotional awareness and management, extends to cognitive and social awareness and management, and includes environmental and technological awareness and management. All five forms of intelligence are important to the modern human being.

So for some universal, global, and organizational foresighters, perhaps the most common and limiting bias we have, after acceleration- and evo devo-unawareness, is not becoming better than average at anticipating, creating, and managing our personal futures. And if we can’t anticipate, create, and manage ourselves well, how can we expect to help others do these things, both individually and with their teams? But don’t worry. By using all five of our intelligences to address these issues, we can change. The worse we are, the faster we can improve, at least at first.