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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  • 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

     

  • 15 Sep 2014 12:42 PM | Daniel Bonin (Administrator)

    As Jason pointed out in his latest blog posts (e.g. An Archetype for Future(s) Clients?), a great deal might be learned of how clients perceive Future Studies and the Futurist Profession. Analysing the differences in understanding of laypeople and futurists might be helpful as well. Differences between laypeople and expert opinions and perceptions regarding complex domains like climate change, the labor market, growth, and redistribution policies and risk are well documented (see e.g. Bostrom et al., 1994; Enste, Haferkamp and Fetchenhauer, 2009; Slovic, 1987). Interdisciplinary research tries to explain these differences by how expert and laypeople form their own theories.



    Lay Theories and Experts

    Laypeople are willing to make judgments about causation concepts they do not understand, even though they admitted to lack the necessary knowledge (Leiser and Aroch, 2009). They develop simplified lay theories of the world that serve as an orientation for their actions and allow them to understand everyday live and complex interrelationships. Research indicates that laypeople form their understandings based on everyday experience, media coverage, and social interaction and that they judge by fairness, ideas of value or morality. Their causation is often limited in such a way that they cluster variables into groups, within which increases in “ingroup” variables go hand in hand with increases in other “ingroup” variables and decreases in “outgroup” variables – the good-begets-good heuristic (Leiser and Aroch, 2009). Generally speaking, laypeople are rather occupied with answers to the questions of why something is happening to them and/or their social group and why now (Popay, n.d.). Experts, on the other hand, have access to specialist knowledge, can spend more time in their field and tend to be less prone to cognitive biases (or prone to different ones) and judge based on efficiency goals and scientific models. Experts are concerned with the question of causality and explanations for phenomena and problems.

    However, both groups develop so called mental models – simplified representations of their understanding of how the world, or certain aspects thereof, function (See Norman (1983) for a comprehensive definition). Or as Norman (1983: p 7) puts it “Mental models are naturally evolving models. That is, through interaction with a target system, people formulate mental models of that system. These models need not be technically accurate (and usually are not), but they must be functional.” Research already tries to elicit expert’s and laypeople’s mental models to improve policy making, team work and product design as well as communication, especially in the domain of risks. Furthermore mental models are part of Causal Layered Analysis and System Dynamics.

    What Do Lay Theories and Mental Models Got to Do with Future Studies?

    Treating the futurist as an expert and his client or the public as the layperson, there might be implications for Future Studies. Before I conclude with implications, I would like to point out a procedure proposed by a paper of the OECD (2004; based on the work of Bostrom et al. (1992)) revealing differences in mental models between two groups that I slightly adapted to fit to a Future Studies context.

    Implications for Future Studies

    Firstly, elicitation of mental models could help to better understand clients and improve communication.

    • Identifiying gaps and similarities in the mental models of the futurist in charge and his client can ensure clearer communication and also increase efficiency of the futurist’s work. 

    • As stated in the beginning, laypeople tend to ask “why me” and “why now” questions, while experts are concerned with causation and explanations. So involving laypeople and incorporating and understanding laypeople’s perceptions can enrich future work to another level.

    Secondly, research insights into mental models and lay theories might serve as a selling point for Future Studies.

    • “Future-History-Gap”: A paper of Sevón (1984) finds that subject’s (Caution: Only 3 subjects: banker, manager and politician) mental models of factors such as future unemployment or inflation are less sophisticated and consist of less impact and effect chains than mental models of historic unemployment or inflation.
    Cognitive map of explanation of rates of unemployment in 1965-77Cognitive map of explanation of the future rates of unemployment (Click to enlarge: "Mental Map: Historic Unemployment vs. Future Unemployment"
    • On a side note, Sevón also finds that the participant’s overall understanding of future inflation is represented mostly by elements that lower future inflation; thus, lower future inflation is subliminally anticipated – think about self-fulfilling prophecies.
    • Another selling point might be derived from work of Chermack (2003) and Glick et al. (2012). They argue that scenario planning can be used as a tool to improve and reconcile mental models.

    Thirdly, take forward the discussion within the futurist community about a common ground regarding definitions in the field of Future Studies and the professionalization of Future Studies.

    Fourthly,identify a possible gap between the perception of the futurist profession in the public/ media and the self-perception of futurists. As in risk communication, differences in understanding of laypeople and futurists might be used to clarify the profession of futurists.




    The important point to recognize is that, regardless of whether or not something can be proven scientifically - “If a person believes that the lines in his palm foretell his future, this belief must be taken account in explaining certain of his expectations and actions” (Heider, 1958: 5). And challenging and refuting mental models can be a difficult task. There are theories like the Theory of Cognitive Dissonance which assumes that people have an urge to create a consistency with their beliefs when their preferred self-picture and/or the picture of the world is challenged (Festinger, 1962). This is achieved by altering beliefs or pursing actions in favor of their preferred (inadequate or incorrect) beliefs. Thus, especially for controversial topics like health care policies, questions of ethics or climate change, people might be not willing to accept scientifically validated knowledge (there are cases of benzene workers stating that the chemicals they are working with are not hazardous; as cited in Akerlof and Dickens, 1982).





