ProFutures Blog

The APF Profutures blog features posts by the Emerging Fellows and other APF futurists. We will be sharing intriguing futures ideas and information about professional futurists and the practice of strategic foresight.

You can more about the Emerging Fellowship program and the inaugural class on the Emerging Fellows page. Please direct your questions to Terry Collins

Your comments are welcome, so long as they are courteous, brief, and on topic. 
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  • 18 Aug 2014 9:19 AM | Bridgette Engeler Newbury (Administrator)

    I am about to travel overseas again. What that has to do with strategic foresight is a whole other topic for another time. I am not going to be away from Australia for long but I will be hearing, seeing and listening to views from around the world, noticing differing perspectives.

    I am now reflecting on circumstances around the world and how much damage people, technology and individual (as well as shared) desire can cause. I’m thinking about power, including the power of natural forces – water, weather, land, disease – and wondering which of these kinds of events, caused by human or natural behaviour or our (ab)use of it, will increase over time. No matter which, I expect the economic, geopolitical and human effects will be huge. I am also hearing angst, anger, unrest, dissatisfaction, disappointment, dissent and unease around me. Yes, there’s other stuff in there as well, more positive and hopeful.  Dissent reminds me that there is stuff to explore, share and shape. But the question being asked about the more dystopian topics isn't ‘What can we do about it?’, rather, it’s mostly ‘How did this happen?’. The question isn't being asked of anyone in particular, perhaps least of all the self, the individual wanting to know how ‘this’ happened.

    I am assuming that we can create our futures based on the choices we make in the present. So something about taking responsibility for our actions, choices and consequences as individuals, as well as part of a collective, seems to be missing. Not everyone spends time – or lays claim to the time – examining our assumptions, identifying patterns, analysing deeper dynamics in ourselves, and acknowledging our role in the present as much as our participation in different futures.

    I am not suggesting it’s a required behaviour of everyone or a marketable activity for professional futurists, just a worthwhile thing to do from time to time. I am also not suggesting that dystopian images of the future are all we've got. They’re not. But ridiculous ideas and images of the future and planetary emergencies remind me that action is still necessary and possible at the individual level in order to influence the collective. And so in there too is hope. 

  • 11 Aug 2014 6:26 AM | Julian Valkieser (Administrator)

    In the following article I would like to connect to the ProFutures Blogpost "Emerging futures practice" by Sandra Geitz, Nov. 2013. In this article Sandra describes three essential roles of Futurists: Translator, Transformer and Transitioner. I want to pick up and modify primarily one of these roles in a comment. For me, the Intrapreneur, acting on behalf of Sandra as a form of Translator, occupies an important future role for the futurist’s business. 

    Bet on your own statement

    Of course, I'm a young fellow. I've been in this business without any reputation yet. And this is exactly what I can exploit. I have nothing to lose, so I can make a bet on my reputation without much fear of loss in the future. In other words I will invest in myself like an entrepreneurial action. Therefore, the following comment: 

    Companies from the mechanical engineering industry are afraid of automation. Google is afraid of social impacts. Facebook is afraid of the younger generation. However, these companies have something in common: The entrepreneurial spirit. They invest in the future with a certain risk. 

    You can see this in contrast to the service industry. These businesses have theoretically no business risk. They do not have millions for research. No major construction projects or machinery. They have know-how and methods. They respond rather to the environment than to a drive forward. And that's also why it takes little entrepreneurial risk. This is what I see in comments: “On Twitter every second someone calls himself a Futurist.” I don’t want to unmask the author of this sentence. So I proceed to my own ones:

    It won’t take a long time to scan the environment of third parties if you don’t do this on your own. Every futurist may be using a bunch of methods, of course professional ones. They invest their reputation in some cases. But they do not bet or make a higher business risk to the foresight by a method, so this is just as credible as the prediction of a charlatan – verbalized pointedly. In order not to lose its credibility to the huge mass of self-proclaimed futurists the foresight industry must dare a next step, become an entrepreneur.


    Why do I go out on a limb? Results from foresight projects have to bring benefit. And here it could fail at the weakest link: the transfer to the operating business. Even though this often represents only a part of the target, for example that the results often should mainly serve as an awareness of stakeholders around an issue. Specific actionable projects should be a weighty objective of corporate foresight teams as well, making the direct benefit of the department or the project not called into question. A German researcher, Kathrin Koepernik, 2009, presents the following Insights: 

    "Results are often not translated into action; several interviewee referred this lack of acceptance as the ‘not-invented-here’ phenomenon. [...] If possible, the ‘affected’ should be involved in the research process as early as possible, so research results could be acknowledged as their own ideas. [...] Finally, corporate foresight should form a ‘frontier’ and adopt a process-supporting function on the way to new products or business models." (Koepernik, 2009)

    To keep up with the ‘not-invented-here’-phenomenon Daniel Bonin already indicated the term of ‘Availability Heuristic’ by Kahneman and Tversky in his ProFutures Blogpost “What Does Behavioural Economics Got to Do with Future Studies?”. Kahneman et al. go beyond the Availability Heuristic, “According to this heuristic, people put more weight on information that is easier recalled”, and names another cognitive bias: the loss aversion or the ‘Endowment Effect’ (Kahneman et al., 1991). Regarding to this effect people are more willing to maintain the status quo, as something new to receive, even though the alternative may have a higher value. 


