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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  • 24 Nov 2014 3:42 AM | Julian Valkieser (Administrator)

    Of course, the topic "Big Data" was already mentioned a few times in the Profuturist blog. Of course, we all know what it involves and consists of. We now move to a higher and higher activity on the Internet. We produce data – massive data. Worldwide, already 3 billion people are online. We spend much of our time online. The amount of data that is created, rise to a stunning 107,958 petabytes per month by 2018. For example, these are over 1 billion hard drives with a capacity of 1 Terabyte – a drive with capacity the most of us would never use.

    Companies like Google act and work with this data. Of course, they are not focused solely on this one business model. So Google is spreading in different directions. But a focus can be seen. Google is also spreading more and more offline. Why?

    The data created online, are relatively negligible in comparison to the data you can still receive from the physical world. Behavior patterns online are certainly interesting, e.g. for the field of e-commerce – but behavior and properties offline are much more interesting. The greatest benefit would be to analyze all information that can be obtained and secondly to be able to deduce something. Exciting!

    Here I want to present an example specifically for research-intensive areas. The start-up "Mapegy" from Berlin in Germany.

    Mapegy is the compass for the high-tech world, referring to their own definition. One possible application would be the following. Let’s imagine.

    I am interested in a specific topic and I would like to evaluate. Now Big Data comes into the game. Let’s take the example of a patent analysis. With tools like Mapegy I could figure out easily, who is an important stakeholder of a particular technology development, as he is related to another and what influence he has. A method of representation is about maps. Stakeholders and technological developments are illustrated via a kind of map. The larger the island, the more stakeholders gather around a particular development. The higher the mountain, the more patents were applied by a stakeholder. The closer the islands are arranged to each other, the stronger is the reference to one another. With this kind of Visual Analytic it is quite easy to illustrate how a certain subject area is connected to others.

    And that is the sticking point. A lot of data is already available. But finally the correct processing and representation make this data useful.

    At this point I want to mention "R". 

    "R is a free software programming language and software environment for statistical computing and graphics. The R language is widely used among statisticians and data miners for developing statistical software and data analysis. Polls and surveys of data miners are showing R's popularity has increased substantially in recent years." (Wikipedia)

    Someone who can program in "R" is well paid. Even at the upper end of the scale. And not for no reason. To be able to understand a context and deduce recommendations for action, not only in the economy, but also in science and research, such as in biotechnology and of course the pharmacy, is a higher aim in business and decision processes.

    If you already understand some small connections, you can use it to create a network and may even explain the behavior of systems. In this specific example, it would be human behavior. Of course, the influencing factors are still too complex to be able to make reliable predictions from available data collections. But the more powerful computational resources, the closer is the opportunity to analyze all factors.

    Mapegy is an example of visualizing relationships and influencing factors via big data analysis. For example, the cost of genetic testing is an indicator of how quickly data analysis will change in the next years. The costs decreased in recent years more as the price of computer chips in relation to Moore's Law. In my next article I go further to the development in big data analysis with "R".


  • 17 Nov 2014 2:17 AM | Bridgette Engeler Newbury (Administrator)

    This isn’t some existential analysis of foresight and futures work, but a simpler question about value, purpose, intention and utility. Some pretty basic research (there is a methodology if you want it) suggests most blogs are written to raise profile, to drive traffic to a website, to build an email list, to share information, an opinion or thoughts on a subject, and/or to sell books. So leaving aside that last point, I ask myself after just over one year as an Emerging Fellow, are we doing any or all of that? And does it matter?

    Two decades or so in, blogging (still) has its challenges. People have been writing about themselves and things they find interesting but it’s easier for some than others. Sharing opinions and thoughts isn’t for everyone. And we dont have to blog. Just because we can, doesn’t mean we do.

    Maybe it’s because not everyone has something to write about and share. Maybe we do, but can’t write about it. Maybe what we write isn’t getting us the sign-ups/comments/views/likes/website hits… Then later, maybe we run out of topics, ideas and clever headlines. And maybe we wonder if it’s worth all the time we spend on it.

    Why would a futurist blog? Why would we share what we have to say? Would it make futures work interesting and digestible? Are we doing it to get noticed? To be read and understood? And why would we assume that others value what we have to say?

    To connect with people. If our long-term goal is to build a community involved or interested in futures thinking, a blog might kick off two-way communication with people who will spread the word.

    To be better communicators. Writing and honing a blog and consistently delivering (good) content is a great way to practice craft, discipline, voice and style. It’s almost inevitable that your writing will improve over time. And your ability to distil complex ideas into small sound bites.

    To form relationships. There’s a community out there who want to read, learn from and challenge our ideas. People who can help us find our way. Let's find them and have a conversation.

    To find our feet. A blog can be fertile ground for idea exploration and expression.