    References

    Akerlof, G. A., & Dickens, W. T. (1982). The economic consequences of cognitive dissonance. The American Economic Review, 307-319.

    Bostrom, A., Morgan, M. G., Fischhoff, B., & Read, D. (1994). What do people know about global climate change? 1. Mental models. Risk Analysis, 14(6), 959-970.

    Bostrom, A., Fischhoff, B., & Morgan, M. G. (1992). Characterizing mental models of hazardous processes: A methodology and an application to radon. Journal of Social Issues, 48(4), 85-100.

    Chermack, Thomas J. (2003). The role of scenarios in altering mental models and building organizational knowledge. Futures Research Quarterly, Spring, 25-41.

    Enste, D. H., Haferkamp, A., & Fetchenhauer, D. (2009). Unterschiede im Denken zwischen Ökonomen und Laien–Erklärungsansätze zur Verbesserung der wirtschaftspolitischen Beratung. Perspektiven der Wirtschaftspolitik, 10(1), 60-78.

    Festinger, L. (1962). A theory of cognitive dissonance (Vol. 2). Stanford university press.

    Glick, M. B., Chermack, T. J., Luckel, H., & Gauck, B. Q. (2012). Effects of scenario planning on participant mental models. European Journal of Training and Development, 36(5), 488-507.

    Heider, F. (1958). The psychology of interpersonal relations.

    Leiser, D., & Aroch, R. (2009). Lay Understanding of Macroeconomic Causation: The Good Begets Good Heuristic. Applied Psychology, 58(3), 370-384.

    Norman, D. A. (1983). Some observations on mental models. Mental models, 1.

    Popay, J. (n.d.). The contribution of lay knowledge to reducing health inequalities. Retrieved from: http://www.gcph.co.uk/assets/0000/0354/Jennie_Popay_Slideshow.pdf

    OECD (2004). The Mental Models Approach to Risk Research – an RWM Perspective. Secretariat Paper.

    Sevón, G. (1984). Cognitive maps of past and future economic events. Acta Psychologica, 56(1), 71-79.

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


  • 08 Sep 2014 12:34 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by Jason Swanson, APF Emerging Fellow.

    Photo by opendemocracy CC by 2.0

    Photo by openDemocracy CC by 2.0

    In my last post (found here) I touched on the idea of a market research report that would look at the Futures field. The idea would be to use quantitative research to get an idea of sentiment and knowledge base from the client perspective.  The survey could potentially look at such things as how do clients and potential clients define Futurists? What skills are they seeking? What qualifications are they looking for?

    As we begin the process of framing out what such a survey might look like, there has been some great dialogue around what some of goals of this undertaking might be, beyond simply measuring sentiment and knowledge base. One of the questions that has been raised is if the survey were to run, given the correct questions and sample, from the data gathered would it be possible to see if there were any common traits that would make a person or a company more or less likely to hire futurists?

    While the idea of seeing a pattern or correlation in the survey data as to who might be likely to hire Futurist is certainly a possibility, the question gave me pause for reflection.  I began to wonder what else might be out there that might reveal some of those traits? One tool might be Philip Zimbardo’s work on the psychology of time.

     In Zimbardo’s work on the psychology of time he identified 5 time perspectives, or attitudes towards time. Those 5 time perspectives are:

    1. The ‘past-negative’ type. Someone who focuses on negative personal experiences that still have the power to upset them. This can lead to feelings of bitterness and regret. People with this time perspective are focused on a difficult past.
    2. The ‘past-positive’ type. A person who takes a nostalgic view of the past. This person usually takes a cautious, “better safe than sorry” approach, and yearns for the “good old days”.
    3. The ‘present-hedonistic’ type. These people are dominated by pleasure-seeking impulses, and are reluctant to postpone feeling good for the sake of greater gain later.  People with this time perspective want to live in the moment
    4. The ‘present-fatalistic’ type. Those with this time perspective aren’t enjoying the present but feel trapped in it, unable to change the inevitability of the future.
    5. The ‘future-focused’ type.  Are highly ambitious, focused on goals, and big on making ‘to do’ lists.

     

    Futurist Todd Gentzel gave a brilliant presentation in 2013 at the University of Houston Futures Gathering around the very topic of Zimbardo’s work. Gentzel’s presentation, “Psychology and the Field of the Future” highlighted how Gentzel uses Zimbardo’s time perspectives as a framework, with an added sixth perspective: Future Transcendental – those that look beyond this life.

    Photo by Strep72 CC by 2.0

    In the case of Gentzel’s presentation, he used this framework to look at the future of cities, highlighting particular time perspectives that each city might fit into, and how each time perspective correlated with that city’s methods (or lack thereof) for planning for the future.

    Back to the original question; what other tools might there be to help determine what traits a person or company might have to make them more likely to hire Futurists? Or perhaps a better way to frame the question might be; is there an archetype in terms of a person or company that hires Futurists?