    So it is easy for corporate foresight projects to dump insights over the fence and let the neighbors do the next steps, but this is not sufficient. To solidify this thesis, in my next Blogpost I will refer to the results of Zhu et al., 2014., presented at The XXV ISPIM Conference. They looked for characters of stakeholders in a business idea competition and could make statements to four different stakeholders: Follower, Creative Innovator, Proactive Promoter and Intrapreneur.


    Kahneman, D., Knetsch, J. L., Thaler, R. H. (1991): Experimental Test of the Endowment Effect and the Coase Theorem. In: Journal of Political Economy. Bd. 98, Nr. 6, P. 1325–1348

    Koepernik, K. (2009): Corporate Foresight als Erfolgsfaktor für marktorientierte Unternehmen

    Zhu et al. (2014): Innovative behavior types and their influence on individual crowdsourcing performances

    About the author:

    Julian Valkieser finalized his study with the thesis on "evaluation criteria for innovation projects in the early stages". Parallel to this, his last engagement was in the Corporate Foresight Department of Evonik Industries AG.

  • 04 Aug 2014 3:36 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by: Alireza Hejazi, APF Emerging Fellow

    Talking to a futurist friend about the challenges and developments made in foresight in recent years--as far as they are possibly related to the impacts of social networks, we could narrow down our discussion to four specific questions: “What opportunities can social networks create for foresight? What new approaches do these media provide for engaging professionals in creating and exploring alternative images of the future? How do social network-based groups challenge traditional approaches of futuring? And how can they boost social engagement in the futures discourse?” This post is a revised report of that friendly chat that communicates some probable images of coming futures.

    1. What opportunities can social networks create for foresight?

    First of all, we need to remember that the evolution of Information Technology (IT) and social networks are so speedy that Nancy Murphy wisely asks: “Facebook and LinkedIn are networks of your past. Twitter is in your present. What are the trust networks of your future?” The emergence of professional groups, especially futurist ones as are found these days in LinkedIn, Yahoo and Google has changed the nature of knowledge and information sharing. Similarly, the future of foresight is and will be affected positively by social networks.

    Social networks not only create interpersonal and intergroup connections and exchanges, but also shape what I call “social collective knowledge,” a supplement to what we would likely find in conventional books and e-books or at universities and colleges. Our dear colleague Maree Conway recently published a series of posts in 6 parts in LinkedIn titled “Doing Environmental Scanning” worthy of full study. Her well-researched posts accompanied by insightful comments by some futurist friends created a perfect example of social collective knowledge on foresight, specifically environmental scanning. If she wanted to publish those posts through a conventional peer reviewed process, she would have had to wait at least 6 months to finish the job, but thanks to LinkedIn and her hard work this became possible within a few weeks.

    Social media provide monitoring tools and measures which enable us to have a better view of our behavior and accomplishments in future-oriented social networks by tracking our activities. Additionally, online tools like Social Impact Tracker Online help demonstrate our social value. It is a secure, web-based database application that allows us to capture and report our outputs, outcomes and our social impact.

    2. What new approaches do these media provide for engaging professionals in creating and exploring alternative images of the future?

    This question was raised when my friend asked me why I had redirected my website URL to my page at I replied to him by asking this question: “Why should I waste my money for renting some space to host my files and sacrifice my valuable time to tasks like website design and development, while Academia provides all of them free of charge for me?” I added: “Academia connects me to a wide range of professionals who love the same topics of foresight and futures that I do. They follow my works and I follow theirs. I have the same experience but much bigger at LinkedIn.” He said: “Well, I think you’re right.” Could you really think of such a new approach of sharing research just 10 years ago?

    In addition to reducing website maintenance costs and saving time and energy, social networks like Academia or LinkedIn offer opportunities you can rarely find in an individual website. They connect you to more than thousands of experts who update you with the latest news and information about their research activities, say in our foresight field. While you have to wait 1 or 2 months to receive an issue of a future-oriented publication (even as a PDF file) or a week to find your e-newsletter in your e-mail box (as an HTML page), social networks keep you up to date 24/7.

    Official websites and blogs might be good for companies who would like to update their clients with the latest organizational developments or announce job openings, but they are not so fit for our quick changing time. Even the nature of updating is changed. Today many companies find their Facebook or Twitter pages more useful than their official websites. In fact, official websites are losing their past efficiency and companies are looking for newer social networks before moving their websites and blogs to digital museums. I’m afraid that you may read my posts in APF’s social network instead of its official website next year!

    3. How do social network-based groups challenge traditional approaches of futuring?

    You are reading this post while I’m in a many-thousand-kilometer distance from where you’re sitting. Today, foresight is done differently from what perceived many years ago, because technology allows foresight practitioners to work from any part in the world without being physically present in an office. Employees have learned to work well together without much, if any, face-to-face interaction. That virtual cooperation will shape the future of futuring in broader ways. New shapes of teleworking will make futuring easier than ever. Online gadgets will hunt weak signals and valuable futurist content and will make an editor’s e-newsletter within seconds while he is sleeping. In the morning, he has just to opt in or out his likes and dislikes before sending his e-newsletter to multi thousands of subscribers. Weekly e-newsletters will give their place to daily ones. 

