Group 2. Academics Advice
The academic (scholar-educator) helps ground and grow our profession. These individuals see themselves primarily as foresight students, investigators, or teachers. Their primary drives are to learn, investigate, describe, analyze, test and ground their knowledge, and to help others to do the same.
Wendell Bell, Professor Emeritus of Sociology at Yale University
1. History and Current Career Path: I began doing foresight research in Jamaica in 1952 when I started studying the decisions of nationhood. The need and importance of studying the future became transparent. Thus, I started reading in the futures field and attending meetings of futurists.
2. Key Foresight Skills: The skills you need depend somewhat on the type of foresight work that you do. In my case I focused on research and teaching. Thus, knowing how to do research (constructing concepts, and formulating theories, designing studies to be able to falsify what is indeed false, collecting data, coding and analyzing data, interpreting the results, and reformulating concepts and theories as necessary. Additionally, there are skills of thinking creatively and learning the methodological techniques to aid futures thinking. For more, see my book, Foundations of Futures Studies, Vol. 1, 2010.
3. Self-Description and Marketing: I call myself a futurist and a sociologist. As an academic, my hope is that futures studies will develop as a significant part of university teaching, similar to departments of English, Political Science, Sociology, etc. Or perhaps as Institutes or Programs, if not full-fledged departments. I worry most about selling the value of futures thinking to my colleagues, especially in the social sciences.
4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: The World Futures Studies Federation, The World Future Society, The Foresight Network, and variety of individual futurists are my favorite sources for continuing education.
5. Parting Advice: Spend more time reading the foresight literature than you do talking and writing. Be informed. Try to do a certain amount of original research, actually collecting empirical data in the field. That might include participant observation, survey research, archival data, whatever strikes your interest. Good luck. We need your help.
Peter Bishop, Principal, Teach the Future
1. History and Current Career Path: Found myself at UH-Clear Lake in 1976 where they had recently established the futures studies program. Before that, did research on social change in graduate school. Before that, I read McLuhan, Ehrlich, Toffler, and Meadows. Got graduate degrees with an emphasis on Social Change. Joined the UHCL program in 1982 and got early on-the-job training while working with futures program faculty member Chris Dede on a long-term series of presentations we made to IBM, as well as from other UHCL faculty members.
2. Key Foresight Skills: Key skills include:
Ability to handle complexity and ambiguity
Ability to locate and manage large amounts of information
Ability to support a claim with evidence
Communication in written, oral, and visual forms
Design thinking (this one is becoming increasingly important)
3. Self-Description and Marketing: Retired from the University of Houston MSc in Studies of the Future in 2013, turning the program over to Andy Hines. Created a nonprofit corporation called Teach the Future to promote futures thinking in K-12 schools and colleges.
4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: Association of Professional Futurists, World Future Society, and World Futures Studies Federation
5. Parting Advice: A quote from Edith Weiner, “Sell the benefits of foresight, not the tools.” And encourage educators that you know to teach the future in their classes and schools.
John Dreyer, Assistant Professor of Political Science at South Dakota School of Mines
1. History and Current Career Path: My PhD adviser is a futurist and he got me very excited at the idea. The biggest challenge has been finding a niche and getting productive within my wider job as a teacher and researcher.
2. Key Foresight Skills: Know your field well. If you know how the field you operate within works now, you can better predict what’s coming down the road. Be able to analyze and cherry pick information that many might see as inconsequential.
3. Self-Description and Marketing: I am not necessarily a Futurist but I use foresight in my “secondary” field and am in the process of applying it to my primary field (International Security). I call myself an “Amateur Futurist”, which I’m comfortable with. I use Twitter, a blog and writing to get my “brand” better known. I’m working on other things as well.
4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: International Security is a great nontraditional/emerging area of practice. Good foresight writing and work is lacking in both Security and in the wider field of International Relations. Using IR theory and concepts and applying them to foresight is something that I do that hopefully will stand out more over time. Keeping up with established futures journals helps me continue my education.
4. Parting Advice: Cultivate your excitement for this privileged work. It will carry you through the tough times.
Jay Gary, Associate Professor of Leadership and Executive Director of Online Programs, Oral Roberts University
1. History and Current Career Path: I began my foresight work in Christian ministry, and doing strategy consulting to nonprofit, public, and private enterprises. After earning my PhD, I supervised over 80 students in doctoral projects, mainly at Regent University. My research has increasingly focused on defining credentials and professional development pathways for futurists, entrepreneurs, and innovators.