    To get noticed. Apparently a goal (or two) of every blog is to generate content that becomes a book that you then sell. Maybe not exactly true for APF, but we could suggest that our blog generates content good enough to prompt visitors to come back regularly, subscribe to our other social media outlets and perhaps other futures blogs and media. Our blog can get readers, colleagues and peers, and anyone else who may be able to offer support, discussion and/or opportunity.

    So are we doing any of this? And how well are we doing it? Are we creating interesting, useful and challenging content that has value, purpose and utility? Blogs are not intrusive. No one has to respond. Reading is voluntary, and done when convenient. So who decides if we are making it worthwhile?

  • 10 Nov 2014 9:03 AM | Sandra Geitz (Administrator)





    Who and what would you bring to your desert island?


    Imagine for a second, that you’re planning your own island retreat… a self-imposed, indefinite island retreat. Who would you take on your journey? Whose skills are most useful? What seems essential to bring along?



    Now, is this scenario really so far-fetched? Let’s consider emerging social dynamics. Both the pace and volume of social media streams and vast hidden forces like globalisation and digitisation promote increased competitive and attention-seeking behaviours. How do we tend to respond to all this? By withdrawing to the familiar, comfortable and well-known? Are we retreating into closed worlds, hostages within reassuring personalisation algorithms, Eli Pariser’s filter bubbles, with a world outside hostile to our comforting ideas and worldviews, filled with those shouting, trolling and blocking any chance of real debate and learning?


    “Both Whatsapp and Secret represent the ascendency of the phone book over the friend graph. It’s back to the future,”  tweeted Yammer CEO/ Founder, David Sacks (Meeker 2014).


    Ever more sophisticated filtering will reduce external noise in our social media feeds, and the potential for proliferating private desert islands of our close friends and genuine interests, according to Steven Rosenbaum, content curation author and promoter (Decugis 2014). Naturally, he advises business to curate quality content or face extinction via irrelevance. Seth Godin’s concept of permission marketing on steroids.




    So what, you may ask?


    Although, it appears an attractive solution in the current carcophany of noise, attention-seeking and celebrity trivia, there are significant downsides to this future of private retreat. Antony Funnell’s (2014) recent Future Tense program on ABC Radio National, examined this in perspectives on the power of provocation.


    Funnell’s (2014) first guest, Graeme Turner, Emeritus Professor of Cultural Studies at the University of Queensland explained that the purpose of provocation used to be about challenging and debating ideas. Now, modern provocation has become a competition for attention, rather than ideas. It is about promotion and entertainment, requiring greater shock value and/or engagement over time to be noticed by provocation- immune audiences and/or participants. Turner believes the future of public debate and innovative ideas seems quite bleak (in Australia, at least). There are enormous competitive media pressures to entertain, whilst countering public dis-engagement with more complex or sophisticated issues.


    Another perspective was offered by Scott Stephens, Religion and Ethics program editor for ABC Online (Funnell 2014). In his studies of the spread of philosophy, provocation and innovation were the product of dialogue and debate within historical constraints. Stephens suggests a future of greater discernment and discrimination is possible, if we are able to overcome cultural relativism or permissiveness for anything goes. Potential awaits for futures of value, integrating judgement with broad social acceptance.


    Very similar conclusions to those of Alex Pentland’s (2014) Social Physics, were reviewed in a prior post. Pentland designed experiments that measued the productive output of different groups and the patterns of groups interactions. He found that innovation was optimised with iterative patterns of exploration for novelty interspersed with the socialisation of these ideas for acceptance. Pentland believes a diversity of shared experiences and history builds a stores of both trust and experiences to associate with for future application.


    “Feedstock for innovation is insight - an imaginative understanding of an internal or external opportunity that can be tapped to improve efficiency, generate revenue, or boost engagement,” states the recent HBR article of Mohanbir Sawhney and Sanjay Khosla (2014). Similarly, foresight can be thought of as the imaginative understanding of potential impacts of internal and/or external factors in the future. The purpose of foresight is to help make decisions, solve problems, identify and adapt to changes by thinking about what could happen and how to influence and enable what should happen.



    Future implications?


    Both foresight and innovation introduce novel ideas for social acceptance to organisations and/or the public. They involve challenge existing ways of thinking, provocation of current thinking to generate alternative ideas, perspectives and spark imagination.



    In current social dynamics, can foresight practitioners and the field expect a desert island welcome?


    How might we further socialise foresight?




    References


    Decugis G 2014, The Desert Island: the future is the curated Web for Steve Rosenbaum in Curate This!, Scoop.it!, viewed 7Nov 2014, http://blog.scoop.it/2014/11/07/the-desert-island-the-future-of-the-curated-web-according-to-steve-rosenbaums-curate-this/


    Funnell A 2014, Perspectives on the power of provocation, Future Tense, ABC Radio National program audio and transcript, viewed 3Nov 2014, http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/futuretense/june-29th-segment/5548814


    Meeker, M 2014, Internet Trends 2014: Code Conference, Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, slideshare, pp. 35-37, viewed on 9Nov 2014, http://www.slideshare.net/kleinerperkins/internet-trends-2014-05-28-14-pdf


    Pariser E 2011, Beware online “filter bubbles”, TED Talks, viewed 9Nov 2014,

    http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles?language=en


    Pentland A 2014, Social Physics: How Good Ideas Spread - the lessons from a new science, Scribe Publications Pty Ltd, Brunswick, Australia and London, United Kingdom.