    In the coming future, a number of foresight projects will be likely distributed among professional network-based groups normally found in LinkedIn and similar networks. Many experts will join them to play a part in advancing global future-oriented initiatives. However, making the best use of that capacity requires developing innovative ideas, well-developed strategies and precise control to yield desired outcomes.

    When foresight practitioners find a possibility for professional development by doing assigned tasks in socially developed foresight projects, they will join them voluntary without any expectation for getting paid. They do this because they see a chance of personal growth in doing such activities. This may sound more sensible for young futurists or those who love to do what they love. Of course, much work is needed to develop sufficient trust to permit greater collaboration of volunteers in global foresight projects.

    Conventional approaches of futuring like visioning, scenario planning or Delphi will also require improvement or at least some tweaks on the other hand. They will need to coordinate with the advancement of IT and the evolution of social networks, just like what happened about Delphi method evolving it to in Real-time Delphi (RTD) a few years ago.

    4. How can social networks boost engagement in the futures discourse?

    Down the road, all these developments will boost social engagement in the futures discourse. Many will get to know more about foresight and futures by joining online professional groups. They will find more valuable information about how to use foresight in their work and study. When they find significant merits in applying foresight in their lives, they will not remain as fans of foresight, but will become self-motivated messengers of futurist values and this may improve the lives of many others, too. What matters most today isn’t what we can say about foresight–it’s what other people will say about it.

    Social networks can influence that conversation, but they can’t control it. As futurists, our actions today will shape a new normal in foresight discourse. To succeed in developing the new normal, futurists must use social and digital platforms to transform their foresight businesses. Their most important challenge is to create new interactive foresight experiences that could connect all players with what they produce and what they want to share online.

    Doing this we need futurists who know IT and its applications very well. The focus of any new initiate will be making programs work better in the future, especially in terms of professional development. Meanwhile, we need a review with our past efforts to see what didn’t work, and what lessons can be applied to better future efforts. All these require much work rather than words.

    About the author

    Alireza Hejazi is a PhD candidate in Organizational Leadership at Regent University and a member of APF Emerging Fellows. His works are available at:

  • 28 Jul 2014 7:10 AM | Daniel Bonin (Administrator)

    This is the first post in a series called “What Does Behavioral Economics Got to Do with Future Studies“, which will offer an overview on the lessons to be learned from behavioral economics. Today’s blog post intends to set the scene and outline the topics of my forthcoming blog posts.

    Behavioral Economics

    Behavioral economics can be described as a discipline that draws upon psychological, sociological, cultural and, now increasingly, neuroscientific research to explain actual human behavior. Standard economic theory, in contrast, assumes rationality of agents, an assumption that was already challenged in the 1950s by Herbert Simon’s theory of bounded rationality (Simon 1955). The concept of bounded rationality states that decision making is not entirely rational due to cognitive limitations.  In the subsequent years, economists, psychologists, sociologists and also statisticians – such as Tversky, Kahneman, Loewenstein, Camerer and Thaler – carried out research to understand the irrational side of judgment and decision making. There has been a great deal of research on what is called cognitive biases. While these blog posts will heavily draw upon research on cognitive biases, other subfields of behavioral economics will also be related to future studies.

    Cognitive Biases

    Cognitive biases can be briefly described as systematic deviations from what is assumed to be rational behavior. The root cause of such biases can be due to (a) flawed information processing (often referred to as heuristics), (b) emotional states and (c) social or environmental factors (Ramachandran, 2012). Research has identified an extensive catalogue of cognitive biases; the most famous among them, such as the availability heuristic, go back to the joint research of Kahneman and Tversky (e.g. Tversky and Kahneman, 1974). If you have ever wondered why you underestimate the contribution of your team members, remind yourself of the availability heuristic. According to this heuristic, people put more weight on information that is easier recalled – and your own contribution is most certainly more readily accessible to your brain.

    So, What Does Behavioral Economics Got to Do with Future Studies?

    Turning to this question, it can be said that both disciplines have one thing in common – they identify influencing factors to make predictions about possible future states.

    Potential Topics

    Behavioral economic insights not only provide interesting food for thought, but can also inform future studies and a futurist’s toolkit. This section presents some of the topics that will be covered in the upcoming blog posts. The questions raised in these blog posts might sound familiar to any futurist – what if?

    Presentation of Results

    • What if information processing models can inform the way content should be presented? Can futurists use certain techniques, font types or colors, to promote understanding and recall power? How to use anchors, framing and emotions to align the credibility of scenarios, stories, reports and the like to reflect, e.g., the intended mood or level of probability within a scenario?

    Big Data, Crowdsourcing and Open Innovation

    • What if bandwagon effects or self-selection effects matter? Would this call for a new concept such as the wisdom of the confident (De Polavieja and Madirolas, 2014)?

    Environmental Scanning, Trend Analysis, Technology Assessment, Scenario Planning and Expert Interviews

    • What if even experts are systematically prone to cognitive biases? Are there ways to avoid issues such as overconfidence, flawed probability-calculation, overestimation of technological progress or selective information-processing in favor of one’s own prejudiced view?

    Workshops and Creativity Techniques

    • What if factors like group thinking, social norms or striving for consistency between beliefs and actions suppress creativity and innovative solutions?

