The Do Loop – The Eight Skills of Adaptive Foresight Practice
We can now outline the Eight Skills, with some of their typical specialty functions listed after each skill in parentheses, and colored gold below. We’ll briefly return to these foresight specialties at the end of this chapter, and explore the eight skills and their specialty functions in depth in Chapter 9 (The Do Loop) and Chapter 10 (Methods).
Here is our best model of successful personal and organizational foresight practice:
- Learning (Learning, Intelligence and Metrics) – Investigative thinking
- Anticipation (Forecasting, Inv., Risk Mgmt, Law&Security) – Probability/Convergent thinking
- Innovation (Ideation, Design, Innovation, Entrepreneurship) – Possibility/Divergent thinking
- Strategy (Strategy, Analysis, and Planning) – Preference/Priority (re-Convergent) thinking
- Execution (Product/Service/Project Management) – Production thinking
- Influence (Sales and Marketing Management) – Market thinking
- Relating (Performance Management & Culture) – Team thinking
- Reviewing (Scorecards, Quality, Change Management) – Adjustment thinking
The first four of these are Foresight Skills, and the second four are Action Skills.
Learning (understanding the relevant past and present) is a critical step in foresight preparation, and the three skills in blue, green, and purple above (Skills 2, 3, and 4) are the three main types of foresight production. Foresight output is most fundamentally always about either anticipating-protecting, creating-imagining, or strategizing-planning (“managing”) (seeking probable, possible, and preferable futures). Each of these activities can at times be in competition with the others in the organization.
Of course, foresight without action is useless. Good foresight professionals use all Eight Skills personally and on their teams, to keep their organizations adaptive. Using all eight consciously and well is level of mastery that many practitioners still need to achieve.
We can now offer a second, more specific and adaptive definition of a foresight professional: anyone who self-identifies as commonly using at least two of the four foresight skills (Learning, Anticipation, Innovation, and Strategy), and at least one of the four action skills, for an organization or client, for the majority of their work week.
This seems a usefully inclusive starter definition. Again, we propose that foresight professionals must use and be at least minimally proficient in all eight skills in order to be adaptive, to do useful and effective work.
Some futurists would consider Skills 5, 6, and 7, the traditional Product, Market, and Team functions in an organization, to be outside the scope of our profession. But that would be an oversight, as every foresight professional, even if they are a sole practitioner, must execute good work (our Product or Service), be desired by and have measurable influence on our clients (our Market), and must motivate and treat ourselves, our coworkers and colleagues well (our Team). Both we and our clients need expertise in these Do skills for our work to be an effective and sustainable activity.
Others might consider organizational functions like Learning, Intelligence, Ideation, Innovation, Entrepreneurship, Design, Risk Management, Strategy, Planning, Quality, and Change Management to be outside the boundaries of our profession. Again, that is an oversight, as these are all critical ways firms presently negotiate the future. Ignoring them just puts us out of touch with the most popular foresight functions being used today, and less able to help our clients. Sadly, a few foresight professionals even consider forecasting and prediction skills as outside our trade. They may not interest some of us as individuals, but these anticipation skills are definitely core skills in our profession.
This narrowness of vision regarding the scope of foresight is historically understandable, given our field’s youth and its current lack of strong theoretical grounding. But the danger of such parochial perspectives is that they relegate foresight to an ineffectual corner of organizational practice, rather than recognizing it for the universal that it is, the set of all the best tools and methods we presently use in our thinking and actions toward the future. We’ll do our best to encourage a broadly defined and maximally effective and inclusive foresight practice perspective in this Guide.