    Sawhaney M and Khosla S 2014, Managing Yourself: Where to Look for Insight, Harvard Business Review, November 2014, pp.126-129, viewed 5Nov 2014, https://hbr.org/2014/11/where-to-look-for-insight/

  • 03 Nov 2014 3:08 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)
    Written by: Alireza Hejazi, APF Emerging Fellow

    Teaching foresight is both enjoyable and challenging. New and experienced teachers alike are constantly faced with making foresight theory and practice meaningful for their students. Developing and running a foresight course is a challenging job, but evaluating it can be more thought-provoking. Looking at a foresight course from different points of view, foresight instructors may find this question meaningful: “how should we evaluate a foresight course to ensure the credibility of learning outcomes?” This blog post reviews three stages of evaluation and deserves foresight coaches’ care and appropriate action.

    1. Pre-evaluation
    Many observers believe that an evaluation agenda can be developed only after running an educational program. However, if foresight instructors inspect these three points in their syllabi with the support of an expert, they will save much energy, time and fund for future reviews and corrections: (1) Establishing instructional objectives, (2) Planning instructional strategies, and (3) Assessing learning outcomes. Without enough care for these three items, every educational initiative is doomed to failure.

    Instructional objectives are “statements describing what the student will be able to do after completing a unit of instruction” (Kibler, Cegala, Barker & Miles, 1974, p. 2). Instructional objectives are typically articulated on the course syllabus, and many teachers provide detailed instructional objectives for specific units covered in a course. They help students know what to expect. In using instructional objectives, teachers are better able to articulate what they teach, and can better help students meet those objectives. For example, we can tell our students that they will be able to lead a scenario learning process for a leadership team that tests their strategy against a range of possible future developments.

    Instructional strategies that are usually used in foresight courses include futurist lectures, discussions, group activities, reflection papers, and presentations. The choice of instructional strategy depends on the particular goals of a specific lesson or unit. In the domain of strategic foresight, common education base indicates that instructional strategies should be developed so that students become skillful at learning and practicing foresight knowledge, engaging in both written and oral academic discourse, working fluently with foresight data, building environmental scanning systems, developing scenarios and problem solving effectively. All these require providing students with particular opportunities, models, and guidance needed to develop each of those sets of skills.

    Learning outcomes are more determined by the motivation, skills and behaviors of the student and less by differences among instructional strategies. In other words, any single instructional strategy is inherently more effective than all other strategies. Lerner et al. (1985) found that there must be a “goodness of fit” between the instructional situation and the student. Not surprisingly, some students are in situations where they “fit well” with their instructional situation and those students excel academically; other students have a poor fit with the instructional environment and are at risk academically.

    Bringing that observation into the foresight field an instructor may find certain instructional strategies effective in advancing specific learning outcomes. For example, while discussions reflect learners’ understanding and analysis of futures concepts, reflection papers and presentations show how competent they are in producing foresight outputs. A foresight teacher can facilitate assessing learning outcomes by creating a table of authorities that identifies the objectives covered by the assessment tool as well as questions corresponding to each objective. Using a flexible variety of questions in the assessment tool (to be changed occasionally) and talking friendly to the students about the test are also good techniques that can be applied.

    New foresight coaches can always check the practicality of their educational programs by conducting a pilot course project and may enjoy experienced foresight teachers and gurus’ ideas and views about their project.

    2. Evaluation
    A foresight course can be monitored effectively by asking a number of questions like these: Is the specific need of learners in learning foresight being addressed? Are the general and special teaching methods are applied effectively? Is the instructor confident about the data presented to the students? What is running right and what is being practiced wrongly by both the teacher and the students? What major conclusions do the students make in their discussions? Are their conclusions supported by the teaching and learning materials? How are educational data being used by the students? Are there other possible explanations for students’ understandings and reflections? What are they?

    At the basic level, foresight instructors might be able to answer some of the above questions, but at the expert level, they and their students need to be monitored by expert observers. A good way to do this is inviting some expert foresight teachers to inspect our courses and receive their ideas. Their appraisal would be a wealth of knowledge that can advance our teaching effort in constructive ways. Being open to critiques and welcoming necessary reforms and improvements that should be made in the course will enrich our educational experience and will satisfy our students’ expectations. The following table summarizes stages of evaluation, involved parties and sources of evaluation clearly.