    Client-Futurist Relationship

    • What if experts and laypeople form their understanding of complex contexts differently and judge things based on different criteria?
    • What if sales psychology can be used in negotiations to sell a larger range of services to clients?

    Behavioral Economics as a Tool to Forecast Behavior, Attitudes, Emotions and Opinions

    • What if influencing factors such as biases, emotions, culture or social norms can be used to make predictions about human behavior ? Can forecasting tools based on behavioral economic-insights be developed? – e.g. risk perception of emerging technology and the desire for regulation (Slovic, Fischhoff and Lichtenstein, 1985; Slovic, 1987)


    De Polavieja, G., & Madirolas, G. (2014). Wisdom of the Confident: Using Social Interactions to Eliminate the Bias in Wisdom of the Crowds. arXiv preprint arXiv:1406.7578.

    Ramachandran, V. S. (2012). Encyclopedia of human behavior (Vol. 1). Academic Press.

    Simon, H. A. (1955). A behavioral model of rational choice. The quarterly journal of economics, 99-118.

    Slovic, P. (1987). Perception of risk. Science, 236(4799), 280-285.

    Slovic, P., Fischhoff, B., & Lichtenstein, S. (1985). Characterizing perceived risk. Perilous progress: Managing the hazards of technology, 91-125.

    Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1974). Judgment under uncertainty: Heuristics and biases. Science, 185(4157), 1124-1131.

  • 23 Jul 2014 6:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Photo by unknown, The Tichnor Brothers Collection, CC By 4.0

    The Association of Professional Futurists held their annual Professional Development Seminar this past Friday, July 11th at Purple, Rock, Scissors in Orlando,Florida, and what a great seminar it was! A huge thank you goes out to the Pro Dev team - Jennifer Jarratt, Joe Tankersley, and Emily Empel, as well as a special mention to our “chief herder” Jim Breaux for putting together a truly amazing event.

    The theme for this year’s Pro Dev was “Engagement”, and our three speakers really did a wonderful job giving us a wide set of tools that we could use to better engage our clients.

    Mike Courtney working with some participants. Image courtesy of Josh Lindenger.

    Mike Courtney of Aperio Insights started the day with a great presentation on the subject of research engagement. Mike spoke on the use of quantitative research methods to better engage our clients. Mike walked the group through the do’s and don’ts of survey design, and how we can use these tools to really begin to understand what our clients may want from us, as well as being a great tool to add to our futures tool kits.

    Michael Parler of Purple, Rock, Scissors was up next. Michael presented to the group on the topic of digital engagement, and covered various digital marketing strategies that he and his firm use to engage clients. Michael took the group through strategies such as website layout and construction, social media use, and much more. It was enlightening for me to see which areas I was strong in, and which areas may need some work.

    Our hosts, Purple, Rock, Scissors. Image courtesy of Josh Lindenger.

    Our last speaker for the day was Trevor Haldenby from The Mission Business. Trevor spoke to the group about the idea of immersive engagement, and it was truly mind bending. Trevor and The Mission Business use what he described as a “transmedia” approach to creating worlds and simulations of the future that their clients experience.

    Trevor highlighted for us some of The Mission Business’s past projects, such as ByoLogyc and Shadowfall, both of which were massive, immersive simulations of the future.

    Trevor Haldenby presenting to the Pro Dev group. Image courtesy of Josh Lindenger.

    As I reflect on the day and everything that I learned, there were two subjects that came up during the course of Pro Dev that I intend to explore more as part of my tenure here as an Emerging Fellow. The first was the need for research, specifically market research into the foresight field. Part of Mike Courtney’s session involved breaking out in groups to create survey questions around whatever issue your group happened to choose. When each group shared their questions and the issue they were trying to research, a good number of participants designed questions around issues such as a client’s sentiment towards hiring futurists. It is a really interesting topic to explore more in-depth. We have a lot of great internal dialogue about professionalizing the field, but how is the field viewed from the client side? How do they define us? What skills are they looking for?

    The other subject was immersive engagement. What are we doing as a field to truly engage our clients? In what ways might we be immersing them now? In what ways will we immersive clients in the future?

    I hope you will join me in the coming months as I look deeper into these subjects!

  • 14 Jul 2014 8:52 AM | Sandra Geitz (Administrator)

    Causal layered analysis of three 2025 foresight client/customer clusters

    There has been considerable discussion on professionalism and the field foresight recently within the APF, and various approaches have been proposed to analyse and recommend proposals for action. For this blog post, I am seeding an initial view from Outside-the-field, as some have suggested, to describe potential future client or customer clusters in 2025. This is done to generate ideas and potential added futures competencies relevant to any shifting demographics, business and global trends in a ten year horizon. Many other APF members have contributed extensively to the topic of professionalisation, since founding and recently as part of the Professionalisation Task-force.

    CLA, or the causal layered analysis futures method, was chosen to look at three potential 2025 foresight client or customer clusters: the first cluster is Baby Boomers, now aged from 50 to 68 years, and in 2025 who will be 61 to 79 years old. Next is the Generation-X potential clients, who will be 44 to 60 years of age in 2025, and who are likely to have increasing influence on future global and business decisions. Finally, Millennials emerge as potential foresight clients towards 2025, as they will be 22 to 43 years of age. 