In addition to my full time work at ORU, I continue to offer Real-Time Delphi services to private, public and nonprofit clients, who are building alliances, or want to forecast knowledge management or supply chain factors. I also support foresight projects for companies or alliances through workshops, short-courses or facilitation as needed to support larger contracts.
2. Key Foresight Skills: Critical competencies a good foresight practitioner needs include:
1. Scanning: Designing an environmental scanning system, enabling an organization’s strategic
leaders to track patterns of systemic change across trends, events and issues.
2. Forecasting: Creating a baseline forecast of trends for an organization, one that contains alternative futures, uncertainties and wild cards relating to the next decade.
3. Planning: Leading a departmental team to develop strategic plans, which include the mission,
vision and goals appropriately matched to the near-term competitive, customer and industry
4. Scenarios: Leading a scenario learning process for a leadership team that tests their strategy against a range of possible future developments.
5. Leadership: Presenting professional specialization, foresight practices and their values in appropriate media, including but not limited to career portfolios, popular press articles, lectures, and conferences.
Develop your quantitative skills, and understand where to use them. Develop your writing skills, and be able to work on deadline. That includes urgent, end-of-the-day and 48-hour projects. Understand the various types of reports that are needed for decision support, ranging from proof of concept, to competitive intelligence, to strategic audits. APF has developed a multi-level competency map for professionals that includes a level of cross-sector foresight practices, such as: Framing, Scanning, Futuring, Visioning, Designing and Adapting. Each of these competencies has sub-competencies, that link to futures methods. The key challenge for emerging futurists is to understand how to relate these cross-sector foresight practices their sector, organization and managers they work with.
3. Self-Description and Marketing: I am a tenured academic, so professional titles don’t apply as much to me. But when I use them I prefer foresight professional, whether as an analyst, entrepreneur, or consultant. In my world, “Futurist” applies to authors or speakers. I use it when I a booked to speak keynotes at conferences, but on LinkedIn and in my bio, I use it along with other titles, to explain my personal narrative.
In thinking about my personal brand, I always start with “Why,” as Simon Sinek says through his Golden Circle, http://www.startwithwhy.com Before 2004, I built my brand through consultations, high level projects among alliances in my field, and my own writings, including books. I still promote my brand through my personal website and avocation through secondary sites.
4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: I recommend APF for professional skills. Fast Company, The Futurist, and other magazines for futures fluency, TED talks, SXSW, etc. I regularly read seven Professional and Academic journals in Futures Studies, all available through library access. For continuing education, anyone with a Masters degree should become an adjunct at any for-profit school, for one course at a time. Besides honing your teaching and presentation skills, one of the biggest benefits is library access to foresight literature. It makes a difference. The literature is 5-10 years ahead in creating foresight practice and theory.
5. Parting Advice: Find an internship if you are in your 20’s. In your 30’s, work within corporations or governments. After your Masters degree or MBA, join a consulting firm that does implementation, planning and foresight, and work your way up to doing foresight that informs the C-suite. To really succeed, you should push yourself to get better in quantitative and qualitative analysis. You must understand research, and be able to use baseline tools, such as Excel, and dedicated forecasting databases, such as Barry Hughes’ International Futures (IF) model, and have good understanding of social and political change, ie. the Molitor 22-Step Model of Change.
On top of that, you must cultivate self-awareness, and the ability to think outside yourself, your background, and your biases. Cultivate a working future fluency in one or two fields, such as technology, education, government, healthcare, and be a master of the issues in that sector. Becoming a foresight professional, not just a part-time practitioner, requires continuous improvement, and working in a high demand job, where you can round out your skills, and learn how to lead. It takes time, but you can do it, if you aim high.
Peter Hayward, Lecturer at Swinburne University, Swinburne MSc in Foresight
1. History and Current Career Path: I came to foresight via two areas of management called business improvement and change management. The first asks where do we want to take our business, and the second asks why some people and projects are successful and other fail to sustain change. My Masters of Foresight was critical kind of “finishing schooling” that cemented my foresight focus. Formal training in Systems Thinking was also key to my own career path.
