Appendix 1. Peer Advice – Building a Successful Foresight Practice

Group 1: Consultants

After the creative (creator-producer), the consultant is usually the second most commonly socially recognized role of the foresight professional. These individuals see themselves primarily as foresight service providers. They serve one or more clients, typically in a non-employee relationship, either formally or informally.

 

Marcus Barber, Strategic Futurist at Looking Up Feeling Good

1. History and Current Career Path: I was advised of the MSc in Foresight offering, and discovered I’d been doing futures work for almost a decade without a label for it. My main challenge is being able to speak the client’s language. Too many new practitioners think the tools and methods are the main thing—they aren’t. Students should avoid thinking that only they do futures thinking—almost every person undertakes futures thinking every single day—they just don’t call it ‘futures’ or foresight, or may not do it with the same depth.

I’ve had a couple of career changes so far, first from moving out of my initial full time futures role for a University and going back into private consulting, which released me from some of the practice restrictions that being in a University imposed, but this advantage was offset by now being a lesser-known entity, and needing to do more of my own promotion. That said it has now been over a decade in my new role, and I’ve picked up some larger clients, several of whom have stayed with me for as long as I’ve been out on my own.

2. Key Foresight Skills: Perhaps the number one capability needed for good foresight is an insatiable curiosity about the world around us and the potential for change. You also need the ability to gather and analyse disparate sources of information. Also a willingness to question your assumptions about how the world works and to seek out multiple answers and pathways to the innate human question of ‘what if…?’ The rest will be tools and methods you’ll develop a personal preference for as your practice grows.

3. Self-Description and Marketing: Strategic Futurist. My main website is LUFG.com.au and I have a shared website through Centre for Australian Foresight. I do a fair bit of media and quite a few radio interviews. That really helps. I’ve written a couple of books and have been published in a number of journals, focusing on futures-related issues.

4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: Risk analysis and Project Management are my nontraditional foresight work. Centre for Australian Foresight & Association of Professional Futurists are two great venues for communities and education, as is the WFS (despite it’s heavily US-centric view of the world). I’m also involved in a couple of online communities, one that looks at global security issues, and one that looks at national education issues.

5. Parting Advice: It is FAR better to work with a more experienced practitioner on your first client engagement, than to try to do it alone. Paying such a practitioner to assist you will do wonders for your ongoing credibility as well as impact for the client. And for the more experienced consultant, always remember, the new players have insights that are often refreshing and alien to you, and that can provide the kind of dissonance you need to stay alert.

 

Cornelia Daheim, Founder and Principal, Future Impacts Consulting

1. History and Current Career Path: I have a background in comparative literature and organizational psychology—the latter was a bridge to my foresight work. What drew me to foresight was the opportunity to always keep learning about many different topics and organizational contexts, the chance to make a change for the better, and to orient my clients toward long-term planning and sustainable futures. I started at Z_punkt The Foresight Company in 2000 when it was very small and in its early startup days, and made my way from researcher to project manager to leading the company as a managing partner. On this road, I’ve “grown with the company”, e.g. by having developed international business or by developing a combined qualitative-quantitative approach.

In 2015 I founded my own company, Future Impacts Consulting, to focus more on using new approaches such as experiential futures for achieving a stronger impact of foresight insights on action today, building a better connection between foresight and decision-making, and creating more sustainable futures.

Compared to when I started 15 years ago, today there is a much more developed foresight field, with many more options for starting a career (e.g. more places to study and then work in academia, more consultants, more teams at companies etc.). My advice: Learn about the theoretical foundations and methodologies, then start to do as much practical work as soon as possible, see different approaches, and cooperate. Never think you know better about a customer’s business future then they do—it’s all about the dialogue. As much as we bring foresight knowledge to our customers, we need to also learn from them about their unique histories, pressures and needs for decision-making.

2. Key Foresight Skills: Key skills and expertise needed include the following:

– Knowledge about current and future trends and disruptions
– Knowledge of key drivers of change
– Scenario development
– Weak signals (of change)
– Facilitation expertise
– Knowledge about theoretical foundations of foresight
– Experience with methodologies of foresight
– Ability to question assumptions
– Knowledge about process / project conceptualization and management
– Strong people handling skills / stakeholder management

One must also know how this knowledge can be applied to organizational needs like policy making, corporate strategy and innovation. Foresight is about communicating what change is there and may come, and also a practical kind of craftsmanship in e.g. analysing trends or developing scenarios.