    Table 1. Stages of evaluating a foresight course


    In addition to involved parties and sources of evaluation mentioned above, a foresight course should be also evaluated and compared against courses conducted in similar areas such as strategic planning and management. Foresight teachers may be entitled to a wide range of knowledge and experience shared by many teachers online on strategic matters around the world. The best source of evaluation that is always available to an instructor is the students’ feedbacks. If they report cases like following items, the instructor requires a serious revision of the course material or teaching system: “You’ve left me behind. I can’t follow. The level of jargon in this course is beyond my understanding. I cannot use the LMS (Learning Managing System) easily. I don’t enjoy reading this.” Down the road, everything should be tuned according to students’ needs and level of understanding.

    3. Post-evaluation
    An eagle knows when a storm is approaching long before it breaks. It flies to some high spot and wait for the winds to come. When the storm hits, it sets its wings so that the wind will pick it up and lift it above the storm. While the storm rages below, the eagle is soaring above it. The eagle does not escape the storm. It simply uses the storm to lift it higher. It rises on the winds that bring the storm.

    Managing a foresight course can appear as a storm and a foresight coach should be as clever as an eagle. When the course is completed and the students are graduated, it’s a good time to look back and find weak and strong points in our foresight educational program. Problems that students reported during the course period such as working with LMS (Learning Managing System), using foresight methods and tools, using and applying foresight data and preparing assigned outputs along with other unpredicted difficulties that appeared during the course all may come upon us like a storm. We can rise above them by setting our course up to higher levels of learning and teaching foresight. The storms do not have to overcome us. We can let our checking do the balancing work for us and lift us above them. Instructor’s experience coupled with students and experts’ feedbacks that had monitored our course make a compound that can enrich our educational effort.

    Revisiting and post-evaluating a foresight course can be done in long middle and short runs. In long term, we should consider where our course fits into the curricular goals and course sequences. Perhaps the broad goals of our foresight course should be redefined, and a rearrangement of textbooks and study materials is necessary. For example, setting a goal such as leading a departmental team to develop strategic plans should consider developing mission, vision, and goals, appropriately matched to the near-term competitive, customer and industry environment. In middle term, learning objectives should be articulated for course and appropriate readings; videos, slides, websites, etc. need re-identification. The nature of assignments and activities should be also determined according to objectives, assessments, and instructional activities. And finally in short term, the calendar of activities, syllabus, LMS should be checked and updated.

    References
    Kibler, R., Cegala, D., Barker, L., & Miles, D. (1974). Objectives for instruction and evaluation. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Inc.
    Lerner, J. V., Lerner, R. M., & Zabski, S. (1985). Temperament and elementary school children’s actual and rated academic performance: A test of a “goodness-of-fit” model. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry and Allied Disciplines, 26, 125-126.

    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: http://regent.academia.edu/AlirezaHejazi
  • 27 Oct 2014 1:45 PM | Daniel Bonin (Administrator)


    A month ago I took up a second job at an innovation consultancy. I was familiarized with all the knowledge I needed and everything went smoother than originally expected. I learned about new methods and got to know new workflows. That motivated me to rethink my own knowledge management and workflow.

    First of all, I personally have to admit that I have internalised the problem solving approach of management consultancies. At least here in Germany, there is no job interview or recruiting workshop without such a question as: “What do you think is the market size for ski-rental services in Austria?” You are not expected to come up with a single number out of the blue, but you have to present a well-structured and efficient problem-solving approach. Only then you are allowed to go on and enrich this structure with information. Due to this influence I tend to not only structure information, but also processes. For instance, before starting desk research I create a list with buzzwords that are helpful for the research. In the next step I use this list to search for synonyms. Then finally, I work off this list step by step.  


    Photography and Future Studies


    Most photographers develop routines to cope with large amounts of photos. These routines are called workflows. Workflows usually consist of the same steps (capturing, sorting & organizing, processing, saving final pictures to a library, sharing). Plugins and presets improve the efficiency and also the effectiveness even further. These templates can be customised to meet individual needs and tastes. Today the number of photos we take increase steadily. In a similar fashion, futurists have to cope with an ever increasing “supply of raw material” – information and new impressions. Sooner than we expect, we might be annoyed about all the information we did not archive or process properly.

    “The Evolution of My Workflow”

    Back when I started to become interested in future studies, I mainly used bookmarks and folders to sort and organize information. Then, whenever needed I had to “excavate” my knowledge for different projects. But recently, I switched to programs like Evernote, Citavi (esp. useful for academic work) and XMind to organize my knowledge. I also started carrying around a paper notepad to write down interesting information on the go. At a first glance it might be strange to take down notes like "Brazil: the cattle stock will double till 2018 – Le Monde diplomatique 08/14" and store them digital. But from my experience I can say, that sometimes those "pointless facts" turn out to be the most important ones. For the future I am planning to turn one wall at my flat into a huge pinboard so that I can create oversized mind maps. Moreover I started to visualize the structure of my thought-processes (i.e. create my own templates). Currently I am working on a template (click for more information) to assess the attitude of consumers towards future products or technologies. My ultimate goal is to develop a workflow that (a) incorporates established methods/ templates (e.g. STEEP) and my own templates that reflect my own line of reasoning and (b) concludes with an insight rather than a bookmark.


