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Immunity To Change

Posted By Administration, Sunday, September 20, 2015
Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2019

Simon Dehne reflects his thoughts about the immunity to change in his blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

Why I enjoy practicing in the foresight space is two fold. The first is one of self-discovery and the other being able to help people question how they think and to give them tools help them think critically.

As a new practitioner, I have soon discovered that just challenging people on their unquestioned assumptions and raising there awareness on emerging trends that may disrupt or at least challenge there business as usual thinking is not enough for me. I have found I prefer a type of workshop that allows people to learn, experience, challenge and self discover more about how they made sense of reality.

As a result I have found that I have been gravitating towards more a hybrid workshop and presentation format. This allows people the freedom to participate instead of just listening to a keynote speaker and at the end think that was nice or otherwise.

Recently I have been running workshops using Robert Kegan and Lisa Lahey’s work on “Immunity to Change”(Lahey 2001). This process has been useful as I have found it is something that organisations understand as I pitch to them to convince them to pay for my services. Plus it resonates with them regarding self development for their organization and I have found a topic around helping people to learn how to change seems to resonate with many people what ever their purpose might be.

As you would expect each workshop is different, but not for the usual reasons that you might think. The main reason is because of me. As I deliver, participate and experience facilitating the Immunity to Change workshop I find that I develop a deeper understanding of why it seems to be so effective. That is because it is an effective tool or map that allows people a process that helps them think deeper in terms of just an event or pattern that might be happening that they are trying to solve or improve on.

What is the Immunity To Change Process?

Kegan and Lahey have found based on 15 years of working with hundreds of managers in a variety of companies have led them to a surprising yet deceptively simple conclusion. Resistance to change does not reflect opposition, nor is it merely a result of inertia, even as people hold a sincere commitment to change, many people are unwittingly applying productive energy toward a hidden competing commitment.

Thus they have developed a process they have called an x-ray, which is a three-stage process to help people and organisations figure out what’s getting in the way of what they are trying to change or achieve.

The Process

So I thought I would provide a summary of my mini workshop and the key points that I have found to be effective and which seems to resonate with participants. Note, an effective workshop is determined by be as a result of the amount of engagement and follow up questions that I receive during and after the workshop.








Today’s challenges require new thinking – but how do we develop new thinking?

Explain a number of tools that they can learn and use that will help them think about how they think.


Mental Models

Exercise – Arm Wrestle

Purpose is to get them to arm wrestle a colleague to see how many times they can win. Many people default to a mental model of strength and competition. Only a few work to together and cooperate so both can win. We all have implicit mental models and I have found this is a good way to bring this to the fore and increase the participation and energy in the room.



Exercise – picture of an old lady and a young lady

Group discussions on what people see. Purpose is to highlight that people with similar backgrounds can have different perspectives on what they see. Our perceptions create our reality and so helping them learn some ontological humility.


Ladder of Inference

Helping people understand how they create reality and the introduction of reflection

The ladder of Inference developed by Chris Aygris helps people begin to understand how their assumptions and beliefs form how they make sense of their world and the actions they take.


Introduction to the Immunity To Change Process

Showing a YouTube video of Robert Kegan I have found to be an effective way of building credibility and reinforcing the outcomes.

After running many of these workshops now, I have found it effective to pause the video or rewind back to ensure as many people grasp the process that is used. Plus it gives me a chance to reflect on the energy in the room. My goal is for people to have fun and learn a process to help them reflect on their thinking and actions (Kegan 2012).



Walking though the process using the X-Ray map

I walk through examples of my own personal X-Rays of how I have used the X-Ray to discover many of my hidden commitments and big assumptions. I prefer to use myself as an example to make it personal and real. A key goal is to be open and honest and I find that if I can show my own vulnerabilities and challenges many people are more willing to embrace the process and learning and be more authentic.


Action Learning -

Immunity To Change

Running the process - Individual

I ask each person to work through the process on themselves. Share their understanding of the process with others and seek me out for clarification.



I ask for volunteers to share what they have done and discovered. Talk about the challenges/discoveries in the process.


OST (Open Space Technology)

Learning to slow down and reflect on our assumptions, beliefs and values. To start to reflect on how we think about what we are thinking.

As a prelude to working in teams to work on an improvement goal that is important to them. I discuss a process to help people learn to slow down.

I have found the OST can be an effective way for people to stop and reflect on how they are thinking. To listen to what is being said instead of thinking about what they are going to say next (Owen 1993).