3. Self-Description and Marketing: I use the term foresight consultant, which works better in many contexts: “Futurists” are unfortunately often associated with “simply dishing out predictions”. With the term foresight, instead I associate with the participatory nature of this work, a paradigm to question assumptions about the future, and an aim to arrive at future-oriented decisions today.

To customers, I stress foresight helps them to identify patterns of change, anticipate what’s to come, detect risks and opportunities earlier, thus enabling them to become more active than re-active, more resilient and “future-proof”. I also put more and more stress on the value-based normative side, where in each project you in the end have to ask: What is the future we would like to see unfold, and what is our (realistic) role in pushing in that direction?

4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: Continuing education to me happens very much in projects, ideally in cooperation with partners from other institutions, and apart from that in conferences like the recent European Commissions’ FTA (Future-oriented Technology Analysis) conference, where I had the pleasure to serve on the scientific committee and was able to learn about many new approaches and insights from the field. Additionally, I try to attend webinars continuously, here and there, take an MOOC, and regularly go to conferences on specific topics from the innovation community.

Besides the organizations you mention (APF, WFS, WFSF and FERN), I’d also like to mention here the “The Millennium Project”, the world’s largest continuous foresight NGO working on future global change, producing the annual State of the Future Report, and working with an online, crowd-based Global Futures Intelligence System (GFIS). From this system and mode of cooperating and sharing knowledge globally on future issues, I learn continuously and am able to also regularly gain insights from other parts of the world.

5. Parting Advice: My final piece of advice is to get practical quickly, and ideally do work where your client needs an answer to a question about the future and it’s not just foresight as a marketing tool. Ask yourself what you have learned from each practical experience. Don’t underestimate the importance of personal communication skills. Be highly professional in terms of project management, communication and people or stakeholder management. Foresight is not a theoretical endeavour, but is meant to produce impacts today—so do your best to realize that. And good luck!

 

Kaat Exterbille, Strategic Foresight Consultant / Managing Director at Kate Thomas & Kleyn


Kaat Exterbille1. History and Current Career Path:
I came from a background in advertising communications, marketing work, and positioning to creative participative design, and from there to foresight.

2. Key Foresight Skills: Foresight methods and outputs I particularly use and recommend:

– foresight (future search conference, community planning, scenario planning, stakeholder analysis, SWOT, morphologic analysis, etc.)
– market research (quantitative and focus group sessions)
– trendwatching (environmental scanning, STEEPV, where V is for Values)
– mission statements
– process audits and management
– transformation/change management
– cultural audits
– diversity management
– branding and communication

3. Self-Description and Marketing: Neither the title of futurist or foresight professional are known or used. I describe myself as futurist and change manager. Also a participative strategic designer and researcher.

4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: Global holistic research, trends, systems thinking, out-of-the-box thinking, and participative design all help with foresight. There are many communities, maybe too many, and it is difficult to decide which are most relevant. Follow your instincts.

5. Parting Advice: Strive to be a personal agent of change, to see how our individual actions create global futures, and to help others understand the great transition in which we are living.

 

Marina Gorbis, Executive Director at IFTF

mariana-gorbis1. History and Current Career Path: I started my career at SRI International, working in international development. I spent 15 years with SRI and then moved to the Institute for the Future. So I was already involved in doing research and in thinking about the future, but I really had to learn the basic techniques of foresight thinking and foresight methodologies once I moved to IFTF. I don’t think I’ve had to make changes in my career path, I just think that I learned to re-direct my research skills to doing foresight work.

2. Key Foresight Skills: I think that good foresight is more an art than a science. Like a good artist who uses brushes and technique to create art pieces, a good foresight practitioner has a toolkit of methodologies and processes to create a good foresight. And the more you do this, the better you get. I think the most important foresight skill is to be able to spot important signals of change from diverse domains and uncover larger patterns that these signals tell you about the future. You also need to communicate this pattern or future story in a compelling way that people can relate to, and which allows them to generate useful insights.

