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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Causal layered analysis of three 2025 foresight client/customer clusters

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Reference Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

    Photo taken by the author 7 July 2014

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

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

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


    1. Mischievous Lad

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

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

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


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


    2. Elegantly Wasted

    Keith 1972 (CC BY-SA 2.0 Dina Regine)

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


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

    3. Heroin Casualty

    Keith 1982 (CC BY-SA 3.0, Gorupdebesanez)

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


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

    4. Captain Jack Sparrow's Dad

    Keith 2008 (CC BY 3.0, Siebbi)

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

    Written by: Alireza Hejazi, APF Emerging Fellow

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


    About the author

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

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


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

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

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

    Echo-chamber effects? Or emerging novelty?

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

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


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

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

    What emotions dominate your country’s Twitter stream?

    Auto-horizon scans

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

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

    Emotional truth?

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

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

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

    Beware of overshare

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

    What is in your valley of invasive access?

    What do you consider over-sharing?

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


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

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

  • 10 Jun 2014 8:42 PM | Simeon Spearman (Administrator)

    This is part 2 of a two-part series attempting to adapt Dieter Rams’ 10 Principles of Good Design to the foresight profession.

    In this post, we cover principles 6-10. You can check out the first part here.

    “Good design is honest.” - “Good foresight is honest.”

    We shouldn’t make a foresight project more important or valuable than it actually it is. Even in our scenarios, we should be honest in assessing the impact of different developments within the narrative. While we may be proud of a particular insight or trend we’ve spotted that we feel has been underrepresented, we shouldn’t overstate their importance when working with a client.

    “Good design is long-lasting.” - “Good foresight is long-lasting.”

    Of course good foresight should be long lasting! However, it can be easy to overlook this simple point. By being considerate of future audiences of one’s work, the work can improve. This may be easier said than done, but we all know of decks we’ve seen or speakers we’ve heard who either use antiquated buzzwords or use neologisms awkwardly in a way that detracts from the greater message.

    Good foresight is not fashionable or trendy, and our work shouldn’t be either if we expect it to have a long shelf-life. Why produce work that looks out into the future, if it is easily dismissed by future users due to our being short-sighted with regards to their needs?

    “Good design is thorough down to the last detail.” - “Good foresight is thorough down to the last detail.”

    No detail in our scenarios should be random or out of place. This could also be considered the “Chekhov’s Gun principle” since we don’t want to introduce a detail into our scenarios that cannot be explained or useful later in our foresight projects. Giving special attention to small details can be rewarding for both the futurist and the client. For the futurist, it can be rewarding to have someone question the role of a seemingly minor detail, providing an opening to take the observer even deeper into the scenario. The client receives the satisfaction of knowing they’ve received a thoughtful, thorough product that leaves no element to chance.

    “Good design is environmentally friendly.” - “Good foresight is environmentally friendly.”

    Dieter Rams portrays environmental friendliness and design in an interesting way: “Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimises physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.”

    Good foresight should also add to its environment, conserve resources where possible, and minimize pollution in all of its forms. We can expand our thinking of environments beyond the earth and natural ecosystems to any environment, whether corporation, state, community, or even just the Internet. Does the work, whether it be a trend report or a scenario project, add to the “foresight pollution” that already exists in the environment of ideas, or does it add signal to the noise?

    “Good design is as little design as possible.” - “Good foresight is as little foresight as possible.”

    Good foresight avoids scope creep. When it comes to delivering great work to a client, we should remain focused on the essentials of the scenario while reducing the reliance on frivolous details. Avoid overcomplicating simple points. Communicate scenarios clearly, and don’t use jargon or buzzwords.

    In the words of Dieter Rams, “Less, but better.”

  • 04 Jun 2014 8:21 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    By: Bridgette Engeler Newbury

    One of the problems with the popularity and accessibility of technology is the manipulation of society's heterogeneity into homogeneity.  Current advancements in science make it easier to make bodily and physical transformations that used to be a dream. Communications technology makes it easier and cheaper to connect and keep in touch with people almost anywhere in the world and in multiple platforms. Aviation technology makes it possible to connect in person. Design and creative software combined with communications technology and the internet have enabled global trade and commerce. Anyone can buy my stuff if they like it.

