Chapter 13. Visions and Challenges – Priorities for Professionals

Soothsaying Futurist

One of the most common undesirable types in our community is the Soothsayer futurist. Like clairvoyants, they are skilled at reading their clients, and saying what they think the client wants. Both Clairvoyants and Soothsayers also know how to make their predictions sufficiently vague and multifaceted in meaning, so that they can selectively interpret them later to take credit for their hits while ignoring their misses. But unlike clairvoyants, soothsayers know that they have no magic intuition. They’re simply good at reading others, and manipulating them to their ends.

See Othmer’s The Futurist (2007), for a good fictional account of one such jaded professional in business settings.

All of us have been guilty of a little soothsaying at times. Truth is a far better medicine, though its effective and appropriate presentation is certainly an art, aided by great empathy for the client’s current psychology, and a sober assessment what positive changes the client can realistically achieve with those truths from their current position. Hopefully as our field gets more post-hoc prediction analysis, and online reputation systems continue to improve, we’ll see the soothsayer type decline. Their opportunism and concern for appearance over results hurts both their long-term impact and the reputation of our field.