A good forecaster needs to have a good understanding of history but not be bound by it. While knowing historical patterns of change is important this knowledge should not impede one from thinking about disruptive changes. In terms of particular knowledge domains, I think the best foresight people have to be kind of Renaissance people—great generalists who know a lot about a lot of different things and are able to tie what they know into a coherent narrative. This is why it is so hard to find really great forecasters!

3. Self-Description and Marketing: I usually describe myself as a futurist or a forecaster but I may also talk about my particular area of expertise—economics, economic development, organizational futures, etc. I like to present myself as a researcher whose research domain is the future. I also like to point out that the purpose of systematically thinking about the future is not to predict it but to help people make better decisions.

4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: Besides the IFTF community, I consider it very important to be a part of various communities of innovators—in technology, in health, maker spaces, etc.

5. Parting Advice: I think it is of utmost importance to create or become a part of a community of leading edge thinkers/innovators who will be constantly opening up your eyes to new possibilities and challenging your ways of thinking.

 

Josef Hargrave, Global Foresight Manager at Arup

Josef Hargrave1. History and Current Career Path: Despite the increasing importance of corporate foresight to organizational strategy and innovation, there are few professional qualifications available to practitioners. As a consequence, most training and professional development continues to be experience-based or ‘on-the-job’. This includes in-house training by management consultancies or courses delivered by internal learning functions. Expertise in the field can also be supported by university degrees that teach complementary skills in fields such as business and design.

In 2006, I completed an MSc in Science and Technology Management at Manchester Business School. The MSc taught me fundamentals of technological change, the process of innovation, and approaches to organizational strategy; all of which are core components of modern foresight approaches. After my MSc, I started working at Z_punkt The Foresight Company in Cologne, Germany. Z_punkt specializes in delivery of corporate foresight services to international blue-chip clients. The company is known for excellence and innovation in foresight methodology and process design. This allowed me to develop a range of core foresight methods, including horizon scanning, trend research, scenario planning and workshop facilitation. While at Z_punkt I delivered projects for companies from the energy sector (Alstom, Vattenfall), automotive sector (Volkswagen, Audi) and chemicals sector (BASF, Evonik).

In 2009, I moved to London to set up a Limited company and deliver foresight consulting services to public and private sector organisations in Germany and the UK. Projects wins while at my startup included a multi-year horizon scanning programme for the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and trend research on the future of mobility for Volkswagen Group and Audi.

In late 2011, I took a permanent role in the major foresight consultancy Arup’s global Foresight + Research + Innovation team. I specialise in exploring and envisioning the future of the built environment. My clients and collaborators now include Arup businesses and leadership teams, and external organisations from a broad range of sectors. In my personal time, I am a Board Member at the Museum of Architecture and a Futures Fellow at the London Transport Museum.

2. Key Foresight Skills: Skills I particularly recommend include:

Systems Analysis
Horizon Scanning
Trend Research
Scenario Planning
Visioning
Backcasting
Future User Experience Design
Design Fiction

3. Self-Description and Marketing: I’m an Associate in Arup’s Foresight, Research and Innovation team. As Global Foresight Manager I am responsible for the delivery and management of Foresight services, tools and projects globally, in Arup’s Americas, Australasia, East-Asia, Europe and UKMEA regions.

Arup runs marketing initiatives, freeing me to focus on foresight management. My current roles and responsibilities include the coordination of regional foresight leads, the management of Arup’s Inspire insights and benchmarking database, the delivery and regionalisation of Arup’s Global Cities Strategy, the development of an Arup position for the Circular Economy, and an executive consulting project for a leading urban mass transit operator. You can find me on Twitter at @josefhargrave

4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: Design used to be considered nontraditional foresight, but it is increasingly seen as critical to our field. Find the best team you can, and your colleagues and clients will be your continuing education.

5. Parting Advice: To understand implications and manage uncertainty we must challenge our own perception of what is ‘normal’, and what ‘normal’ will be in the future. We must apply principles that can adequately anticipate design of the structures, processes and experiences of tomorrow.

