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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  • 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.

    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:
  • 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.


    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?


    Goldman E 2007, Strategic Thinking At the Top, MIT Sloan Management Review, Summer 2007, viewed 22Sep 2014,

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

    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.  



    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:


  • 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).


    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:

    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.


    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?


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

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