    How can futurists manage their explicit (and tacit) knowledge?

    Imagine you are sitting at the breakfast table reading a newspaper. You came across an interesting article. How do you save and organize new information, if at all? What does my workflow look like?

    Does your workflow end after you saved and stored the information? This might save time and effort in the short run, but in the longer term you have to search for the information in your (possibly messy) knowledge database. The other option would be to go through the whole workflow process (e.g. add a new factor to your exhausting list of  STEEP factors). And when you think about it, another question arises: do you save, organize and process information in a way that allows you to share information with your colleagues? How can organisational structures be designed to enable and facilitate knowledge exchange?

  • 20 Oct 2014 10:29 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Samples and Sample Screeners.

    By Jason Swanson, APF Emerging Fellow.


    Photo by The Bees. CC by 2.0

    Samples and sample screeners. These two things have been top of mind for me as of late. As we progress in slowly building a survey instrument for our “state of the futures field” survey the challenge and importance of a correct sample has really come front and center. Obviously we want any survey to be an accurate sample, however a survey attempting to figure out what the world thinks of the futures field, specifically those that might hire us, certainly has its challenges when constructing a sample frame.

    One such challenge that we came across was cost. For quantitative research projects it is not uncommon to go to a sample house to purchases respondents that fit your sample frame. Due to the nature of this survey, the cost we were quoted was a bit more than what we had initially estimated. This is where sample screeners entered into the picture.

    A sample screener is just what it sounds; questions to help weed out respondents who we may not need and to zero in on the proper folks who would make an accurate sample, in the process hopefully lowering the price point for the sample frame. This is very challenging in that we are really seeking to become more granular in our sample yet stay as representative as we can.

    As we consider what screeners we might use, I am curious to know a few things from the members of our community and those that may read this blog. In my last post I pondered about whether or not we could figure out a client archetype. Along the same lines of thinking, I want to know who it is you might work with inside a company or organization whenever someone reaches out for foresight services. Is it someone at a “director level” of an organization? Does the company or the department typically look at the future? Do they have any experience at all with hiring futurists? Who is that person that makes the call to hire you?

    Answers to any of these questions will help us build better screeners which in turn will help to build a better sample. It is exciting to watch this come together. From a personal level, I am very interested in how we can expand our market to clients that have never used a futurist. I am also excited to see if in the data a client archetype might appear, and what that might mean for our field in the future…..


  • 13 Oct 2014 11:12 AM | Julian Valkieser (Administrator)

    In my previous article I went out on a limb. I argued that professional futurists need to support their conclusions, even take a bet on their statement.

    What does a futurist do? 

    His scenarios serve as guidance for future decisions. Often he also gives a direct recommendation. He bases this on scientific methods and tools. This is quite legitimate. Finally, analysis techniques are mostly scientifically established.

    What I miss at this point is the own bet for a recommendation. The Futurist Advisor has to ask himself: Would I invest a part of my money or my capabilities in this recommendation? Actually, every futurist has to do exactly this on every completed job.

    At this point we need to differentiate. On the one hand, I argue in my previous article that futurists have to act more like entrepreneurs, on the other hand futurists should not neglect entrepreneurs in their analysis as all other factors in the typical environmental analysis. 

    What is the most promising technological possibility good for, if there is no entrepreneur who can convince his supporters and the market? So would Hype Cycles, Trend Radars and Technology Scenarios hardly worth anything, if they don’t analyze the creators of these trends and achievements.

    Pinchot and Pellman wrote:

    “Bet On People, Not Just Ideas – Many traditional management practices are based on making sure subordinates get the results specified in the plan. However, since innovation never goes according to plan, betting on plans for innovation is foolish. When making investments in innovation, bet instead on a team of people who can fix things fast when they don’t work as expected.” (Pinchot/Pellman, 1999)

    However that may be – it is easier said than done. There are a few foresight methods that look at personalities and characters. One example is the agent-based model analysis. Wherein this tends to focus more on macro level and behavior of systems.

    Looking at the list of methods of analysis, e.g. of Magruk or Gordon & Glenn, you can hardly find methods that dive deeper into the more micro level, to characterize a few relevant individuals for future development according to their influence.

    Zhu et al. classified characteristics of participants in a corporate crowdsourcing competition. They identified two main characteristics to distinguish: Creativity and proactivity. In a matrix this characteristics could be clustered as mentioned in my previous article: Intrapreneur, Creative Innovator, Proactive Promoter and Follower. The Intrapreneur is referred to be highly creative and proactive. (Zhu et al., 2014) Pinchot characterized it similarly. (Pinchot, 1986)

    Pinchot lists a few more characters that are necessary for a successful establishment of a future project or innovation: Sponsor, Protector and Promoter. So as they are related to the Intrapreneur in a company, these characters can also be found in the external environment of a representing Entrepreneur.

    In my opinion, a prospective analysis should rather refer to personalities and entrepreneurial characters, than on bare circumstances. In the next article I will go deeper into it.