 

Jennifer Jarratt, Principal at Leading Futurists LLC

jennifer-jarratt1. History and Current Career Path: I pursued a graduate degree which led to an internship in a foresight company. Overall, I’ve been a writer since the beginning of my professional career. Writing has always proved useful in moving across sectors and into new jobs and directions.

Many futurists come to their foresight work as specialists / experts in particular fields, such as IT, finance, law, etc., which both gives them an immediate audience but also can limit their movement into other fields.

2. Key Foresight Skills: I recommend:

MSc in Studies of the Future or Strategic Foresight
Good basic education in the field
Practical, on-the-job experience
Ability to express oneself verbally
Ability to speculate
Comfort with ambiguity, and being wrong
Intellectual curiosity
Visual, writing, or graphic talents—all three perhaps
Critical thinking skills
Confidence

3. Self-Description and Marketing: I’m a futurist with many years of experience in working with organizations in many different industry sectors, and with associations and government agencies in a variety of fields and professions.

4. Non-Traditional Foresight and Continuing Education: Many futurists get into allied fields of work, mostly because there is not enough exclusive foresight consulting to keep a futures company in business. Alternatively, some people who are really not professional futurists try bring foresight methods to their regular work as an enhancement. I recommend both the APF and WFS. I’m on a team responsible for professional development at APF. I do daily scanning, reading, writing, talking to people with skills or experience I don’t have.

5. Parting Advice: What’s attractive about young futurists today—especially to mature organizations—are their skills and knowledge of what’s emerging in the world, social networks for example. You can make a difference.

 

Gerd Leonhard, Futurist, Keynote Speaker, Author, CEO, The Futures Agency and Host, The Futures Show

Gerd Leonhard1. History and Current Career Path: I started doing futures work because I realized I was always too early with my business ideas, by 5-10 years. When I wrote my 1st book in 2004, The Future of Music, I realized I was better at seeing the future than monetizing my visions. Today I am only 2-3 years too early—a perfect time frame for my clients. In a way, the speed of change has made the earliness less of an issue now. The biggest challenge to practitioners is keeping up with things, learning quickly, understanding things instantly, finding time to digest and think rather than talk about thinking.

2. Key Foresight Skills: Key foresight skills include: imagination. Unorthodoxy. Intuition. Fast learning. Connecting the dots. Curiosity. Tenaciousness, particularly about cutting through the noise. Focusing on signal versus noise. Being able to question your own assumptions.

3. Self-Description and Marketing: I do almost everything by content marketing, via social media, youtube, twitter. I can be found pretty much everywhere and share all my writings, slides, videos etc. Effective sharing has been the number one success factor in my career; and obviously honing my speaking skills, after almost 2000 gigs 🙂

4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: I try not to sell anything to my clients. I prefer using a pull not a push paradigm to get them to find me, and everyone else that works with me at TFA The Futures Agency. Our biggest asset for staying current is all the great people in our network. See @futurefeed for more.

5. Parting Advice: Try to make a difference, try to think beyond the obvious, listen more than you talk, observe always, don’t assume, discover, and ask your kids!!

 

Jeremy Mancuso, Consultant at Living Enterprise

Jeremy Mancuso1. History and Current Career Path: I was fresh out of undergrad and was fascinated by the field. It’s rewarding but a tough field to get established in, due to the relative obscurity of the profession. I worked at consulting companies (Shaping Tomorrow, Living Enterprise) that provide a variety of types of foresight work to a broad range of clients.

2. Key Foresight Skills: Ultimately, you need the ability to look ahead, an education, and the ability to use various foresight methods and tools to assist businesses and individuals in achieving their goals by getting them to think creatively about the future.

3. Self-Description and Marketing: The title Futurist/Futurologist might work in academia as descriptors but these are hard to apply in the business world. I find that potential employers and clients more receptive to Foresight Professional, Researcher, or Strategist. These titles are less ‘fuzzy’ and more business-oriented.

4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: Maintain your professional connections and network with others in field through various organizations such as APF, WFS and FERN. Don’t neglect LinkedIn.

5. Parting Advice: Foresight can be a very rewarding field, but it requires some persistence and creativity to get yourself out there and established.

