How to Read The Foresight Guide
If you only have time to read one thing, read Chapter 1. It serves as an overview, a mini-book introducing the great breadth, depth, and promise of our amazing field.
Color Legend for The Foresight Guide
The Guide uses bold red to indicate both header titles and important concepts. We also use bold text in three primary colors (blue, green, and purple – to refer to the three primary types of strategic foresight, exploring probable, possible, and preferable futures. See the picture at right for a preview of these three primary foresight types. We also occasionally use gold to refer to any of twenty foresight specialties common in organizational foresight. That means we use a five-color highlighting scheme to illustrate various aspects of foresight practice in the Guide.
UPOG Foresight – The Four Practice Domains
The remainder of the book is organized into the four main domains of foresight practice: Universal, Personal, Organizational, and Global. We think these four, which we call the UPOG Foresight Tetrad, are best taught in this order, and good understanding and practice with the first three is actually a prerequisite to good global foresight work. Global foresight is the domain that most amateur future thinkers tend to think about and value the most.
Chapters 2 and 3 introduce Universal Foresight (the science and systems theory of universal change). Chapter 2 introduces accelerating change, and Chapter 3 explores both unpredictable (evolutionary) and predictable (developmental) processes, and explains why seeing both is key to good foresight work. These two chapters are both speculative and controversial. Many futurists today still disagree on whether accelerating change (long-term and multisystem exponential growth) is happening, or whether parts of the future are predictable (evo devo foresight). Our worldviews determine the limits of our practice, and what things we think are likely and unlikely to occur next. It is our position that if you don’t presently see both of these foresight processes at work, you miss major aspects of the future, and your models and strategies will suffer as a result. So in addition to science literacy, we teach each as foundations of good foresight practice in our Guide, and at Foresight U. We also predict that each will be increasingly better characterized and validated as science advances. If you don’t already accept the usefulness of these two foresight perspectives in your worldview, give them at least a skim.
Chapter 4 (and part of 5) introduce Personal Foresight, a survey of models, tools, and habits that we can use to understand and work with our traits, strengths, and weaknesses to be more effective as individuals (Chapter 4), and the various practice options we personally have, in and outside of organizations, to do effective foresight work (Chapter 5). After building a literate, evidence-based worldview (universal foresight), being personally effective at navigating the future (Chapter 4), and knowing your Career Options (Chapter 5) may be the next most important strategy for effective practice. Many future-oriented people are good at speculating, or giving others advice, but their own lives are very unforesighted. Those folks don’t get very far as professionals. So we need to constantly apply foresight thinking and action to our own lives, and choose practice options that make us more effective as our experience grows.
Chapters 5 through 9 introduce Organizational Foresight, and are the largest group of chapters in the Guide. Besides Career Options for practice (Chapter 5), this section also includes key Models and Frameworks (Chapter 6), Do Loop practice skills (Chapter 7), practice Methods (Chapter 8), and practice Visions and Challenges (Chapter 9). The second half of Chapter 5 is both personal and organizational foresight, as it covers foresight practice options in twelve departments of the firm. We hope this treatment showcases the amazing breadth and depth of our field both from personal and organizational perspectives.
Chapters 10 through 12 introduce Global Foresight, highlighting a sample of probable, possible, and preferable futures (and in Chapter 10, pasts) and a few innovation ideas for entrepreneurs. Global foresight is a huge topic, and our chapters merely introduce it. We are presently building two open, crowd-editable platforms to better address the first two of these chapters. Futurepedia (Chapter 10) is a wiki platform for expert and lay thoughts on probable, possible, dystopic, and protopic futures by topic. Futureworthy (Chapter 11) is a crowd evaluating, ranking, funding, and founding platform for global problems that need solution, and for free, open, and socially empowering project, product, and service ideas by topic. Futurists and foresighters tend to be particularly good at generating insightful discussions about the future (Futurepedia), and effective ideas for entrepreneurs (Futureworthy). But many innovation ideas begin half-baked, or are not that socially valuable. So we need a good open platform to improve and crowdrank them by topic, and feed them into existing crowdfunding and founding platforms (Kickstarter, Indiegogo, StartEngine, etc.). We look forward to your participation on each of these platforms as they emerge. This section closes with Your Digital Self (Chapter 12), my thoughts on what our ever more intelligent digital systems will be able to do, from our personal perspective, and some of the implications of those systems for global futures.
Our Appendix presently contains three chapters. The first is Peer Advice (A1) from existing foresight practitioners. The second is Leaders (A2), a very incomplete, but hopefully representative, list of exemplary foresight practitioners and organizations. The last is Resources (A3), a set of recommended books, media, and tools in the UPOG Foresight Tetrad, to help you grow your foresight expertise.
Our Target Audiences
The Guide is written for four global audiences, in this priority order. Below is some advice on how each audience may best use it.
- Foresight Students, and anyone reasonably new to our field, may benefit from the whole Guide, which can be read sequentially or by chapter. Chapter 1 introduces the foresight field, including its definitions, history, training, opportunities and challenges. Chapters 2 and 3 will help you think about how change happens, and what futures are likely to arrive next, and what futures are just feel-good stories or hype, and are unlikely to occur. Chapter 4, on personal foresight, can help the new foresight student, self-improver, or career changer. Chapter 5 covers career options, and the most common roles, styles, industries, functions, and methods available to foresight practitioners. Chapter 6, on models and frameworks, will help the student better understand change and improve their practice. Appendix 1 gives broad peer advice from practitioners in the field. These chapters may be the most helpful for the beginning student.
- Foresight Practitioners may benefit most from understanding The Do Loop (aka The Eight Skills), our preferred model of adaptive foresight practice. It is derived from a broad survey of the management literature. The Do Loop is outlined in Chapters 1 and 6, and discussed in-depth in Chapter 7, The Do Loop: The Eight Skills of Effective Foresight Practice. Three of the eight skills are core foresight activities, and the remaining five are necessary to translate foresight into effective action in the organization. Does your team presently use all eight skills, and some of the related methods (Chapter 8)? Are your team or your client weak in one or more of these skills? How can you compensate for those weaknesses, and better run the cycle? Practitioners may also benefit from the twenty specialty functions of foresight, and their practice associations, outlined in Chapter 1. Which of these best fit your strengths? Who can you partner with in specialties where you are weak? Practitioners may also gain insights from Appendix 1, peer practice advice from over fifty foresight professionals in five practice types. Chapters 2 and 3, exponentials and evo devo foresight, can also help practitioners better anticipate exponential opportunities and disruptions, and better define unpredictable and predictable futures for their clients.
- Managers and Leaders may find value in the following chapters. Chapter 1, which defines foresight across twenty practice specialties, Chapter 4, on personal foresight, Chapter 5’s survey of foresight practice in the twelve departments of the firm, and its discussion of foresight leadership, and Chapter 7, The Do Loop: The Eight Skills of Effective Foresight Practice. Does your team employ foresight as broadly as we have defined it? Are you strengthening your personal foresight skills, and using them to become a better leader?
- Anyone interested in the future may enjoy Chapter 1, and skimming other sections of the Guide for occasional thoughts, stories and predictions on the near- and longer-term future. Those looking for even more challenges, opportunities, uncertainties, forecasts and predictions should investigate the global foresight reading lists in Appendix 3.