    References:

    Gordon, T. J.; Glenn J. C. (2004): Paper7: Integration, Comparisons, and Frontierof Future Research Methods. For: EU-US Seminar: New Technology Foresight, Forecasting& Assessment Methods, Seville, 13-14 May 2004

    Magruk, A. (2011): Innovative Classification of Technology Foresight Methods. In:Technological and Economic Development of Economy, Vol. 17, No. 4, S. 700-715

    Pinchot, G. (1986): Intrapreneuring

    Pinchot, G. & Pellman, R. (1999): Intrapreneuring in Action

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


  • 06 Oct 2014 4:31 PM | Bridgette Engeler Newbury (Administrator)

    I recently returned from a conference in London - three days with a few hundred people in design management theory, practice and research from across the world. Design management was an area of professional practice for me for many years, and along with strategic design, it's one of the areas that pulled me to foresight and futures inquiry.

    The conference gave me the opportunity to consider my hypothesis - and existing theories - that futures thinking and design make good bedfellows, if not soul mates. For starters they’re both about problem-solving, and both are fundamentally about human need and lived experience. Both can build capacity to cope with uncertainty in decision processes, and help people make sense of competing demands.  Theory, research and practice in both domains tend towards highly interdisciplinary and even trans-disciplinary application and implementation.

    It was a great three days. I got to play - not lead or teach - the Polak Game in a 'Future Worlding' workshop. I got to listen to discussions about redesigning the PhD, see  presentations on building sustainability into design practice and management, and hear Richard Buchanan (the guy who really got design thinking connected to wicked problems)  talk about the broadening of design from what he calls the first and second orders of design into the third and fourth orders of design. I ran a workshop introducing design practitioners to Harman's Fan; I gave a paper about why design thinking isn't 'the answer' and asked if it has yet to reframe the question. And still, stuff got in the way. Stuff that I increasingly sense hangs over the potential of these two disciplines when they get together. Here are a few thoughts:

    Trust me, I'm a designer. Believe me, I'm a futurist.

    In the design and foresight domains many people have deeply-held beliefs about their respective knowledge, skills and expectations, and about what their 'customers' and users want.  It seems there's a lot of what either group might consider unchallengeable facts.

    Like a common belief that 'the future' is an indisputable fact, there is common belief that 'good design' is always 'sustainable' or equal to 'sustainable design'. This belief often assumes that 'good design' and 'sustainable design' are understood and valued, and are unchallengeable facts that then frame thinking about the future.

    Bias and assumptions? Who me?

    Bias affects how we think about uncertain and complex events, and can limit opportunities for inquiry, learning and understanding. People rely on their mental models and world views, and fall back on the cognitive barriers that have always supported them. So yes, there is a need to guard against the bias of preconceived ideas - but this is as true for the futurist as it is for the designer, design thinker or human who wears neither label.

    A premise of design thinking is to gain the input of diverse stakeholders and foster divergent thinking so that new and different potential pathways for addressing a particular problem can be considered (along with the longer-term consequences of different options).  This doesn't mean that participants in a design thinking process are without strong normative preferences, nor that these preferences are easily discarded, or should be discarded. But bias and preferences can determine that a particular pathway is accepted as the right or only way to go.

    And I've got a great idea for...

    So often, what is labelled and sold as design is a nice creative solution to a problem that hasn't been defined, let alone addressed in that solution. And so too a foresight process can support ideas aligned with particular interests or outcomes. 

    The good, the bad and the…ethical?

    Many disciplines are undergoing change and facing ethical challenges. Design is one - and foresight is arguably not exempt from this phenomenon.  After all, both disciplines are implicated in the imagining, generating and materialisation of much of the world we live in and the worlds we anticipate. Design as a mode of thinking has been instrumental in forging new human relations and connecting human to non-human, non-sentient, non-living and mediated objects, environments and technologies, affecting behaviour, culture and outcomes. Foresight too enables this crossover in theory, thought and practice.

    If the designer is an ethical subject implicated in modifications to natural environments, then so too is the futurist. Is there such a thing as ethical practice? Who defines it? And how? What constitutes ethical practice in design or futures work? And who decides? What is good or right is not a clear material judgement or manifestation. If design and foresight are indeed ‘friends with benefits’ then one of the contributions of exploring their relationship is that it may offer up ways to consider new and emerging modes of ethical practice and even practical ethics.

  • 30 Sep 2014 6:39 AM | Sandra Geitz (Administrator)

    Kuala Lumpur: durians, mosques, ageing plazas, warm welcomes.


    This post was prompted by several recent experiences, travels in Kuala Lumpur and two foresight articles: Kate Delaney shared Ellen Golman’s paper on professional development of strategic thinking and Maree Conway highlighted an HBR blog on continuous learning and curiosity.


    Firstly, Malaysia, which I found both welcoming and somewhat unsettling...