 

Karen Newkirk, Consultant at Creating Eternity

Karen Newkirk1. History and Current Career Path: I began with Community Development in Villages in Brazil, Peru and Indonesia with an interest in changing the world. I spent ten years working on the Pitjantjatjara Lands in adult education and nine years working for the Victorian Government in rural development. In all of those positions I worked with people’s aspirations and I have seen a lot of positive change. I was drawn to foresight work because I want to change the world and there are so many opportunities to be engaged in the continuance of human development.

When I saw the Masters in Strategic Foresight I immediately knew that it would perfectly align with my internationally recognised Certificate of Facilitation in ToP (Technologies of Participation), now offered as a Graduate Diploma in Facilitative Leadership (GDFL). I had skills and knowledge in social change, working with communities (building consensus and planning better futures) but the Institute of Cultural Affairs trained me informally (GDFL being recently accredited). I added to my formal skills with a Bachelor of Social Science but there was still something missing. The Masters in Strategic Foresight gave me knowledge and vocabulary to market and use what I had already learnt about the future, about hope and about change.

2. Key Foresight Skills: Be skilled at:

Connecting to people’s deepest aspirations with their actions
Illuminating perspectives that allow for hope and change
Enabling a group of people (4-200) to make decisions together that they are committed to following through with.

3. Self-Description and Marketing: I am an educator, a facilitator and a futurist. The latter rarely resonates until I have described my formal education and the type of work that I do.

4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: My nontraditional skills include strategic planning, community planning, and building consensus. I get work through connecting with the client’s need but I am never sure whether they see my value as any different from that of any other consultant that does not use foresight. I am currently undertaking research.

5. Parting Advice: Start with your heart, connect to your most heartfelt aspirations and offer a valued service. I would not advise a student to take ‘the scenic route” / long way around, as I did, although everything that I have done and learnt has been enjoyable and valuable. Remember that “Women hold up half the sky” (Mao). Women are still marginalized in Western society. Ensuring that women (and other marginalised peoples) have a major role in developing our future is critical to improved futures.

 

Gill Ringland, Fellow at SAMI Consulting, and Director at Unlocking Foresight Know How

Gill Ringland1. History and Current Career Path: I was head of Strategy at computer industry firm ICL, and needed to know where the computer industry was going to set the context for ICL’s strategy. Nobody I knew had any idea, so that launched my journey.

2. Key Foresight Skills: The top three skills I recommend are curiosity, the ability to connect ideas with decision makers, and personal discipline, for when things get tough. The top tools we use are scenarios, 3 Horizons, futures wheels, and VERGE.

3. Self-Description and Marketing: I don’t call myself a futurist. I am a strategy professional who works in the context of understanding how to relate to the future. We bridge between futurists and people with “day jobs”.

4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: I am an active participant in many LinkedIn groups.

5. Parting Advice: Foresight can be a rewarding field but it requires some diligence and creativity to get yourself out there and established.

 

Eddy J. Schuermans, CEO and Co-Founder at ESRAS, “Empowering Corporate Foresight”

Eddy J. Schuermans1. History and Current Career Path: I have 30 yrs experience in audit/consulting at PwC with expertise in domains like strategic risk management, ICT, organisational change and structuring, strategic management. As from 2008 I started as independent consultant in the field of strategic thinking in general and corporate foresight in particular. In general my purpose is to help build organisations better strategic capabilities to deal with uncertainty and complexity in a fast changing environment. This is at organisational, people, process and technology level.

At first we created a start-up company CEONAV and developed a purpose-built strategic thinking platform CEOPS (CEOPositoningSystem). At the end our endeavour wasn’t successful and we stopped it in 2013. However we gained a lot of experience in the start-up field. At present we have exchanged CEOPS for another technological platfrom ie ITONICS. Accordingly we remain strongly convinced of the enabling role of IT in corporate foresight.

2. Key Foresight Skills: I recommend the following skills in particular:

Discovery skills: Horizon scanning, pattern recognition, scenario thinking & deepening (eg CLA), option identification & qualification.
Decision skills : Value driver analysis, portfolio management, risk management, uncertainty management, cognitive heuristics and biases, game theory
Management skills: Coaching, team and collaboration management, change management, people enabling, culture management, general management
Technical skills: IT & social media, basic statistical skills, simulation & optimisation skills, big data analytical skills.

