Welcome to The Foresight Guide. This work aims to be the best introduction available anywhere to both general futures thinking and to professional foresight practice. We hope the Guide, in all its forms, becomes a lifelong resource for the future-curious, and a supplementary text in undergraduate and graduate academic classes around the world. It can be used to introduce the world of foresight to students of professional practice, strategy, policy, business, entrepreneurship, and personal development to name a few of the communities it seeks to serve.
We hope you come to view the Guide as a continually-improving collection of particularly useful ideas, models, methods, and theories on futures thinking and foresight. Though you may disagree with it in parts, and many parts are surely incorrect, please give it your feedback where you think it needs improving, either in public comments at the bottom of each section, or in private email to its primary author, John Smart. I and my growing group of co-authors and editors promise to continually improve it, so it may better serve our global futures communities. If you’d like to become an editor of any section, lets talk.
I have been a public futurist since 1999, when I started a small personal website, AccelerationWatch, to explore the curious phenomenon of accelerating change, and a full-time futurist since 2003, when I founded a small nonprofit, the Acceleration Studies Foundation, to advocate for greater academic study of exponential scientific and technological change, and to explore how organizations and leaders could better steer such change toward social good. I entered the futurist community in 2001, attending and talking at the World Future Society conferences, and received an MS in Futures Studies at the University of Houston in 2007. This book is my attempt to improve the grounding, professionalism and effectiveness of our lovely, little-known, and still-emerging field of professional foresight practice.
The Guide is produced by Foresight University (4U), a foresight educational company, and the Foresight Education and Research Network (FERN), a community of foresight educators, practitioners and researchers. It is permanently free online at ForesightGuide.com, with every page commentable by you, our readers, for whom it is written. We hope to start many productive conversations with you in those comments, to improve this work. It will eventually grow even bigger, with a lot more studies, data, and exercises, and become a multiauthor work. The fullest version, with all its comments, will always be this blog/wiki form of the book.
In 2018, a condensed version will be produced as a paper book and ebook at Amazon.com. Later, we plan to make the Guide available online and in print in multiple languages. We’ll likely begin with the six official languages of the United Nations, Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish. If you’d like to help with those translations, let us know.
The Guide introduces futures thinking and foresight practice from an acceleration-aware, evo devo, and evidence-based perspective. Alvin Toffler’s Future Shock, 1970/1984, is perhaps the most notable 20th century foresight work which took this perspective. Ray Kurzweil’s The Age of Spiritual Machines, 1999, appearing in the last year of a stunning 20th century of global scientific, technological, economic, and social progress, is also particularly noteworthy, as this book was the first to make a compelling case regarding the special importance of information technology to our future. Like other Big Picture books, including Stephen Pinker’s The Better Angels of Our Nature, 2012, which charts a continuing reduction in the severity and frequency of global violence in as human civilization has developed, we hope the Guide improves our readers’ views on the world and their place and purpose in it. We seek to stand on the broad shoulders of works like these, as well as many other inspiring texts and thinkers introduced in the pages within.
Finally, we hope the Guide will be increasingly shaped by you, our reading audience, for whom it was written. Again, you can post your public feedback to every section of the online version, while you are reading it, as a comment pending approval. Courteous and constructive feedback will typically be approved for posting. Noncourteous feedback is also fine, if that’s your style, and we’ll read and consider it, though such feedback will likely not be posted. Thank you in advance for your feedback, whatever it may be. Your thoughts, feelings, criticism, and advice can help us move the Guide closer to our vision for it every day.
What is that vision? We see an amazing, accelerating world rising all around us, a world with billions of beautiful, needful, and increasingly empowered people who are just now waking up to its incredible exponential promise. By committing to help each other to identify, manage, and solve our problems, see and seize our opportunities, and improve our foresight as best we can, we are building far better futures for ourselves, our teams, and our children, day by day. Collaborative platforms like this Guide can help in that lifelong endeavor. Working together smarter we can see farther, work better, and live more fully than ever before.
What is Foresight U?
Foresight University (4U) is a for-profit acceleration-aware learning and development community, run by academically-trained foresight professionals, entrepreneurs, technologists, leadership and personal development coaches, and creatives. We are developing a certificate in Exponential Foresight and Leadership, and bootcamps in exponential thinking, strategic foresight, leadership, and entrepreneurship.
If you are a foresight speaker, student, creative, innovator, entrepreneur, forecaster, scholar, consultant, or foresight leader in your organization, you are our audience. We hope you find the Guide helpful to your journey, and look for much more from us in coming years.
What is FERN?
FERN is a non-profit online network for people interested in foresight education and practice. We work to promote an understanding of foresight by running projects and connecting our community members to foresight opportunities worldwide. Find out more at FERNweb.org, our organizational site, and GlobalForesight.org. Global Foresight is the web’s largest community-editable directory of foresight resources and programs. FERN is a bridge into the foresight community. We connect people who are new to foresight with foresight experts to provide resources, lists of academic programs, and information about how to get started with foresight. FERN and Global Foresight are run by the Acceleration Studies Foundation, which promotes the academic study of accelerating change, and the development of foresight leadership and culture in a continually accelerating, and sometimes disruptive and dangerous world.
FERN seeks to support students, alums, and faculty of the existing foresight educational programs globally, along with self-taught foresight professionals working in organizations worldwide. We want to expand the availability of courses, certificate programs, and masters and doctoral degrees in foresight, help foresight graduates launch great foresight careers and aid foresight’s further expansion into the corporate and political worlds. Our fantastic volunteers (perhaps you too?) work together to support foresight development, careers, and the understanding of great foresight tools, to help grow our important field, to learn from each other, and to have fun. If you are working on a foresight project or are looking to expand your network, FERN is a great resource for you.
What is The Foresight Guide?
The Foresight Guide (TFG) is 4U’s first publication. It teaches readers how to get substantially better at predicting, creating, and leading the future, in four key domains of human culture. Good foresight skills bring major benefits to yourself, your family, your company, and the planet. We believe that using foresight to continually improve our personal, team, and organizational anticipation, innovation, management, strategy, planning, and sustainability is the key strategy to surviving and thriving in the modern world.
This book seeks primarily to help grow foresight practice generally, and secondarily to aid the careers of foresight practitioners, those who are paid, at least in part, to help others look to and analyze the future. This includes all those who have degrees from one of the twenty-three MS and PhD programs in foresight around the world, those who have taken a multi-week or multi-day foresight certificate program, those who have learned foresight methods in other coursework or training, and those who entirely self-taught and are seeking greater success in foresight practice independently or in their organizations. It can be used in any course that includes strategy, decision making and foresight, and it will be one core text in our Foresight University courses for our certificate in Exponential Foresight and Leadership, coming in 2019.
A Note on Format and Style
We include links to useful web resources throughout the Guide. For that reason, the electronic version may be most useful for one-click exploration of unfamiliar concepts mentioned in the book. A paper version is also available for those who love the easy annotation ability and tangibility of physical books. Link rot will regularly occur with some of these links, so you may have to find new links on occasion.
The Guide is written in a conversational tone. We also make calls to action for projects or activities that new or veteran foresight leaders like you might do, both to advance your own career and the emerging foresight profession. The Guide also has a non-neutral point of view, usually that of its primary author. Please feel free to disagree with any authorial bias where you find it, and please let John know when you disagree, either by posting a public comment or emailing privately to firstname.lastname@example.org, so we can improve future editions.
Thank you for reading The Foresight Guide. We hope you’ll join us in discovering, creating, and leading the future of foresight!
CEO, Foresight University, www.foresightu.com
Executive Director, Foresight Education and Research Network, www.fernweb.org