    Generational clusters were chosen due to available research into social, technological, economic, environmental and political (STEEP) factors, and also the ready availability of value systems research. From this CLA, future client scenarios and foresight responses may be assisted. This initial analysis tables only the broad view of external systems and value continuities facing the field.

    Headlines, in the first row, are widely discussed topics in daily news and social media of each cluster. Next, STEEP systemic data, that contributes to the headlines, is compared by each cluster. Then research into each cluster’s dominant values are tabled; these influence each of corresponding system views. The final row, summarises each clusters general story or beliefs.

    Data sources for a 2025 systems view, included the US-based Technology expert, Joichi Ito3  in a TED conference talk, and respected think-tanks for society, technology and the environment such as the Brookings Institute2,5 and Pew Research1

    Global perspectives of potential external trends impacting outside the US are shown in colour, e.g. data sourced from The Lowy Institute4,6, an Australian think-tank, intersects economics, geo-politics and society. The Brookings Institute article, Still ours to Lead, outlines the tension between America and other emerging powers in both competition and collaboration sot US political leadership is critical. Another, Does inequality make a country insecure? suggests that inequality impacts stability if combined with either flexible political institutions, or external shocks from resource prices, or global wealth mobility impacts. 

    The table illustrated is one seed, or thought-starter...

    What futures competencies in 2025 would be valued by Baby Boomer clients, potentially retiring?

    What foresight capabilities may Generation X leaders want most in 2025?

    Which foresight competencies may be relevant to Millennials emerging in 2025?

    Reference Notes

    1. Anderson J and Rainie L, 2014, Predicting the future on the Web’s 25th anniversary, Pew Research Internet Project, Pew Research Center, viewed 11July 2014,

    2. Winograd M and Hais M, 2014, How Millennials Could Upend Wall Street and Corporate America, The Brookings Institution, Paper, viewed 11July 2014,

    3. Ito, J 2014, Instead of futurists, let’s be now-ists: Joi Ito at TED2014, TED, TED blog, viewed 11July 2014,

    4. Hill M, 2014, Does inequality make a country less secure?,The Lowy Institute, viewed 11July 2014,

    5. Jones B, 2014, Still Ours to Lead: America, Rising Powers, and the Tension between Rivalry and Restraint, The Brookings Institution, Book, viewed 11July 2014,

    6. Thirwell M, 2009, The Spectre of Malthus: Lessons from the 2007-08 Food Crisis, The Lowy Institute, The International Economy blog, viewed 11July 2014,

  • 07 Jul 2014 11:08 PM | Bridgette Engeler Newbury (Administrator)

    Human futures are products of choice and self-determination, not chance. Sustainability, growth and development, poverty, healthcare, war and arms, environmental issues, technology, gender equality, culture and community, business success, manufacturing, consumption and consumerism, animal rights, education, employment, housing, space travel, democracy and freedom, individual development, being human, cultivating empathy, sensitivity and respect, transhumanism, the Singularity – these are some of the topics that make up conversations between people around the world when contemplating ‘the future’. The topics that  influence the decisions and choices we make about our futures. The ‘future’ that futurists are assumed to make pronouncements on.

    This week I spent a day in a hospital thinking about more immediate futures and human needs. I was the responsible carer (their words not mine) not the patient, so I spent a lot of my time wondering what people around me were wondering as they sat in the day surgery centre wondering when they’d be seen for admission. There was little signage showing the way, even less explaining the process and what to do, and no obvious queuing system for admissions. The staff knew what they were doing but patients and their carers mostly didn’t. Patients who had been admitted waiting to be called to a ward explained to others what to do as they arrived. Large notices on walls reminded us that we might not be called to the ward in the same order as we had been admitted. It was quiet but not calm in the brightly lit and very warm room.

    The processing of patient admissions was friendly and efficient (in a good way) and a plastic folder filled with clearly printed forms was handed to each patient with the instruction to ‘Take these with you’. I observed few in the admissions waiting area looking at the forms let alone reading them, and it may have made no difference: the forms we received offered little information or insight as to what we could expect as non-hospital staff. One in particular brought a smile. I’m not sure where this kind of passport gets you but not two weeks at a destination of your choice. 

    Human-centred design – not limited to design thinking – approaches problem solving by always seeking to understand the end-user’s needs and aspirations, goals, and the environment they live or work in. Co-design involving users in the design process is being used to create products, systems and services now. Design can give back as much as it takes. It has the potential for sensitivity and to understand the responsibility one carries for future generations. And, like foresight, it needs the voice of emerging generations as much as those who entered the online world as adults, to explore the ways we all connect together across geography, language, culture and time.

    Design succeeds if it challenges and prompts change in areas like self-awareness, collective and individual responsibility, and respect for people, place and purpose. So design that addresses an unmet need or challenge could be called good design. In the hospital there was evidence of system and service design. The forms were legible and had enough room for the anticipated handwriting, not just computer-generated type. But what worked most for users that morning was the collective action of patients facing the same dilemma and no means provided to make sense of it. A self-organising system emerged. So is it possible we encountered some good design?

    There were signs directing us into the car park, and more around the hospital buildings, but too few giving people the information they needed. We could identify departments, wards and floors, entries and exits. We were told to not smoke but to use the hand sanitiser, not to eat or drink in front of fasting patients awaiting surgery but to please fill in the feedback survey. Language and images provided important facts and information. But we relied on human communication to make sense of the unknown: we needed the experience, knowledge and insights of others. Not unlike the expectations we can have of a futurist. 