3. Self-Description and Marketing: In the main, I would call myself a “strategist”. ESRAS is about advancing corporate foresight emphasizing discovering earlier, deciding smarter and executing faster. I consider myself an evangelist in this domain, particularly in Belgium. We market ourselves by committing ourselves to deliver consulting services coupled with smart solutions (diagnostics, analytics, software). So, we want to be a bit disruptive to the consulting profession ourselves.

4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: Nontraditional foresight skills include risk management, or foreseeing events that could jeopardise your value-creating potential as well as destruct value. Also uncertainty management: this is about making uncertainty more tangible and leveraging it as a key factor in strategic thinking.

5. Parting Advice: Foresight is a very interesting field with a lot of potential. It is developing fast but still at its earliest stage of maturity. It is a very challenging domain, and the most important is usually all the human factors.

 

Lee Shupp, Managing Director, Insights and Strategy at Speck Designs

Lee Shupp1. History and Current Career Path: I discovered Futures Research while writing a graduate thesis on the future of the Internet, while in the graduate program in Communications at San Francisco State University. It was the mid 1990s, and it was clear to me that the Internet was going to be a very big deal. But there were no academic approaches to writing about the future, so I began shopping for new methodologies in the library. A kind librarian told me that there were books on something called Futures Research. There were three shelves of books, and I read them all in about two weeks, and was fascinated by the field. I convinced a reluctant graduate committee to let me use scenarios in my thesis, and then won the Benjamin Draper Writing Award for my thesis on the Future of the Internet. I skipped my graduation ceremony to drive to Houston to attend the first Summer Sessions offered in the UHCL Futures program. It was a wonderful experience; I really enjoyed my time in the program. Having academic training in futures research made my resume stand out to potential employers as I began my career.

I spent my first 10 years at Cheskin, an innovation consultancy in Silicon Valley, where I worked my way up from researcher/ethnographer to Executive VP helping Fortune 500 companies innovate new products, services and markets. Cheskin was then purchased by Added Value (a WPP market research company), where I spent the next 5 years. Then I worked for 2 years at The Futures Company, focusing on combining innovation and foresight. I’m now Managing Director of Insights & Strategy at Speck Design, a design consultancy in Silicon Valley. Most of the changes in my career path have come from wanting to work with great, smart people in an environment that provides creativity and intellectual challenge. Few companies understand how to do that; I’ve had a few great runs and a lot of time trying to create my preferred future in alien environments.

2. Key Foresight Skills: Key skills: openness and intellectual curiosity, pattern recognition, systems thinking, qualitative and quantitative research skills, communication and storytelling, understanding how to help businesses uncover new opportunities and make money.
Empathy is also critical. Having the ability to see through your client’s eyes, and the patience to bring them around to a new way of thinking about the future, even if it takes some time.

3. Self-Description and Marketing: I describe myself as a business consultant who works at the intersection of foresight, innovation and design. To build my personal brand I have my own website, and use sites like LinkedIn, Twitter and other social media du jour.

Your biggest marketing challenge is that foresight is a new field and few people understand it. So you are often selling an unknown approach to a problem that people don’t know that they have. That can be tough. Another challenge is the short-term focus of American public companies, where the next quarter results are paramount and long term vision and planning suffer accordingly.

4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: I think foresight is often embedded in business consulting and not really recognized as such. Foresight is still more of a perspective than a field in my view; many people are bringing that perspective to more established disciplines like consulting, innovation, design, and market research. To stay sharp on foresight skills, I monitor lots of conferences, Silicon Valley startups, new technology and street culture, as well as the usual suspects. You are never current in this field; you are always behind, and probably not even aware of the areas that you are most behind in!

5. Parting Advice: What’s different about foresight today is that it is beginning to emerge as a legitimate field of study and business practice. Several Fortune 500 companies have futurists and/or foresight practices. Yet there is not yet as much work as there should be for us. Foresight consultants tend to be individuals or small companies rather than growing consulting practices, though that too is beginning to change.