    As a seasoned traveller, I had few expectations. Yes, I was prepared for the effort to immerse and orientate myself in a new place. I had waved my fellow adventurer goodbye in Bangkok, so I was on my own here. Eventually, very hot and very sweaty, I found the hotel that I booked online, beyond a vast shopping mall and over a freeway overpass…quite inconvenient. And, a little annoyed that wifi was not, in fact, included… though soon rectified with a local SIM as I headed out to explore typical landmarks: Petronas Towers, shopping malls one after another, mosques, gardens, and the stunning Museum of Islamic Art. Travelling, I relish chance local interactions and sampling street food to get a sense of a place. I was overwhelmed by the generosity of my fellow diners, their curiosity in my solo travels and my appreciation of Malay chilli.

    However, by day three, my enthusiasm was flagging. My hotel felt quite stark and grey, whilst several of the guests made feel a little unsettled… how should I respond to questions from groups of Arab men? What was appropriate here? I noticed that I was in the minority; I did not feel at ease to relax poolside, in spite of the tropical heat. Apparently, it was Saudi wedding season. I was enthralled to spot several brides in full niqab accompanied by causally attired husbands and their many shopping bags. I struggled to master directions in Kuala Lumpur, as this city was not designed for pedestrians. Although it was Visit Malaysia Year, there was much construction surrounding the streets of railway stations, scarce signage, and streets seemed to wrap around the buildings like spaghetti. Frustrated, I succumbed to hiring a rental car, itself a challenge. Eventually, I sought assistance from my hotel concierge, even navigating local internet sites was beyond my capacity at this time… I seemed trapped within the unfamiliar and my fears.

    Midday next day, I had my own transport and GPS. My mood immediately brightened as I set off around and beyond Kuala Lumpur, braving the spirited Malay driving style. My courage and curiosity had returned. I could appreciate our similarities, food and social media obsessions and selfie-culture. Just as I uncovered interesting pockets of the KL, it was time to leave for Melaka and Singapore.

    What had just happened here? Overwhelmed and tired, I was unable to tap a natural curiosity and creative thinking. Whereas, when relaxed, I could again deeply notice, appreciate and learn. Familiar experience?


    So, how does such an experience relate to foresight and strategy?

    Ellen Goldman (2007) researched how senior executives developed their ability to think strategically. It was defined as conceptual, systematic, opportunistic and time-directional thinking “to discover novel, imaginative strategies which can rewrite the rules of the competitive game; and to envision potential futures significantly different from the present.”  As Voros (2003) described, foresight can be thought of as the inputs to strategy development and strategic planning.

    From extensive interviews of strategy experts, or peer-selected executives, Goldman found that strategic thinking developed by one of three pathways or patterns of practice over extended time-frames:

    Practice 1: Natural Curiosity

    Developing an ability to see alternative perspectives and novelty by experiential exploration and dialogue.

    Practice 2: Planning Logic

    Building strategic capacity with data, experience and dialogue: envisioning future states, developing strategies to move from the current to future, and implementing plans with all stakeholders.

    Practice 3: Increasing Challenge

    Developing strategic thinking by gradually experiencing more challenges and increasing complexity over time. Data, experience, and dialogue with stakeholders reinforce this capacity building.

    Goldman’s work, my experiences in Kuala Lumpur, and the HPR learning blog led me to reflect on the similarities to Foresight: namely systems thinking, critical thinking and creative thinking. Systems thinking seems aligned to logical plans. Natural curiosity and creative thinking are related. Critical thinking develops as one becomes exposed to greater challenges, increasing complexity, stakeholders and politics.


    Could I integrate the experiential pathways into a foresight developmental diagram? 


    Integrated pathways to developing foresight capacity


    What are your thoughts and experiences?




    References:

    Goldman E 2007, Strategic Thinking At the Top, MIT Sloan Management Review, Summer 2007, viewed 22Sep 2014, http://sloanreview.mit.edu/article/strategic-thinking-at-the-top/

    Taylor B 2014, The Best Leaders are Insatiable Learners, HBR blog, viewed 22Sep 2014,

    http://blogs.hbr.org/2014/09/the-best-leaders-are-insatiable-learners/?utm_content=bufferb5770&utm_medium=social&utm_source=linkedin.com&utm_campaign=buffer

    Voros J 2003, A generic foresight process framework, foresight, Vol. 5, Iss. 3, pp.10-21.

  • 22 Sep 2014 3:46 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by: Alireza Hejazi, APF Emerging Fellow

    With so many free online courses that teach different kinds of studies and skills, including future-oriented topics, marketing a foresight course can be a big challenge for futurist instructors. Today MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) have changed learning paradigms. As observed earlier by Barber et al. (2013, p. 52) three- or four-year, full-time degree courses are no longer standard. MOOCs provider Coursera, skill-educator General Assembly and others that develop people and provide cutting-edge  education, are stepping up to compete with various specific functions of a traditional university (p. 6). Fortunately, the competition is not so stormy in the foresight education market, but convincing people to attend a foresight course is still a challenging job. This blog post suggests five tips to empower your foresight course marketing strategy.