    Photo taken by the author 7 July 2014

  • 02 Jul 2014 4:20 AM | Adam Jorlen
    Lead guitarist Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones is known as a rock'n'roll survivor. Unlike mythologized stars like Janis, Jimi, Jim, Kurt and Amy, who all died young, Keith is still with us. And not only that: He's had an amazingly eventful and crazy life with several near-death experiences. Over the years, sensationalist music journalists, fans and other close observers have speculated on his self-destruction many times, but surprisingly Keith is still with us. With us on the global stages, touring the world with an old Fender Telecaster and a cheeky grin on his lips. 

    Sometimes I think of our planet as being a bit like Keith. A survivor that has been through remarkable things: Ice ages, supervolcano eruptions, asteroid impacts and so on. And now it seems like good old Earth is up for another big challenge: The Anthropocene - this era where the clever, fast, ruthless organisms called humans geo-engineer and hack their way into the planet. 

    So what are some plausible scenarios for us humans on this planet? Well, here are four of them based on some of the eras in the Keith Richards' life:


    1. Mischievous Lad

    Keith 1965 (CC BY-SA 2.0 - Kevin Delaney)

    The Rolling Stones formed in London in 1962. In the swinging 60s London, there was a naive belief that rhythm & blues and rock & roll could change the world. And it actually did. Keith and his merry band of musicians built on the old American rhythm and blues tradition, and turned it into something of their own. Together with other young mischievous lads like The Beatles and The Who they took the world by storm and global domination ensued. 

    But long West End nights at places like The Marquee Club were often followed by early morning flights to gigs in other countries. This lifestyle required stimulation beyond natural and legal highs. Amphetamines and other drugs were needed to keep playing and partying. 


    In the Mischievous Lad future we'll all keep on playing the game. We'll keep on churning out hit songs, like there is no tomorrow. We'll go on never-ending global tours because the show must go on. Just as Keith and his fellow 60s musician friends were fuelled by "uppers", the planetary citizens in this future will be fuelled by various drugs and medications to keep us going.


    2. Elegantly Wasted

    Keith 1972 (CC BY-SA 2.0 Dina Regine)

    In the late 60s and early 70s Keith Richards turned into an enigmatic, globetrotting counter-culture hero. Like other elegantly wasted aristocrats, successful artists and rich debauched heirs, The Rolling Stones set up camp on the French Riviera for the summer. In 1971, Keith reigned like a king in the Stones' rented villa at Villefranche-sûr-Mer outside of Nice. Here, surrounded by his friends, he waterskied and entertained princes, writers and mannequins by day, drank bourbon and recorded incredible music by night. He could do whatever he wanted to do. However, the British tax authorities, various drug dealers, former girlfriends and others were on his back.


    In the Elegantly Wasted future we will have lots of fun, since we will do what we like to do. We won't have any money or material wealth but we will have lots of friends. The space we inhabit will look very different, where most things are derelict and overgrown with plants and scattered with strange technological gadgets. Essential societal institutions like hospitals and fire departments will still function. Many of us will die on the way to this future but those who survive will thrive.

    3. Heroin Casualty

    Keith 1982 (CC BY-SA 3.0, Gorupdebesanez)

    The elegantly wasted Keith sunk deeper down during the 70s, and in the 80s many counted him out as his severe heroin habit got in the way of his creativity and life. He was rumoured to have replaced all his blood at a special clinic in Switzerland because it was so toxic and could kill him from within (!) He was emaciated, dark and gloomy - a ghostly shell of his former gloriously, elegantly wasted self. The cheeky grin was gone.


    Too much excess, wild weather and apocalyptic events make way for the Heroin Casualty future - a scenario, which feels like sleeping on a damp mattress in a dark and gloomy basement. The Heroin Casualty future is a bit like those dystopian zombie futures we've seen in the movies, but where the narrator has a constant flu with accompanying phlegmy cough. Our vital infrastructures have collapsed. All is dark and the streets are full of lethal threats and diseases. The global society in the Heroin Casualty scenario is all but resilient, as all systems are out and only the faintest of reserves remain. A virus outbreak could end all life.

    4. Captain Jack Sparrow's Dad

    Keith 2008 (CC BY 3.0, Siebbi)

    Keith survived the cold, lethal period. And from the 90s and onwards he's taken on a crazy, colourful and unpredictable character: The role as Captain Jack Sparrow's dad in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Johnny Depp, who plays the charismatic captain, is friends with Keith, and when asked if he wanted to star in the sequels, Richards said yes. He had always considered himself a pirate, so why not?

    Captain Jack Sparrow's dad was once the most feared pirate in the world, so is highly respected and feared by all the pirates in the Brethren Court. He was once the Pirate Lord of Madagascar but later resigned to become the Keeper of the Pirate Code, the Pirata Codex, which he keeps with him at Shipwreck Cove. 


    The Captain Jack Sparrow's Dad future is similar to the Pirate future, which is propagated by many thinkers and hackers around the world today. A global, transparent future based on direct democracy, where all is open and free, as pioneered by The Pirate Bay and various European pirate parties.