2. Key Foresight Skills: Key skills include:
Critical thinking to uncover hidden assumptions and blind spots
Creative thinking, to see solutions to wicked problems
Resilience in the face of significant uncertainty
Ability to use foresight tools
Facilitation of group learning
Effective communication, sometimes of radical and provocative ideas
Healthy scepticism of the fallibility of our own perspective
A working grasp of moral philosophy and reasoning
3. Self-Description and Marketing: I describe myself as a futures educator and coach, and sometimes as a Pracademic (practitioner/academic). Yep, that one’s a mouthful 🙂
4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: Nontraditional skills include economics, gardener, career coaching. Economics (which started out as a branch of moral philosophy) is a useful language to be literate in. Gardening teaches you that nothing lasts, that we are not needed and that we have to work with what is here and within a knowledge of where the environment wants to go. It’s the real ‘boss’. In coaching, recognizing the future that a client is wittingly or unwittingly creating now, through their own actions (and inactions), is a great place to start. I then ask “Is this future the one you want to live in? If not, what future do you want?” For continuing education, I participate in APF and WFSF, and follow quite a few bloggers. I ignore the mainstream media.
5. Parting Advice: Follow your passion and not your pension. The life experiences you bring to the field can be very helpful in guiding you to your own unique contribution to the field.
Andy Hines, Assistant Professor & Program Coordinator at University of Houston Foresight Program
1. History and Current Career Path: I randomly took an undergraduate course called “History of the Future,” and was hooked. It led me to enroll in the University of Houston – Clear Lake Master’s Program in Studies of the Future (now Foresight). What drew me to the work is that not only is exploring the future fascinating, it is tremendously useful and important. I have always wanted to do work that was not just a job, but provided a real value to the world, and foresight does this.
After graduating from UH-Clear Lake, I spent seven years as a consulting futurist with Joe Coates. The number one issue we had is that our clients typically loved our work, but had trouble implementing it. So, I decided to “go inside” and work as an organizational futurist to find out why it was so difficult. I spend nearly a decade in that capacity, first with the Kellogg Company and then Dow Chemical. I learned a lot about how to “translate” our work in a way that my colleagues could use it. When I went back to work as a consultant with Social Technologies, I believe I was a far more effective consultant based on what I learned as an organizational futurist. I began teaching in the Houston Foresight program as an adjunct about ten years ago “on the side,” and when Peter Bishop retired last year, I took over as the head of the program.
The challenge of having to explain what foresight and futurists do remains, but perhaps less so. An additional challenge today is the tremendous pressure clients are under to prove the value of any external work. In the US, at least, it seems getting foresight consulting work has become more challenging since the Great Recession. On the other hand, there is some growth in organizations hiring futurists as insiders, and there are more foresight evangelists who have some exposure to our work and who are trying to spread it within their organizations. One change I’ve made in my consulting work is encouraging and coaching organizations to hire organizational futurists, which can in turn re-energize the consulting futurist market. When we have client contacts who personally know the value that foresight can provide, we have a much better chance of success.
2. Key Foresight Skills: Generic skills that any professional futurist should have include: researching, decision-making, facilitating and communicating, critical thinking, systems thinking, and creativity, and understanding change. Foresight-specific skills include framing, scanning, forecasting, visioning, and planning.
Once one has the basics, they can build and develop their personal tool kit. It’s good to be aware of and know how to use a wide range of approaches, methods, and tools, but most of us tend to develop favorites or preferences, whether its scenarios or CLA or the more intuitive visualization approaches. In communicating what you can do with potential clients, you might have your top-shelf tools that you lead with, but be able to dig deep and find a special tool that might work just right for a particular project. The key thing is to consciously cultivate what types of tools you want to use, so you have a sense of how you want to build your practice over time.
Some qualities that I find helpful for futurists are pattern recognition, embracing uncertainty, and not being too sure, that is, always being open to alternatives. Being highly self-aware is increasingly important—knowing your biases and preferences, strengths and weaknesses, and being able to tell others about you—your personal brand, if you will.
3. Self-Description and Marketing: I am comfortable describing myself as a professional futurist who works in the field of foresight. My sense is that the term futurist, while it used to conjure up images of crystal balls, actually has a positive connotation today. We see more and more people calling themselves futurists. Over time, I think we can build on that, and distinguish professional futurists with certain training and qualifications—we’re working on that now at APF.
I have personally paid a great deal of attention to my personal brand and have worked very hard to promote the field. I have worked as a consulting, organizational, and academic futurist. Each of those roles has a different audience and requires a different approach. While my style has remained fairly consistent over the years, I’ve been able to adapt my practice to suit my various roles. While some of that evolution of one’s practice will happen due to circumstance, I also think we should periodically do our own personal visioning and strategic planning to nudge our careers in the direction we might prefer. For instance, when I wanted to shift into academia, I started by teaching as an adjunct on the side.