    In particular, language and cultural differences are increasingly acknowledged and even respected, but arguably it’s still mostly the westernised models of culture and identity that dominate. Cosmetic surgery is just one example. It’s a relatively easy task to change your appearance, and part of your identity: blonde one day, brunette the next; having blue eyes and then brown. But many people take it further. Some Asian women want to become ‘westernised’, with folds in their eyes, reshaped cheekbones and noses, and plumped-up lips. Some Western women work hard to emulate an idealised image of beauty and appearance complete with the ‘thigh gap’ and celebrity-endorsed clothing, perfume and exercise routines. In a future world, what models will be aspired to and pursued? And why?

    It seems that no matter what, even as futurists we’re still rubbing up against the illusory centering of identity and subjectivity, both individual and collective, especially as it relates to language, narrative and ‘othering’.

    Othering is when someone is made to feel different because of colour, race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, nationhood, belonging, you name it…in a work, social, family, community, political, economic or really any circumstance. Otherness is about being different or having characteristics that aren’t the same as the dominant model or discourse.  So, essentially when anyone who feels in a minority or does not experience belonging in a group, they may be othered and consequently be excluded. And this isn’t just about ‘feelings’ or being excluded from a project, a conversation or after-work drinks. Othering is something that happens in communities and groups that are intent on inclusion but still exclude through language, models and narrative discourse – things that set you apart from the dominant group or groups in a given context. Those who identify as ‘other or ‘othered’ not only feel different, but also feel separated from the essential aspects of a group.

    Perhaps the desire to equate somebody to your own lived experience is rooted in Bataille’s belief that ‘heterogeneous existence can be represented as something other’.  In his discussion on heterology, Bataille says "the heterogeneous world includes everything resulting from unproductive expenditure (sacred thing themselves form part of this whole).  This consists of everything rejected by homogeneous society as waste or as superior transcendent value".  Essentially, Bataille illustrates how society functions within notions of homogeneity and those that transgress homogenic definitions are considered others, rejected and excreted.  Hence, homogeneous society desires to transform and manipulate the other into something closer to the rest, to assimilate the heterogeneous into the homogeneous.

    Shakespeare’s Caliban is othered in The Tempest, a mythic figure of postcoloniality that ties to language and history. Individuals are othered every day, real people and their lived human experience are defined by the dominant discourse of what they are not (not skinny/tanned/Western/middle-class/educated/sporty etc. enough) rather than by the value in their innate individuality and difference. ‘We’ doesn’t always express a shared perspective or raise a united voice. ‘We’ can other those who don’t identify the position held and espoused.

    There is no one way to view the world, nor is there one way that the world should function, now or in a future. Lyotard’s postmodern condition celebrates difference, embracing Bakhtin's philosophy that difference represents potentiality, and emphasising human-ness and the human condition as always of difference.

    How ironic that current ideology is often thought of as postmodern, and yet society seems trapped in homogeneous philosophy.  At least, that is what the popularity of some discourses imply; people and therefore society all desire to look the same, be the same, think the same, and live the same.  Until the popularity of one image of the future – or indeed one image of the present – dominates others, and highlights society's compulsion to reject difference.


    Bataille, G. ‘Heterology’ Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, 2004

    Lyotard, J-F ‘The Postmodern Condition’ Literary Theory: An Anthology. Eds. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, 2004

    Shakespeare, The Tempest



  • 26 May 2014 11:33 PM | Adam Jorlen

    Initially this post was to be called 'Dress Code for Futurists'. After spending five years with futurists from over the world, I wanted to find out whether there was a particular way to dress for futurists. Doctors, plumbers, history teachers, clowns and other professions have their own dress code, whether it's prescribed or not. But I haven't been able to decode the futurist dress code yet.

    We futurists are privileged (or at least some are) to work with diverse groups of people. We work with corporate clients, startups, religious groups, community groups, governments and more. Some futurists seem to dress the same no matter who they work with. To them it doesn't matter how they dress. Some wear a suit, some wear a t-shirt, and some a gimmick like a huge beard, a hat or colorful, big glasses.

    In my foresight master's program, we were often advised to "meet the system where it's at", i.e. to adapt ourselves to the context, organisation and people for which we do foresight work. And naturally, the language you use, the clothes you wear, and your general appearance will have impact on your foresight intervention.