For new entrants: be relentlessly curious, question everything, be open to all points of view, and find what you love to do. Always explore, and get underneath the surface of what’s going on to find out what’s really going on. For experienced practitioners: try new approaches and methodologies, collaborate with other smart folks, keep challenging yourself. Stay connected with young people, who are often redefining and re-interpreting the world, changing it as they mature. What drew me to foresight work was my insatiable curiosity and my love of learning new things. The future is like a giant, always-changing puzzle. It fascinates me. Perhaps this is true for you as well.

 

Heiko von der Gracht, Futurist and Senior Manager, KPMG

Heiko von der Gracht1. History and Current Career Path: I am generally interested in long-term developments and specifically in improving scenario development techniques. I am a member of the editorial board of the foresight journal Technological Forecasting & Social Change. I came to foresight via a PhD in Business at EBS, then did the Oxford Scenarios Programme at the University of Oxford, and have done other foresight related executive education programs since (see my LinkedIn profile). I was head of futures management at the Institute of Corporate Education (Incore), and am now Futurist and Senior manager at KPMG.

2. Key Foresight Skills: Skills I particularly recommend include sense making, creativity, visioning, sustainability studies, systems thinking, and intuition. Become adept at scenario development, and be well-versed in the futures literature and its thinking.

3. Self-Description and Marketing: At Incore, I worked to promote academic research in the field, support emerging networks nationally and internationally, facilitate and supervise PhD students in the field, and set up new course for MSc and MBA programs. At KPMG, I specialize in strategic foresight. I do a lot of keynotes, workshops and seminars.

4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: Consider developing nontraditional skills like strategy or innovation management or marketing or risk management as complements to traditional foresight. Consider sales techniques, which help you better communicate the value of your work to stakeholders. Aim for constant innovation in your own processes and technical professionalism. For online resources, I use and recommend Xing and LinkedIn.

5. Parting Advice: Fortunately today, foresight is increasingly emerging as its own academic discipline and subject to study (e.g. MSc), at least in Germany. Try to gain formal academic training, if it is available.

 

Gretchen Young, Director at Young Futures

Gretchen Young1. History and Current Career Path: I was drawn to this work through my interest in both ethics and leadership—which I believe are central to the foresight field—although I didn’t consciously realise this at the time. I don’t think things have changed much in the time that I’ve been in the field—few people and organisations consciously seek out futures thinking for their projects, or engage with it over the long term to gain its full benefits. We can’t entirely blame the community for this behavior (as we often do)—we need to take responsibility for our own lack of capacity to effectively communicate and gain traction through our actions and efforts.

2. Key Foresight Skills: Foresight is the capacity to consciously and systematically explore future possibilities… including their precursors and their consequences, good, bad and ugly. Most importantly, successful foresight requires facilitating present actions that align with the awareness of possibilities that occurs. Without a focus on the present, the rest of foresight is simply ‘playing’—which is fun, but not particularly useful. For me, good foresight work demands high levels of participation from diverse players and a capacity to appreciate and respectfully draw upon the different perspectives available for contribution.

3. Self-Description and Marketing: I change what I call myself based on my audience and whether, at any given moment, I feel I can take the time to describe what I do. I never use the word futurologist. I sometimes use futurist. I don’t like that term either but the general public is becoming more familiar with it. My preference is to use foresight practitioner, but it can be alienating for some to hear this, and that can get in the way of a useful conversation about what it actually means. Sometimes I call myself an organisational consultant, and I bring a certain philosophy and skill set to my work, which relates to foresight practice.

4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: Only about 20% of my work (if that) would be called specific foresight work that my clients might ask for from this frame. However—I bring the foundations and principles of the field to everything I do. I speak about finding ways to make sure we carefully understand a wide range of possibilities and perspectives before making decisions to ac.; I also speak about the idea of preparing and planning for different possible outcomes in the absence of certainty about what will happen.

5. Parting Advice: Take responsibility for your client community better understanding what the field does and can contribute. Educate them. Recognise that foresight practice is a way of being and doing, not just a set of tools and methodologies. A foresight practitioner will have the essence of the field inform all their work to a greater or lesser extent, regardless of whether the foresight banner is visible to the client or community.

 

 

 

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