    Zimbardo’s time perspectives might hold an answer. If Zimbardo’s work shows the time perspective for the individual, and Gentzel has used his framework for mapping time perspectives to cities in relation to how they approach the future, then it stands to reason that time perspectives could be assigned to companies; the trick being to understand which time perspective correlates to the companies most willing to hire. Just because a company falls under the “Future Focused” perspective doesn't mean they will want, or need, the services a futurist can provide. If nothing else, time perspectives may offer a tool to frame the conversations we might have with our stakeholders.

     References

    Zimbardo, Philip and John Boyd, The Time Paradox: The New Psychology of Time that Will Change your Life (New York: Free Press, 2008).


  • 26 Aug 2014 9:39 AM | Sandra Geitz (Administrator)

    .


    Our web of ten desires that drive us, Hugh Mackay (2010)


    Scanning recent headlines reveals deepening global conflicts: What China wants?, Lessons of Ferguson, Ukraine's rebel war, Israel loses support pummelling Gaza, as well as locally in Australia: Catholic Church failed to act: Royal Commission, Treasurer claims poor people drive less, and Tax rise threats from stalled Budget.

    What is happening? What do such stories reveal to us socially? 


    What are future implications?



    These shifting debates recalled the extensive Australian social research of Hugh Mackay (2010), published as ”What makes us tick:? The ten desires that drive us”. He studies our social drives and depicts ten desires as an intertwined web which shapes our identity, beyond basic survival needs of food, water and shelter. Each of them overlap the others in competition to drive us socially, rather than purely rationally, as often we are unaware of them. The balance shifts over time and from experiences and interactions with others. Mackay explained each desire as neither inherently good nor bad. Unrestrained or excessive in particular desire(s) can lead to issues. More critically, he observed that unfulfilled or repressed desires may drive deep emotional frustrations in either individuals, groups or nations. This shadow of unfilled desire in ourselves can lead us to want desires to be frustrated in others as well. It explains Mackay’s research that a desire to be taken seriously has greatest impact.


    The desire to be taken seriously is the desire to be acknowledged as unique individuals, beyond a categories. It is the desire to be heard, understood and remembered. When it is frustrated, it leads to disappointment or anger. And, it can be seen as the ultimate insult to be ignored or dismissed, leading to feelings of rage, hurt or anger, from those experiencing racism, tribalism or sexism, for example. Who is silenced? How may surpressed feelings emerge or erupt in the future? Alternate responses to not being taken seriously is over-compensation with vanity, arrogance, hubris or narcissism. How may our futures be influenced taking others seriously? Deep listening can engage others, in order that they engage and accept us in turn. Listening as a critical choice...



    The desire for “my place” can be where one lives, feels at home, one’s history or smaller, temporary spaces or routines. Threats and other fears can lead to territorialism or becoming obsessed with security. How can comfort and security of place influence future choice? Noticing or attending to place, can open and enable options.



    The desire for something to believe in encompasses religions, atheism, tribalism, even awareness movements. Beliefs need reinforcement to endure. Fundamentalism arises and is strengthened if our beliefs are under attack, How may futures be driven by beliefs? Through listening and engaging, or deeply held debating or attacking?



    The desire to connect can be to know thyself. Or about connecting with each other, connecting online, or connecting with nature, meditation or mindfulness. Connections promote freedom and expression. And, if the desire to connect is repressed, our desires for control or to be taken seriously may expand to fill the void... How does being connected or being isolated affect our future potentials?



    The desire to be useful can be altruistic, making contributions towards a better world, being helpful, contributing, doing meaningful work. Taken to its extreme, being useful can be perceived as knowing better than others themselves. How may our futures be realised, if we know what is best for you?



    The desire to belong identifies us with our herd of 7-8 close friends. Or to larger, noisier, more public tribes linked by sport, religion, language, consumption. Our desire to belong may drive mindless compliance and conformity. Which herd or tribe drives our future choices?



    The desire for more is often the shadow of other blocked desires. More leads us to seek stimulations, comforts, distractions, addictions, eating/ drinking, hunger for money, more spending and indulgence. How may futures of less be realised, when they emotionally, rather than rationally, driven?



    The desire for control is the desire most likely to frustrate and disappoint with the illusion of control. We can become anxious lacking control, over-controlling others, excessive in survelliance or abusing our power. Or we may narrow our control, over-controlling ourselves in perfectionism. What if we see further Future Shock?



    The desire for something to happen is our need for excitement, action, realising dreams, challenges or change. We are what we do! Is online activity sufficient? We both are pulled towards and push away from change in life. How do encourage or thwart future actions?



    The desire for love involves many kinds of love: romantic, erotic, divine, companionship, unconditional love, faith, acceptance, and intimacy. And in frustration, lacking love we feel cold, empty,angry or even introspective. How does love influence options for our future? Building trust, being consistent, supportive opens potential.




    So readily it explains events and behaviours with the benefit of hindsight, our complex web drives and surprises… can we notice and listen?






    Rebalanced desires from those unfulfilled?



    Reference:

    Mackay H. 2010, What makes us tick? The ten desires that drive us, Hachete Australia, Sydney.


  • 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.

    ‘Not-invented-here’

    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. 

    Intrapreneurship

    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.


    References:

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

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