In promoting the field, some of that comes directly through my work with students these days, as well as speaking and writing. I have chosen work with the Association of Professional Futurists as way to promote the field. I think there are lots of ways or organizations one can volunteer with —it’s a good thing to consciously give back to the field in whatever capacity works best for the individual.
4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: I take a “big tent” view of foresight. If you want to be a part of us, and can meet what we all agree is the minimum degree of qualifications (we’re working on that now), then you’re “in,” in my view. I think of foresight as an ecosystem where some things are core, some are maybe secondary, tertiary, and so on. Part of what’s ahead for us is to sort out who wants to play with us and how do we play better together. Since we are an inherently multi-disciplinary field, we can draw from practically anywhere. For instance, one of the big developments in the field, Integral Futures, emerged from the efforts of futurist Richard Slaughter to apply the insights from integral philosopher Ken Wilber to foresight.
Futurists tend to be “heavy consumers” of information. It’s easy to drown. So I think one has to be realistic about how much time they have for scanning, and allocate it appropriately. Certainly some basic literacy in what’s going on in the STEEP+ areas is essential. I often say that a key value-add we bring to clients is how to connect our extensive knowledge of the big picture (STEEP+) trends to the sector or industry that they are involved in. It can be challenging to keep up, but I do my best to attend at least a few foresight events each year – I rarely miss the WFS Assembly or APF Gatherings, and I try to catch a few related conferences in areas such as innovation or market research.
5. Parting Advice: In my experience those who are overly worried about jobs or careers from the get-go are less likely to have a fruitful foresight career than those who boldly jump in and commit. The latter seem to much more often end up doing well. In my own case, I got the degree in foresight because I “had to.” I really wasn’t even thinking about what job I might get. I know this is a challenging view in today’s competitive world of work, but I’ll stand by it. True passion and commitment will make it easier to do what’s necessary to find and build the career you want. And isn’t that really what we’re looking for, work that we love and that makes the world a better place?
Magnus Hoppe, Assistant professor Organization and Management at Mälardalen University
1. History and Current Career Path: I’m particularly interested in the academics and organizational boundaries around foresight, new ways of thinking, entrepreneurship, and innovation. I do research in knowledge work, competitive intelligence, innovation, entrepreneurship, organizational development and leadership at all levels. Insight management, to increase learning and entrepreneurship capacity, is a way of summarizing my work.
2. Key Foresight Skills: Good foresight requires:
Professional curiosity in combination with attentiveness to exploration of the unknown.
Associative ability and pattern recognition skills.
Imagination beyond the known.
Acceptance of living with uncertainty, contradictions and chaos.
Attentiveness to anomalies.
Strong communication and dialogue ability.
Ability to listen without initial scepticism.
Ability to balance intuition with proof (logic, reason).
Practitioners should get to know one business sector in depth, build expertise, and learn how to tell important stories well. Some of these stories will feel to the client like an emotional kick in the guts. What you often need is to create a sense of urgency. Without this sense, foresight or “futurizing” will not provide the momentum needed for organizational change.
3. Self-Description and Marketing: I don’t consciously market myself. I’m usually focused on other foresight-related subjects, like innovative capacity and entrepreneurial skills. If people and organizations don’t know how to act on novelty, then futurizing events may be interesting and entertaining, but they won’t create valuable new thoughts, plans, or actions.
4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: It isn’t nontraditional, but I often use scenario thinking in university discussions where we discuss different potential paths of action. I don’t sell it, but use it internally. For continuing education, I rely on a range of trendspotting sites and associations.
5. Parting Advice: Foresight does not automatically create any value for those who are involved. To create value with this work, you need additional skills, like knowing to how to instigate innovation processes, and an understanding of organizational change.
James Hughes, Executive Director, Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies and Director, Institutional Research and Planning at Trinity College
1. History and Current Career Path: I’ve been engaged with future studies since I was a teenager, principally because of techno-optimism and political engagement in improving the world. I hold a doctorate in sociology from the University of Chicago, served as assistant research director for the MacLean Center for Clinical Ethics, the executive director of the World Transhumanist Association and now, the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies (IEET). I’ve taught research methods for twenty-five years, and my work as an institutional researcher also involves foresight, especially in the domain of higher education.