    Instead of exploring outer appearance such as clothes, I realised that I've actually been exploring this idea of general appearance in metaphors over the past year in my APF blog posts...

    So, in which forms and shapes can we futurists appear? Here's a summary of some old and new metaphors, so they can all be found in one place. Hence the title of this post; 9 metaphors for futurists:

    1. The Trickster

    My interest in metaphors for futurists started with the Trickster  - a character found in many myths. Tricksters are often found on the road or at the edge of town, sometimes helping, sometimes hindering people. They have prophetic qualities, but in contrast to other prophets, tricksters steal, cheat and lie to deliver their message.

    Futurist as Trickster, is consequently a figure who works between organisations, cultures and paradigms. Larry Ellis writes that the trickster "dabbles in the creation of the world that will be, and provides tools, food, and clothing to the people who will inhabit that world. He may assume an array of contradictory personae in the course of a single narrative, moving from one to the other with the skill of a practiced shape-shifter while tripping on his tail at every turn."

    2. The Clown

    The Clown is related to the Trickster. According to Wikipedia, in Native American mythology, the "Trickster channels the spirit of the Coyote and becomes a sacred Clown character".

    Today we often think of a clown as a clumsy, colorful character performing slap-stick with a red nose and big shoes. Traditionally, he played a quite different role though - the one of a sociological and psychological healer, similar to a priest. In Redeeming Laughter: The Comic Dimension of Human Experience, Peter Berger writes that "It seems plausible that folly and fools, like religion and magic, meet some deeply rooted needs in human society".

    The Clown Futurist can make use of traditional clown techniques to meet clients' needs. Beyond a funny red nose and a wig there are potentially other things the futurist can learn by studying the history of the clown. Communication skills, engaging clients, and holding up a mirror to society are some of these.

    3. The Artist

    In a post from last year on business models for futurists, I looked briefly at how futurists could model their foresight practice and consulting on the artist/patron model. The Artist Futurist paints, crafts or dreams up beautiful or provocative scenarios; images of the future. The patron-client rewards the artist with money or other support. The artwork will hopefully help the client towards their preferred futures. Sometimes the artwork is too challenging for the client. The colours are too bright or the motif too disturbing. At other times, the artwork is too commercial and derivative to have transformative impact. A good Artist Futurist finds a balance.

    4. The Outsider

    Swedish academic Claes Janssen devised an 'outsider scale' in the 1960s and 70s. Here individuals are placed on a scale from 0 to 24 after doing a psychometric test, where 24 is the highest and considered most "outsider". Most futurists I have tested are far out towards the outsider end on this scale. According to Janssen's psychological theories, a high outsider score can be good when it is integrated in a person, but challenging when non-integrated. Or simply said; life is easier for the outsider who accepts being an outsider than for one who doesn't.

    Most futurists are outsiders. Organisational futurists are always outsiders. Hines (2005) is more diplomatic and writes that the "inside-outsider must be mobile and not place a high value on having a long-term career in the organisation, because to be most effective you must be willing to commit career suicide on a regular basis."

    This role is at times hard to play, since an outsider never belongs on the inside. Therefore it's key that the Outsider Futurist finds other communities to which they can belong.

    5. The Svengali

    The Svengali is one of the shadow sides of the futurist. From my earlier post:

    "According to Wiktionary a Svengali is "one who manipulates or controls another as by some mesmeric or sinister influence; especially a coach, mentor or industry mogul". Originally a character in George du Maurier's 1895 novel Trilby, it is now used widely for creepy behind-the-scenes manipulators in the music industry, politics and elsewhere.

    The Svengali futurist loves to float above and observe systems, analyse, interpret and anticipate for others. This part of us often gets bored with details, funding and practicalities, and rather step back to the lurking position behind the scene."

    6. The Entrepreneur

    There are two aspects of entrepreneurship that especially intrigue me. One is Schumpeter's 'creative destruction', and the other the notion that entrepreneurs often build structures before they have access to the resources needed to build these. This slightly delusional trait is sometimes described as entrepreneurial risk-taking.

    Futurists, like psychologists, are entrepreneurs of the mind. The creative destruction occurs when the futurist works to destroy old ways of thinking in order to create new. And the structures, to which the Entrepreneur Futurist has no access at first, are formed within the clients' individual or collective mind. A good scenario crafted by  can be a dangerously creative destroyer of old mindsets.