Challenging our assumptions

Revisiting Ladder of Inference

I rewind and ask people to think about how they are thinking, what are their assumptions and beliefs that maybe going unchallenged and to reflect on this thinking before they respond.


Thinking about thinking

So gently/slowly I am trying to introduce them to how we conceptualise. We all apply our own assumptions and beliefs usually implicitly and so the opportunity to be mindful and reflect on how you are making meaning of a situation as you debate an issue/problem such as we are about to do.


Action Learning -

Immunity To Change

Running the process - Group

Hopefully with some new models to use as maps, such as Ladder of Inference, OST, and fostering reflection, people in the groups can use the X-Ray process to develop more generative conversations.



Seek volunteers to share what they have discovered.  



As Kegan and Lahey point out, our perceptions shape our reality. We assume how we make meaning is an accurate understanding of reality. Our big assumptions create a disarming and deluding sense of certainty, which throws up the challenge of why should we, even look for alternative views or perspectives that may challenge our assumptions, which create our reality (Lahey 2001).

So bringing this all together how does a group of people co-create a desired future that they are trying to achieve. In part it is about helping them identify their hidden commitments both individually and collectively. However, as a group, often we can get stuck with little or no progress. So a large part of these types of workshops are about fostering reflection and helping develop more generative conversations. Reflection means thinking about our thinking, holding a mirror to see the taken for granted assumptions we carry in our language and appreciating how our mental models may be limiting us.

Deep, shared reflection is a critical step in enabling groups of organisations and individuals to actually “hear” a point of view that is different from their own and to appreciate emotionally as well cognitively each others ways of how they are creating meaning(Jones 2015).

In order to learn from the future, we first might need to understand more about ourselves. And what might be holding us back. To uncover our biases and blind spots and from that self-knowledge and insight we gain, increase our level of self-awareness. Self-awareness is a necessary step if you want to build a useful Strategic Foresight process that will help us learn from the past, from the present and from the future (Lustig 2015).


Jones, C 2015, Getting Unstuck, Outskirts Press, United States of America.

Kegan, R 2012, Understanding Immunity to Change, viewed

Lustig, P 2015, Strategic Foresight - Learning from the Future, Triarchy Press, Axninster, Engalnd.

Owen, H 1993, Open Space Tecnology - A Users Guide,

Tags:  change  foresight  future 

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Futurists as Leaders

Posted By Administration, Saturday, August 1, 2015
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Alireza Hejazi reflects his thoughts about the role of futurists as leaders in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

Referring to one of my previous posts in which I mentioned six roles that futurists may take, I would like to focus on three roles in this post by which a futurist may appear as a leader. The leadership skills strataplex (Mumford, Campion & Morgeson, 2007) suggests that leadership skill requirements are conceptualized as being layered (strata) and segmented (plex). In this sense, categories of leadership skill requirements (cognitive, interpersonal, business, and strategic skills) correspond to three levels of junior, mid and senior managers. I review what I explained earlier and then extend my thoughts to the purpose of this post: futurists as leaders.

A futurist analyst (junior manager) is the person who applies foresight tools and methodologies in his/ her activities, someone who is competent in scanning, trend analysis, and basic forecasting. As analysts, futurists are not laboring under the influence of others’ ideas. Instead, they study those ideas and propose the best way of applying them in favor of individual, national and international benefits. The futurist analysts produce information for the second role, the manager .

A futurist manager (mid manager) is usually a foresight project manager who supervises the foresight processes at the corporate level. He/she facilitates projects and generates intelligence from foresight methods and outputs. A futurist manager is a self-disciplined individual capable of creating change, managing uncertainty, coordinating a range of foresight activities, applying alternative futures and transforming to better futures .

A futurist consultant (senior manager) is a strategic leader who works with executives to facilitate change based initiatives on the base of insights resulted from foresight processes. He/she may be known as a senior executive, a director, or creator of foresight initiatives. A futurist consultant possesses good teaming and collaboration competencies, practices problem-solving foresight and welcomes transformational challenges.

All these three roles remind that futurists are capable of functioning as leaders at different echelons. When I shifted my field of study from strategic foresight to organizational leadership at PhD level, I wanted to find out what makes a futurist to become a leader, and whether multiple leadership roles can be practiced simultaneously. My studies to this point show me that leadership is an evolved form of foresight leading both the leader and the led toward better futures.

