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

5. Organizational Foresighter

[Examples: Natalie Ambrose (OECD), Marco Bevolo (Philips), William Busch (EUCOM), Sheryl Connelly (Ford), Mara Der Hovenesian (VAM), Emily Empel (Disney), Dave Evans (Cisco), Mark Finnern (SAP), Peter Garretson (USAF), John Geis (AFRI), Michael Gilliland (SAS), Ted Hailes (USAF), Joseph Hargrave (Arup), Bob Harrison (POST), James Hughes (IEET), David Jarvis (IBM), Brian David Johnson (Intel), Steve Jurvetson (DFJ), Charles Kennedy (NBC), Annalie Killian (AMP), Chris Luebkeman (Arup), Bjorn Lomborg (CCC), Gil Meyer (DuPont), Riel Miller (UNESCO), Jeffrey Millican (USNR), Bernie Myerson (IBM), Ian Pearson (BT), Ulf Pillkahn (Siemens), Noah Raford (UAE), William Ruh (GE), Natalie Schoch (Kellogg), James Schofield (Shell), Reto Schneider (SwissRe), Jim Spohrer (IBM), Joe Tankersley (Disney), Alexander van de Putte (DBK), Angela Wilkinson (OECD), James Wisecup (USN), Lina Yang (Hershey)]

Sheryl Connelly, Ford Motor Co.

Sheryl Connelly,
Ford Motor Co.

Folks who lead (have social influence) or manage within an organization and who also must look to and analyze the future make up the largest group of foresight professionals. We could usefully split this class into business, governance, and nonprofit foresight leaders, but that level of detail will be avoided at this time.

Members of the other four classes who also lead or manage in organizations are all potential members of this fifth class. Working to shape the preferred future of an organization, or a team within it, and taking some leadership role to do so, implicit or explicit, is of primary importance to organizational foresighters. Professor Andy Hines paper, An Audit for Organizational Futurists (PDF), Foresight 5(1) (2003), explores the various ways foresight professionals can position their roles inside organizations.

Unfortunately, only a small minority of organizational foresighters presently self-identify as foresight professionals. Helping such leaders to see themselves as members of our community is thus one of the great opportunities to grow the formal membership, diversity, and impact of our profession. Once a leader recognizes that they use foresight skills in their organization, they may decide to learn and apply other skills and models from our field, and hire more subject-matter experts (SMEs) and business method experts who are also self-declared foresight practitioners.

Organizational foresighters might have any formal job title, including a C-title, director, manager, forecaster, planner, analyst, strategist, and even “resident futurist”. The latter phrase is often considered pompous and problematic, as foresight is truly everyone’s job in any organization that expects to survive in the modern world. Facilitating collective foresight in their organization is a big part of the role of the foresight leader. Organizational foresighters may also be consultants, scholars, creatives, innovators, entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs, but these are secondary roles for them. What motivates this type of professional the most is bringing more foresight to their organization, using whatever methods and influencing skills they find most effective. Good organizational foresighters like working with teams, can take direction and deliver results, are constantly learning, think strategically, are good planners, and know how to manage up (their managers) and manage down (their direct reports).

It is very rewarding and revelatory for the organizational manager or leader to learn to see themselves as a foresight practitioner or professional. They become aware that there is a long history and community of practice in foresight, and an emerging or established community of foresight practitioners within their industry. They become eager to learn more, and they add great diversity to our field.

Which of these roles might you want to explore formally and full-time? Which informally or part-time? For a fulfilling career, seek out roles that will be a good fit for your unique skills, passions, and personality.

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