    7. The Interpreter

    I explored Futurist as Interpreter here. A quote:

    "An interpreter helps people who don’t speak the same language make sense of each other. And in the same way as language is a construct to make sense of the world, a worldview is another construct for sense-making. One role of the futurist is to interpret between worldviews, to help people make sense of other people.

    8. The Explorer

    Last year I worked with a large coworking space in Melbourne to crowdsource the future of that community. We used Shackleton's 1914 expedition to the South Pole as a metaphor for the journey - an exploration to a distant region, with lots of dangers. But with a great team of explorers which feared nothing, and together reached places, which we don't often reach in our individual explorations.

    The futurist always explores the future. And in this metaphor the future is the destination. But a destination that we create ourselves in the sense as John Schaar describes it: “The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.”

    The Explorer Futurist explores and creates the future.

    9. The Wanderer

    This nomadic type of futurist wanders the world of knowledge without knowing where to go. He's similar to the trickster and explorer archetypes, but without a destination. He is constantly led astray by new fascinating ideas, technologies or articles, and is looking for a home. But he will never find it. This archetype is forever roaming the field of the future.

    Historically, this archetype was an integral part of societies, but increasingly the vagrants, flâneurs, nomads and vagabonds disappear from our physical world. Now they only thrive online in their digital wanderings.

    To others, the Wanderer Futurist can seem to be lost. But they are not, since they don't walk to reach a destination. They wander because they love to wander.


    Phew... That's it. No more metaphors for now!


    All images from Wikimedia Commons

    Hines, A 2005, 'Ten Questions Every Organisational Futurist Should Be Able to Answer', in Slaughter, RA (ed), The knowledge base of futures studies, 5 vols, CD-ROM, Professional edn, Foresight International, Brisbane.

  • 19 May 2014 1:34 AM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Written by: Alireza Hejazi, APF Emerging Fellow

    Many organizations and individuals spend billions of dollars every year to know more about future. They need to know more because they want to enrich their decisions, shape future-ready management, and find a better position in the market. Futurists who support their clients mostly by consulting may be interested in developing strategies to market their knowledge more effectively.

    Do an online search for resources on “marketing strategies” at any well-known search engine and you will find thousands of records listed. Do a search for “foresight” and you’ll also see millions of books and articles listed there. But do a search for both terms at the same time --“foresight marketing strategies”-- and you’ll receive no titles at all. None! Of course, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any information on marketing foresight services and products.

    I remember the Dutch initiative Science Alliance organized the first international conference on science marketing in 2011, acknowledging that scientists need to deliver their findings to different stakeholders, such as their colleagues, funding agencies, politicians, the media and the public. In the same vein, futurists need to communicate their products and services to a wider range of audiences.

    Inspired by a nice article I read recently on The Expert Knowledge Network (2011) website, I thought I might be able to suggest a similar model of marketing for foresight professionals. A robust marketing campaign in foresight profession can be developed by a set of strategies, including a knowledge process strategy, a content strategy, and a service and product strategy. Implementing these strategies in our networked world today, we will automatically need an effective social networking strategy, too.

    Before developing any strategy or communicating with any potential customer of foresight services and products, there are some points that emerging futurists should know. If you spend all your time reflecting on cutting edge foresight issues and discussing what the future is going to bring in your client’s industry, then you can easily fail to establish your foresight expertise and your reputation with your audience as a true futurist. Take the time to define the purpose of your communication, first. As Lustberg (2002, p. 12) said once, “you can have the best message in the world, but if you don’t present that message the way you intended it, you’re probably communicating the wrong message.”

    Good purposes of communication can include: marketing yourself or content you create; educating or training on specific topics; entertaining or a new hybrid phenomenon, edutainment; or simply serve to direct your audience to other points in your marketing strategy.

    Foresight Content Strategy
    Content is king in foresight marketing. As a futurist, thinking about your profession and how it fits in the marketplace of foresight knowledge, you need to understand your clients’ needs and develop your marketing content accordingly. Doing this requires knowing what kinds of content your potential clients like to receive. Active and energetic futurists always seek for new insights to define themselves for their audience better than ever.