2. Key Foresight Skills: IEET’s work is at the intersection of public policy and futurism. We take seriously emerging technology impacts that most public policy analysts dismiss as science fiction, and focus on public policy impacts that most futurists ignore. Our stance towards technology impacts is hopeful, but mindful of improving and protecting human rights, social equality and democracy, an orientation we call “technoprogressive.” That’s the approach to foresight I would recommend.
3. Self-Description and Marketing: I’m a sociologist who focuses on the future impacts of emerging technologies on all aspects of life and society.
4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: Independent foresight work, in the enterprise environment, is nontraditional. Too much foresight work is biased by the need to sell an optimistic message that the client will find helpful for their business. A lot of impacts, such as widespread technological unemployment, may not fit a positive, pro-corporate narrative. Like IEET, good foresight work strives to be independent of those kinds of self-censoring pressures.
5. Parting Advice: Students need to find what issues and trends they are passionate about. Remember also that sometimes your message isn’t what people want, but what they need.
Jari Kaivo-oja, Research Director at Finland Futures Research Centre, Adjunct Professor, Turku School of Economics, University of Turku
1. History and Current Career Path: I came to foresight as a research trainee, through the action research field. I later became a futures researcher and then foresight expert at the Finland Futures Research Centre, TSE, University of Turku. I now direct research projects in Futures Research Centre at the Turku School of Economics in Finland, where we offer MS and Ph.D. programs in strategic foresight and futures studies. Personally, I also do academic business consulting.
2. Key Foresight Skills: Key foresight skills include a multidisciplinary knowledge base, and a broad and deep understanding of STEEPV trends (V is for Values). For a good overview of foresight requirements in our modern world, see Miles, Loveridge, Keenan, and Kaivo-oja, Handbook of Knowledge Society Foresight, 2003 (Free PDF). To sum up, ability to make diagnosis, prognosis and prescriptions are key skills of foresight.
3. Self-Description and Marketing: I call myself an Academic business researcher, Foresight professional, Facilitator, External expert, and Business futurist.
4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: For me, nontraditional foresight includes being a scientific knowledge worker and knowledge broker in the frontline of science. Most of my continuing education happens on the job, by doing ambient foresight projects. I thrive on research and implementation of foresight projects. I write articles and follow key topics of discussion.
5. Parting Advice: Just do it. Find the very best partners you can. Challenge each other to continually improve foresight performance and competences. Follow the FAROUT principle in your work: Future oriented, Accurate, Resource efficient, Objective, Useful and Timely.
Farzad Khandan, Ph.D. student of Futures Studies at Simiagaran
1. History and Current Career Path: I read about foresight in scientific publications. Then I became familiar with the Millennium Project. I chose to apply for a doctorate in the field. Now I’m a Ph.D. student in the Futures Studies Research Center, IKIU, Iran.
2. Key Foresight Skills: Key skills include Strategic Thinking, Research Methods, and of course, a Forward View.
3. Self-Description and Marketing: I’m a recognized lecturer and executive in the field of ICT in my country (Iran). Now I’m building my personal brand in foresight using my existing brand. I present myself in many national societies and try to take part in international events, international societies and forums as well.
4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: WFSF and WSF.
5. Parting Advice: We have to work hard to make the people think about their futures. We need to develop events to increase the awareness of decision makers about futures and foresight work, especially in developing countries like mine (Iran).
Shing-ko Liang, Associate Professor at Fo Guang University
1. History and Current Career Path: I started in marketing research and management consulting. I was educated at MIT Sloan School of Management, in their Management of Technology Program. Foresight thinking makes me more precise and practical in regards to future management.
2. Key Foresight Skills: Foresight includes using information and systematic thinking about the future to to identify possible actions, rational goals, forecasts, predictions, and to develop future plans.
3. Self-Description and Marketing: I do Strategic Foresight and Future Management. I sometimes call myself a Foresight Manager. One of my specializations is technology foresight in the vegetarian industry in my country (Taiwan).
4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: We need to be more intelligent and systematic in our thinking about our futures, especially regarding our ultimate or permanent futures. Foresight education needs to address the big questions of how to make a better society.
5. Parting Advice: Remember that careful thinking about our long-term futures is the best approach to strategic foresight. Start big and then narrow to what you can do.