In my view, the wide variety of complex changes that we witness in our world today places a large load of responsibilities on futurists’ shoulders. To play their leadership role effectively, futurists can no longer depend on their foresight knowledge and skills alone. They need to transcend their foresight capabilities and enter the leadership territory to cope with changing complex demands. Finding the honor of cooperating with futurist leaders in recent years, I can comprehend that well-informed foresight requires multiple competences to deal adequately with the diverse and sometimes contradicting demands.

By this I do not mean that futurists should adopt a reactive approach toward environmental uncertainties. Instead, I intend that futurists as leaders are expected to be able to provide effective responses to novel forces arising in a volatile world. Scharmer’s (2007) Theory U reminds that futurists must be able to develop open mind, heart, and will. In this way, they sense the changes occurring in the external world as futurists and communicate them as leaders to other leaders in the internal context to create something different.

As Cartwright (2015) identified five crucial characteristics of foresight profession in one of her posts, futurists are expected to be able to help people think for themselves through an inspiring leadership. They need to be risk taking in order to transcend boundaries as brave individuals to provoke new ways of thinking. In her point of view, a true futurist aims to encourage leadership at all levels. Referring to a keynote speech delivered by Dawson (2015) on the role of futurists as leaders before the Dutch Future Society, she mentions that futurists “need to help others to think forward and in turn to act better today.” In this sense, “we are at a critical juncture in human history, when actions we take—or do not take—today will shape our collective future to an extraordinary degree.”

Together with Cartwright and Dawson, I believe that futurists are expected to function for higher purposes beyond foresight. In my view, the most effective futurists are the ones who can fulfill several leadership roles simultaneously. With respect to the changes being made in foresight as a dynamic growing profession, it is of course a relevant question if and how futurists contribute to the performance and outcomes of organizations they serve by their leadership. The expanded complexity of futurists’ roles requires us to redefine our profession not just as futurists but also as leaders who are faced with complex decisions and problems more than ever. Professional futurists are the best candidates for expanding leadership to the roads less traveled.


Cartwright, V. (2015). The future is bright for futurists: 5 crucial characteristics of their craft, retrieved from

Dawson, R. (2015). The role of the futurist as a leader, retrieved from

Mumford, T. V., Campion, M. A., & Morgeson, F. P. (2007). The leadership skills strataplex: Leadership skill requirements across organizational levels. Leadership Quarterly, 18(2), 154-166.

Scharmer, C. O. (2007). Theory U: Leading from the future as it emerges. San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler.

Tags:  foresight  futurist  leadership 

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Conscious Reflection

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 16, 2015
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Simon Dehne reflects his thoughts about “Conscious Reflection” in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

In the movie “Lucy’, the character is exposed to a new synthetic drug, that over the course of 24 hours allows her to access a 100% of her brain’s capacity (Wikipedia 2014). This intrigued me upon reflection because in some ways this was similar to a pathway that I had chosen after finishing the Swinburne Strategic Foresight program.

No, I don’t mean I have suddenly taken drugs. However, in another way the Strategic Foresight Course that I did at Swinburne University did have an impact that one might say had a powerful life-changing impact on how I interpreted reality.

In many of the units, we were required to write a reflective paper on something that we had an emotional reaction too. At the time I was clueless to the purpose and the changes it would have on me.

In a sense, I was being challenged to reflect on how I was making meaning about a situation or event. From another angle and in hindsight I was being asked to upgrade my awareness of my behavior and the world I lived in. An interesting concept, and the metaphor I now use when talking to people about this line of thinking is we, “upgrade our computer software on a regular basis to allow it to deal with more complex software that is occurring but we do not upgrade our minds”. The question I often get is, what do you mean? So what I mean is, our life conditions are becoming increasingly more complex but how we think and make sense of problems may not be sufficient to deal with this increasing complexity.

So the reflective paper was for me the beginnings of conscious reflection or turning off the autopilot. Like a child learning to walk, I started taking my first steps. So a key part of my learning to upgrade my thinking is nicely explained by Chuck Norris, in his book, “Getting Unstuck”. Chuck explains that, “we often think that the event determines how we feel, however, in reality, we frame how we think about the significance it holds for us. Feelings are not properties of situations. They are properties of how we interpret the situations”.

This passage gave me insight in a number of ways. First, a situation that I may be reacting to may not be the real cause of my emotions and behavior. It maybe how I am making meaning of this situation which maybe related to a deeper hidden cause that I hold true from my assumptions, beliefs, values or worldview.

The second point was the beginning of my understanding of whatever we believe could imprison us. The realisation of the importance of looking more deeply into how I was thinking, what was really my motivation and how were the life conditions that I grew up in (let’s call it culture), that was influencing how I thought and behaved, but not even conscious of.