    Captain Jack Sparrow's dad is however different from the regular Pirate future. This future is older, wiser but slightly erratic and nutty. The Captain Jack Sparrow's dad future has been to hell and back, but on the way it went through a fundamental paradigm shift. It is something of a wise fool with its youthful cheeky grin intact, but with strange beads and braids in the hair.


    Keith Richards is still alive and a fifth scenario for the future of humanity will be added to this list when we have identified it. Or as Keith himself puts it:

    "I don't want to see my old friend Lucifer just yet. He's the guy I'm gonna see, isn't it? I'm not going to the Other Place, let's face it."

    With apologies to Jim Dator for (ab)using his four Alternative Futures archetypes.

  • 22 Jun 2014 11:52 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by: Alireza Hejazi, APF Emerging Fellow

    Futurists can use their capabilities to change their societies drastically, if they prove themselves quantitatively. Without metrics, how can we evaluate foresight profession in making desired changes? The problem with general approaches is that they don’t stimulate us to critically evaluate our impact on the populations we serve (Fritz, 2012). Sometimes, we don’t know whether we are really accomplishing our mission. Do our achievements reflect our futurist values? Are there negative impacts to our foresight activities? There’s a difference between a quantitatively aware futurist and one who goes on by trial and error.

    From a commercial point of view, investing in foresight can be risky and professional futurists need to convince the investors with the logic of their foresight projects in a quantitative manner. As van der Steen and van der Duin (2012, p. 489) reminded, investing in foresight can be risky for budget-owners, since investments in marketing or business development may pay off more on the short term. Besides, some investors do not look only for profit; they are also interested in creating social value by their investments. Credibility for social impact metrics is largely determined by how accurately we can quantify the impact of our activities at a relative level (Fritz, 2012).

    Impact methods "are tools that relate outputs and outcomes, and attempt to prove incremental outcomes relative to the next best alternative" (Clark et al., 2004). Impact methods that track outputs tend to be more common than those that track outcomes. However, outcome measurement is highly desirable for determining the social value created by an investment (Wisener et al., 2010). Good efforts have been made in recent years to track social impact in different sectors, but the most valuable of them briefly called "MIAA" gives a new hope to social enterprises, social purpose businesses, charities or the funders and investors for measuring their social impacts.

    Hornsby (2012) has made an admirable attempt to set up a tool which can help articulate the organization’s activities in a clear and transparent manner, and demonstrate the real effects these are having at social level. His Methodology for Impact Analysis and Assessment (MIAA) regards social impact through three key perspectives: (a) Mission Fulfillment (perspective of organization), (b) Beneficiary Perspective (perspective of beneficiaries), (c) Wider Impact (perspective of world beyond the organization and its beneficiaries). Each perspective is investigated by a summary table, listing the individual scoring considerations of which it is composed, followed by detailed notes, setting out how these are to be understood and applied.

    The merit of MIAA is that it provides a description of what is at stake regarding those three perspectives, as well as guidelines as to what constitutes an assessment of high, medium or low performance on each. These equip the analyst with stable markers for assigning number-value scores, which is done using a weighted impact score sheet. The MIAA gives the analysts a reliable tool to measure social impact of their profession through a global perspective beyond the organization and its beneficiaries. This sounds great to the futurists given their global perspectives.

    Another point that makes MIAA interesting in the eyes of futurists is its future orientation. For instance, in addressing mission fulfillment, it looks at the organization’s impact in relation to its own stated mission, and its fulfillment thereof. It raises an essential question: "Is the organization fulfilling its mission in a meaningful, well-evidenced, and effective fashion?" MIAA’s assessment investigates mission fulfillment in five sections: (a) mission statement, (b) context and focus, (c) impact activities, (d) results, (e) moving forward.

    As futurists living in an era of measurement, we need to apply our knowledge and experience within measurable frameworks to make better evaluation of the social side of our job in terms of social innovation, scaling, sustainability, and impact to target our audience correctly. It is good to review our current norms and think about new ways of measuring foresight profession to advance our forward look up to newer horizons. 

    I would like to close this post with some questions for more meditation: Do futurists use appropriate indicators to measure their social impact? Do they draw on external sources of validation for the impact measurement of their social activities? Are the real impacts of futurist social initiatives in accordance with funds being spent to grow social side of foresight profession? And don’t we need a new measurement to make sure that our social performance has been really improved in recent years?



    Clark, C., Rosenzweig, W., Long, D., & Olsen, S. (2004). Double bottom line project report: Assessing social impact in double bottom line ventures. Methods Catalog. Retrieved from

    Fritz, M. (2012). Do social impact metrics matter? Retrieved from

    Hornsby, A. (2012). The good analyst: Impact measurement and analysis in the social-purpose universe. London: Investing for Good.

    van der Steen, M., & van der Duin, P. (2012). Learning ahead of time: how evaluation of foresight may add to increased trust, organizational learning and future oriented policy and strategy. Futures, 44(5), 487–493.

    Wisener, R., & Anderson, S. (2010). Social metrics in Canada: An environmental scan. In association with HRSDC. 


