III. The State of the Field
In this section we offer an overview of the emerging field of professional foresight. Our field is represented by a global community of people driven to predict and protect, imagine and invent, and manage and lead the future, the Three Ps of foresight practice. It is filled with many fascinating personalities, but it is also still very young, undisciplined, and has a lot of room for improvement and growth.
Remember those “cardinal sins” of foresight practice? Some foresight professionals don’t yet appreciate probabilistic foresight, others devalue explicit definitions, quantitative data and scientific knowledge, some don’t collect or discriminate between hard and soft trends that may be relevant to their problem, some avoid critical judgments, some do not use all four story genres with their clients, some aren’t intelligent optimists, and some are not relationship builders. We founded Foresight University and FERN to do our small part to address these and other oversights, to improve the standards of foresight training, and to help professionalize foresight practice.
We begin this section with a definition of adaptive (long-term successful) foresight, via an introduction to the Do loop and the Eight Skills of professional foresight practice. We then consider the perhaps the most important myth about our profession (the foresight monomyth, or “great myth”), then we acknowledge an open secret about foresight work, one that clients know but some practitioners don’t. Then we drill deeper into the Eight Skills of adaptive foresight – foresight work that has the best chance of producing successful action.
Then we introduce a few foresight proof points, examples of successful foresight work, analyzed in terms of the Eight Skills. These are the kinds of examples we need to better document and share with leaders and stakeholders, to convince them of the value of our work. Next we survey the current size and self-descriptions of our field, and some of its training opportunities. We end with a look at foresight’s current primary professional associations and twenty of the most valuable specialty associations for organizational foresight practice, in our view.