Brett Martin, Ph.D. Student at Swinburne
1. History and Current Career Path: I got started in the field after seeing an ad in the Melbourne Age newspaper in 2000 for the Strategic Foresight course at Swinburne. It happened to be the first cohort (only 8 students). I was lucky enough to see the advertisement, apply and be accepted. I am an MBTI INTJ by personality type (strategic thinker) and heavily studied Eastern philosophy in my younger years, which also has a macro perspective. I absolutely loved the course and its immersive discussions, with deep and broad thinking, and the practical principles and practices we also covered—both the big and the small pictures. The strategic foresight masters degree was very much a transformative thinking course. Strategic foresight takes a global insights and global leadership perspective. It should not only be a standalone Masters program, it should be necessary education for all mid- to senior-level managers.
I am at the mid-life of my career, yet feel that I am only now beginning my foresight career. I am averse to public speaking, so this is a skill I need to keep developing, as communicating foresight with clarity to others is necessary for foresight practitioners.
I think foresight is far more accepted today than when I started. But it is still threatening to some, and hence I recommend gently introducing future views, potentials, methods and processes to your clients. Try to always leverage the metaphors and analogies they are currently embedded in, as a starting point. Stretch your clients too far too quickly and they will glaze over, tune out or at worst become aggressive and dismissive of any view other than their own. So go gently at first. Fairly soon many will adopt aspects of your language and views into their own. Remember that no one can do this overnight.
2. Key Foresight Skills: General skills we need include open mindedness, the ability to engage with the future using multiple methodologies and tools, the ability to think from multidisciplinary and multiple socio-cultural perspectives, and move back and forth between both broader and shorter time horizons. Also the ability to appreciate complexity and ambiguity, and to recognize that we are forever learning. We don’t have answers to everything but collectively we can do the best we know how under the presented circumstances if we set out to do the best we can. We need to listen, consult, collaborate, have humility and patience. To reflect and act in a considered fashion. Perhaps mostly, we need to understand how to transform personal perspectives on the future. This is the core of my current PhD work.
3. Self-Description and Marketing: I am a mature-aged (53) foresight practitioner, and I am still under the radar in my practice. I neither speak outwardly nor publish at this stage although I expect to do so as my PhD progresses. Although a senior business professional, I am also very much an introvert who prefers to control his social engagements. I use foresight as part of my practice set when engaged in consultancies and contracts.
For self-description, I do not like futurist or futurology as it tends to have connotations of pop futures and trend spotting. I focus less on what is going to hit us that we can’t control and more on what we can do to turn wicked problems into wicked opportunities. I prefer strategic foresight practitioner as a title, as to me it positions well with broader strategic thinking practice, and implies the power to act rather than just observe. More generally I refer to myself as a business management consultant. There is no formulaic approach. My brand is me.
Foresight is not so much a product or service it is a way of enabling more expansive thinking and questioning to derive insight for active use in the present. My personal brand is therefore just that personal and not something easily definable or marketable. Value comes as feedback that ‘you ask good questions’ or ‘you help us think things through’ however I am sure many other people and other professions do likewise because they are altering, shifting or expanding a perspective. Foresight’s specialty is that it also shifts one’s time perspective.
4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: For me, more nontraditional foresight involves a broad consideration of the overlays of individual and collective time, space and consciousness. Contemplative and reflective practice in relation to future spaces. Envisioning future states and exploring future perspectives. What are they? What do they mean? How might they be interpreted? How might they be utilized in the present? Exploring individual and collective wisdom in relation to future spaces. Contemplating civilizational directions and global outcomes for humanity. Our thinking is often constrained and has not considered other modes. Foresight ideally brings us more depth, breadth, overlays and multiple-dimensions to our thinking. We learn to observe, evaluate and consider wicked problems and wicked opportunities in a global context. We also can instill hope that for every issue, no matter how complex or how ambiguous, there are perspectives out there in the global community that will accommodate positive working options.
I do not sell the value of any of this less traditional perspective to clients I just subtly endeavour to engage their interest and hope that they too become more passionate in their own work as a result. Foresight work does not always seek a ‘tangible’ outcome but often just a change of awareness, a change of perspective, to one perhaps a little wiser than before.
We are seven and a half billion (and growing) able minds in the world today. Such power! One day it can be hoped that individuals, collectives and humanity as a whole will fix more of its problems before creating them. I see foresight as an innate human capacity, and it is my hope that one day everyone is more aware of their own foresight capacities, and uses them to be more responsible for their own thoughts, emotions and actions.