    About the author

    Alireza Hejazi is a PhD candidate in Organizational Leadership at Regent University and a member of APF Emerging Fellows. His works are available at:

  • 17 Jun 2014 9:59 AM | Sandra Geitz (Administrator)


    What social futures are we enabling? Connective or consumptiove?  Photos Sandra Geitz CC-BY-NC-3.0

    Since last posting Exploring engaging futures, I’ve been noticing an increasing degree of discomfort and tension in the public sharing our digital selves. We seem to be experiencing greater conflict between our desire for openness, connectedness and authenticity and our opposing concern to maintain privacy and freedom of access and choice as social technologies evolve.

    What is being seen and heard?  What might it mean?  

    Echo-chamber effects? Or emerging novelty?

    Whilst in transit and listening to radio All in the Mind, Professor Alex Pentland discusseding his book, Social Physics, that was reviewed in my last post. His key finding is that good ideas are spread more successfully through a combination of exploration, behaviours that introduce novelty and diversity of ideas, and through engagement, socialisation and validation of ideas from within ones’ close peer network. His key contribution was directly quantifying both types of actual human behaviour. His method minimised the scope to behave differently in our public and private life spheres. Prior studies were skewed by exagerated self-reporting or self-editing in their social surveys. The Facebook effect in the social sciences…

    Next, the radio program explored the We Feel research project that maps emotions globally by sampling world’s  Twitter feed.  This collaboration between Australia’s prominent scientific researchers of CSIRO, and mental health researchers of the Black Dog Institute, charts the world’s emotional state real-time. Language posted to Twitter is analysed live for emotions and is visualised. What might this mean when we edit and make choices as to what we share publicly? Impression management is a well known phenomena of social media, as we tend to share news that reinforce positive impressions, that we are seen to be in the know...


    We Feel? An interactive real-time global emotional map. CSIRO Data license non commercial,

    And how about those Twitterbot accounts inflating follower counts and retweeting posts… More impression management.  So is Twitter really a high potential platform to consider for mental health interventions?

    What emotions dominate your country’s Twitter stream?

    Auto-horizon scans

    Next social breadcrumb came via The Economist.  It described how exceptionally powerful data-mining companies, like Dataminr, can provide up to 5-10 minutes edge in real-time analysis for financial investment customers, newsrooms and public sector services. Twitter’s global feed of over 500 million tweets are rated for over 30 significant indicators. Those tweets that score exceptionally highly for signal to noise are broadcast to clients. Their algorithms were tuned over time to amplify signals, from proven patterns of past breaking news traced back to earliest weak signals. So this model relies on past patterns to discover several minutes of an early warning signal. Yet, current bigdata approaches struggle to wrangle novelty, for now...

    Interestingly, Dataminr claims to use as few as three tweets to signal an alert. Three novel independent sources was the rule of thumb for novelty that our Strategic Foresight lecturer, Dr Joe Voros advised us to notice during broad environmental scanning. How are these datamined events more or less valid than manually choosing between environmental scanning sources?

    Emotional truth?

    Then breadcrumb from The Atlantic, via Bryan Alexander, on the fascinating developments in facial recognition software. Machine-learning algorithms are claimed to be able to recognise human emotions like happiness, sadness, anger, repugnance and scorn in the field of vision of one’s Google Glasses. Crucially, they claim to be skilled at discerning fake emotions from genuine emotional expressions. And... test data has shown the machine can better our human ability at recognition.  

    Yes, that’s quite unsettling. Creepy even. Wearable technology that can identify individual faces, voices, real emotions and an ability to make judgements between any inconsistencies in the inputs. NLP on steroids? Will there be no place to be truly human anymore? Emotional control trumping social smoothing, no more white lies and social platitudes that ease and bind us together.

    Are we emotionally resilient and ready for such this raw truth? Is this really desirable and socially useful?

    Beware of overshare

    And then I stumbled across the concept of the invasive valley, via @busynessgirl. She adapted the uncanny valley in robotics to personalisation; which describes the dip in human comfort or revulsion as robots become increasingly human-like.

    For personalisation, in our physical, real world, we allow different degrees of access to our personal data. From low access given to strangers, increasing to work colleagues, family, best-friends and partners to full access by ourselves. Anyone who over-reaches allowed access may cause us severe discomfort or threat, as in the case of stalkers.


    Creepy curve:  adapted from the invasive valley of personalisation of @busynessgirl, and Meeker’s KPCB social message trends via Matthew Henry and @stoweboyd

    In our social media and digital realm, we allow differing degress of access to personal data. Appointment apps contain little personal data. Our better selves are broadcast in Facebook to large groups of distant connections. Popular last year, WeChat, SnapChat, and other messaging apps share more of our intimate selves with our close peers.

    Are we seeking closer connections?  Do experiences feel genuine and socially useful?

    Do we seek more privacy, or do we have impression fatigue with public social spaces?

    Platforms like Apple and search engines like Google provide deeper access to our personal data and preferences, whether incidental or by our choices. New product releases may take us down the valley, if they are seen as more socially invasive rather than useful. Google Glass and Quantifying myself are within my valley currently, though each of us has our own balance between utility over personalisation.

    What is in your valley of invasive access?

    What do you consider over-sharing?

    Which social futures do we enable, and which do we reject?  


    Meeker, M 2014, Internet Trends 2014: Code Conference, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, slideshare, viewed on 2June

    Milne, D, Paris, C, Christensen, H, Batterham, P and O’Dea, B 2014, The We Feel emotion explorer, website, viewed on 26May

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