    It’s O.K. to narrow down your expertise and design the content for certain audience, because it limits your competition. Define your expertise specifically, by your area of specialization and by market. Whenever you narrow your position down, you have to make up for the loss in potential audience by developing a deeper and richer understanding of more limited topics you will cover.

    Building an effective strategy to market your foresight skills means that you must make the most of new technologies and practices. Competent futurists learn how to use a host of technologies and media to drive their content simultaneously into multiple channels like webinars, teleconferences, professional blogs, online training modules, social media, and new mobile products emerging while you’re reading this post. Always think about how you can provide free content for your audience as a way to remain engaged with them even when they are not buying your foresight services or products. People love to find a candy on their desk even if they don’t know who has put it there!

    Foresight Knowledge Process Strategy
    A knowledge process strategy addresses how you can go to acquire foresight knowledge and information and how you incorporate that knowledge into content. Certifications are no longer sufficient to establish a futurist and keep him or her on the cutting edge of new and developing knowledge. People prefer listening to the benefits you may provide for them rather than to your academic achievements. It’s not what you know that matters. It’s what that knowledge can do for your clients. How does it make their life better? How does it make their job easier? How does it make them money or save them money?

    It is up to you to become active in the higher levels of your profession, participating in conferences and trade shows, creating and commenting to professional blogs, and whenever possible, joining panel discussions at conferences and even giving key note speeches. All these facilitate developing your knowledge process strategy. It’s important to have a strategy in place and to reassess it on a regular basis. Always focus on the knowledge and information you can provide and the specific value it has for your audience to make them future-ready minds. You will also need to develop foresight events marketing plans such as webinars, interviews, seminars and workshops.

    Foresight Service & Product Strategy
    Each foresight service or product needs to be defined in terms of purpose (marketing, education, training, edutainment), content (subjects/issues), scope (how long, how much detail) and how it fits into your overall marketing strategy.

    To develop a good strategy for introducing your services to old and new clients, you should always look for opportunities to distribute your content through new distribution channels. As mentioned earlier, different channels like webinars, teleconferences, e-learning, social networks and so on can serve your marketing goals in good ways, but more than anything else you need a good schedule.

    Good timing can empower your service strategy. An effective minimum goal can be writing one whitepaper per year and one book every two to three years. All you have to do is create a schedule for each product or service included in your strategy. Most of your budget will simply be your own time but don’t discount the cost of that.

    Foresight Networking Strategy
    An effective marketing strategy should embrace the essential element of networking. Networking strategy stands on top of all the other strategies mentioned above. It lets you know your target audience, sharpen your service and product strategy, define your position in the market and run your marketing campaign dynamically. Thinking about how you can better position yourself in the market is not enough. In a highly competitive market that is overloaded with future-oriented data and information, futurists need to work hard to build new relationships either by expanding the breadth and width of their own expertise or by narrowing their foresight skills.

    Any marketing campaign you run should have its own networking goals. Some of the important goals that must be considered when designing a networking campaign include: personal brand building, meaningful contact, belief conversions, meeting and event promotion, and of course; sales. The core concept of networking strategy is to maintain a continuous dialogue with your audience and that is how you build and maintain lasting, valuable relationships that build up your bank of potential sales. You may wonder why a good foresight networking strategy can also feed your content strategy and make a cycle of strategies! So how do you leverage social media to the advantage of your networking strategy?

    Every model of marketing like this or any other, follows the belief that successful people, departments, products, etc. have “earned” their increasing share of success in the market through their past performance. This means that you can offer your foresight services and products as much as you like and as long as you prefer, if you label them with the global brand of “quality.”

    Keep an eye on other future-oriented experts, especially in your area of profession to see what they do. Of course I highly recommend that you join the APF’s big family of futurists as a reliable hub of foresight profession, in addition to your web site and other media you use to connect to a wider range of audience in the foresight market. Becoming a member at APF gives you insights to use your tools effectively and build your own audience and scale your own brand to a national or even an international foresight effort. A good way to do this is to share this blog post with everyone you know who may find it useful. Thank you.

    Lustberg, A. (2002). How to sell yourself. Franklin Lakes, NJ: Career.
    The Expert Knowledge Network. (2011). How to market yourself and your expertise, retrieved from

    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:

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