5. Parting Advice: Good luck! There are many closed minds out there and foresight is something others are either open to or totally closed to. I would suggest be passionate but not evangelical. Be cautious with your language and approaches to others. Listen a lot and be very very patient. Don’t expect to make much money, as foresight is still immature and a long way from being accepted as professional practice by organisations, even though it is desperately needed. The foresight community is strong. We don’t need to sell to each other, we’ve already bought in. Selling to others is where our art and science are still under development.
Mark Tempestilli, Futures Studies Educator & Former US Navy Strategist, IIF at AACC
1. History and Current Career Path: My involvement in the field is as a Futures Studies Educator and a former Strategist for the US Navy. I’ve had three challenges doing work in this field, embodied in these three questions I hear all the time:
1. What is “futures studies” anyway? What is “foresight”? Do you try to predict the future? (Hehheh that’s foolish.)
2. What credentials do you carry and who gave them to you?
3. What makes you any better at thinking about the future than anyone else?
Many people think of a futurist as really just a blatherer who tells you things they can’t prove. They also know that by the time a blather can be shown to be wrong, there’s always something else they are blathering about, and no one typically holds them to account for their past advice. So while I try, it is hard to establish credibility in this field.
2. Key Foresight Skills: Key skills include: Futures thinking, Strategic thinking, Critical thinking, Design thinking, Systems thinking, Conceptual skills, Scenario building, Environmental scanning, Storytelling, Communication skills, Change leadership, Team-building, Understanding organizational dynamics, culture and behavior, and Understanding the difference between shaping the future and adapting to the future and the different skills needed for each strategy. To these I would add the ability to hold opposing concepts in mind, and to be able to balance realism/pragmatism with idealism/optimism. All of these certainly do overlap and having a few doesn’t necessarily create a “futurist” or “foresight pro”, but each helps.
If you want your name in lights and care little else about achieving concrete success, you can easily move from one “next hot topic” to the other in writing or speechifying. That can be fun, and can make for pleasant and even usefully provocative conversation. But by itself, it changes little. It’s unlikely you will establish any long term business relationships with such a strategy.
Some futurists do the idea speech or blog thing well, but most eventually fall from grace if not also helping their clients create effective action. There are exceptions. For example, you can be a science fiction writer. There have been some damned good futurists in that business—but it’s at least as tough as organizational foresight practice to succeed in. So it depends what you’re after. I wouldn’t recommend a dedicated foresight student or trainee turn any potential path off until they know what they’ll be most happy doing and whether it’s a realistic financial choice.
3. Self-Description and Marketing: My professional skill set depends on four or five major areas: 1. Leadership skillset, 2. Imagination & curiosity skillset, 3. Thinking skill set, 4. Strategy skillset, 5. Communication skill set. For marketing, I give away a lot of valuable advice. I use social media for branding.
If I had to prioritize these, I’d place leadership and curiosity as the two most important. Those also seem to be among the most difficult to teach. There are ways to train in both, but they are currently outside traditional foresight education and internships. In the case of leadership, I’d start simply with developing good leadership awareness. All leadership is essentially about converting ideas into action through people and making forward progress. In the case of curiosity and imagination, I am less certain. I think that there is an innate predisposition to it or at least that much of it is established in childhood. But I also believe that the predisposition is cultivated by the rituals of “childlike” play and games—not just in childhood—and by imaginary pursuits through reading or movies or video games, and we can learn to play at any age.
4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: Besides cultivating leadership, imagination, and curiosity skills, being good at strategy is also critical. There are future thinkers everywhere who have no idea how to convert what they envision into effective action. Bridging that imagination-action gap creates the most value, no matter the market. Without action built in to your business model you’ll be confined to writing, speech making, or pontificating, without the feedback that action gives you.
For continuing education, I participate in FERN, IF@AACC, Foresight and Strategic Planning groups on LinkedIn, and I keeping regular contact with good friends who do foresight work. If my health and time permit, what I would like to do next is launch a local “future cafe” for friendly social activity and discussion of today’s issues in future terms, and to bring futures concepts and topics into our daily lives.
5. Parting Advice: A foresight education at a good graduate school is a great way to broaden an otherwise narrow education. Ideally, some semblance of foresight should be introduced much earlier, in K-12 education. Remember, the future really does depend on you, and all of us. Keep charging forward!