    1. Make it desirable

                Many people love to know about the future, but they don’t know what they need to learn. Even if they don’t attend a foresight course, they can remember the past, see the present, and predict the future immaturely. They normally fear disasters, but they cannot fully describe how future opportunities and crises unfold. They usually wonder by informing of alternative futures, but they cannot imagine differences easily. They admire their past successes, but they don’t know how to achieve their future goals. In fact, they want to do something about their future, but they don’t know how to create desired changes. As a futurist instructor, all you need to do is highlight the learners’ needs. Many teachers like to talk about their teaching experience to encourage an applicant to become a student. Today, this cannot work in new emerging education markets. You have no chance to compete with new opportunities of self-learning. Instead, a futurist teacher should listen to the learner when he or she is talking about his or her real learning needs. Then the foresight course can be tailored according to those needs.

    2. Make it practical

    People love to learn something that could change their future for good and better. They seek real value in a course, and if they find it, they will pay for it willingly. However, a futurist instructor should avoid claiming to deliver everything in a single course. More importantly, a foresight course should provide suggestions that could be matched with the learner’s relevant sector (STEEPV). Foresight is the knowledge of action. If the students just find theoretical discussions in a foresight course that can be also found in futures books and articles, they will surely doubt about the practical aspect of the course. If they claim their paid tuition, the instructor should not be surprised very much; because they have found an empty box. Yes, content is the king, but more importantly practicing is the queen. Many students can buy foresight books and e-books or download futures articles and read them by themselves. It is the art of a well-educated futurist instructor who can turn that content into real value by showing the students how they put their lessons into practice and experience doing foresight projects little by little.

    3. Make it unique

                Now that you are reading this post, there are many formal and informal foresight courses that are taught at academic and business levels around the world. They embrace a range of degree-based to certificate courses being run in face to face style at universities and colleges or by online methods and different kinds of LMSs (Learning Management Systems). An overview of these courses shows that they are normally shaped around core teaching ideas such as thinking in systems, scanning and monitoring, strategic planning, scenario building and other foresight methods. In my view, up to 80% of topics and contents covered in these courses are the same or so similar, but there might be 20% of difference in assigned tasks and activities. A successful marketing strategy should address this question: What is in this foresight course that differentiates it from similar courses? In other words: What is the competitive benefit of this course for the attendants? That uniqueness of a foresight course could reflect in its content, affordability, method of delivery, assigned tasks and activities and other factors, but in my view it is the practical value of a course that makes it different. If the graduates find themselves at a higher professional or practical standing point after graduation, they can be hopeful and happy that their paid money, time and energy are not spent in vain. Their real gains make your course unique.

    4. Make it self-expressive

                A well-known Persian proverb says: “Good flowers smell by themselves, not by the flower girl’s praise.” If the course is outlined skillfully it can talk by itself to the audience. Futurists usually need to describe futuristic terms and concepts for their audience, because they are generally less known to people. If that description is going to be extended to the content and syllabus of the course, it shows that the course information is not self-expressive. Catalogues and brochures that are published and distributed in paper or online formats should be designed in a manner so everything could be understood easily by potential applicants. Usually, these items should appear on a simple course brochure: a brief description, learning objectives, outline, gains, value, badges and recognitions, requirements, and registration process. If you are running your course in a country that is hit by austerity measures, you can negotiate the tuition with applicants to make it as affordable as possible. If the applicant asks more about the content and things that he or she will learn from your course, you should review the first five mentioned items on your course brochure to make it more self-expressive. Getting testimonials from past learners and reflecting them through different channels is also a suggestion that you might like to think about.

    5. Make it purposeful

                Out of thousands of e-mails or newsletters you may send to the receivers you have on your mailing list or calling to your past, current, and perhaps future clients, or advertising conventionally in different media; you may only receive a few applications from individuals who might be seriously interested in attending your foresight course. If you are going to execute a serious and profitmaking marketing plan, you have to change these conventional methods for better strategies. An effective way in absorbing more students is to negotiate with persons who are in charge of education in companies and organizations. These are persons whose endorsement of your course makes a huge difference. If you convince them that your foresight course will improve the way in which company members do their tasks, that person’s personal support will make groups of students for you, even periodically. You can use your connections to get potential customers’ attention and sell them an educational service that will improve their current and future activities. CEOs (Chief Education Officers) are the best persons you can talk to in many organizations. They can be your good friends and trusted business partners.

                These five simple tips are just a number of many points that you would likely consider in making an effective marketing plan for your foresight course. If you need additional information and guidelines to shape a cutting-edge marketing strategy and advance your educational foresight campaign in more innovative ways, I will be glad to share more professional secrets with you.  

     

    Reference

    Barber, M., Donnelly, K., & Rizvi, S. (2013). An avalanche is coming: higher education and the revolution ahead. London: IPPR.

     

    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: http://regent.academia.edu/AlirezaHejazi

     

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