This is what intrigued me. How could we influence the future by speaking about what is out there but ignore the importance of helping people understand it is also how we think. Jarratt & Mahaffie explain, “That we need to explore under the surface of events the many layers of deeper meaning, including our motivations, worldviews, metaphors and myths, which shape how people act and respond to change” (Jarratt 2009) .

So I call myself a Futurist and now I have the honuor of being a speaker to audiences who have the expectations that I will describe images of plausible futures based on emerging trends and patterns within the framework of the world, as we know it today, in order to identify the next opportunity or minimize any merging risks to their current business model or way of life.

But, I started this blog with arguably a provocative image of Lucy hinting it may be possible for us to enhance our intelligence. However, my real intent is to open up peoples thinking that it is possible for us to be able to expand how we think so that we may deal better with the increasing complexity of life by better understanding why we do things or why we may be feeling stuck by learning to consciously reflect and thus instead of becoming smarter possibly a little wiser.

In a practical way, Harvard professor Steven Pinker describes it like this: “If our first nature consists of the evolved motives that govern life in a state of nature, and our second nature consists of the ingrained habits of a civilized society, then our third nature consists of a conscious reflection on these habits, in which we evaluate which aspects of a culture’s norms are worth adhering to and which have outlived their usefulness” (DeBrito 2015).

But there lies the problem; as Chuck Jones explains, “Many of us are using patterns of processing information in our world that we don’t even know we are relying upon” (Norris 2015pp.x). Chuck refers to processing as various ways we generate meaning from experience.

So how can we challenge our norms both from a personal perspective and as a society if we are not even aware of what is really guiding us.

So over the coming blogs, I hope to share some of the tools that I have found useful as I present and run workshops in helping people learn to become more self-aware or wiser.

This in itself is a personal journey as the more I read, speak and practice this new found awareness, l hope to become a little wiser, and begin to learn how to re-frame the future by becoming unstuck from the narratives I have accepted unconsciously.

DeBrito, S 2015, ‘The Fall of Manners’, The Age,

Jarratt, JM, John B 2009, ‘Reframing the Future’, Journal of Futures Studies, vol. 13, no. 4, pp. 5-12.

Norris, C 2015, Getting Unstuck, Outskirts Press, United States of America.

Wikipedia 2014, Lucy (2014 Film), viewed 1/7/2015, <>.

Tags:  conscious reflection  foresight  strategic foresight 

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How futurists differ professionally?

Posted By Administration, Sunday, July 5, 2015
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Alireza Hejazi shares his thoughts with us about “Professional Futurists” in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

Talking to a student of Futures Studies about developments made in the foresight profession in recent months and years, our discussion led my student friend to ask me how futurists differ professionally. He was interested in knowing if there was any ranking system by which the futurists might be rated. In the absence of such a system, I provided him a simple response. This motivated me to add another post to the series of posts published in our blog in relation to futurists’ professionalization.

In my view, futurists differ by their depth of vision, strategic focus and creativity. I owe this categorization to Joe Coates (2004). I don’t intend to limit futurists’ differences just to these three factors, but this was the best categorization I could remember to offer to my student friend in a quick and orderly fashion. There are still a few miles to a standardized ranking system for professional futurists, but to that end these three qualifications may serve this purpose.

Depth of Vision

Futurists are different by their depth of vision. They set up the big picture, inspire others and empower them to achieve it. In my view, a futurist’s depth of vision can be determined by the extent to which it enables individuals and organizations to pursue their preferred futures independently. Personally, I hate controlling and being controlled all the time. Therefore, I do not prefer to exercise tight control over others to check if they are moving on the right path. If a vision is developed skillfully and communicated appropriately to clients, it can empower them to follow what is desirable without tight control. When people pursue distant future goals, they are typically under the pressures of current moment. Being occupied with present situation leaves little room for addressing long-range visionary goals. The art of a visionary futurist is to consume people’s concern for existing problems in favor of attaining visions. A futurist’s ideas may be different from his/her clients’ prevailing beliefs, but he/she can persuade them to follow their desirable visions by creating a mind setting that allows individuals to hunt the vision.

Strategic Focus

Clarifying the strategic focus is critical for the professional success of a futurist. People who pursue future-oriented goals generally experience irritations and lose their way. They sometimes end up with losing strategic focus. Therefore, in addition to a well-established vision, they need a well-informed strategic focus. Professional futurists help people and organizations get focused on what they are seeking. Foresight clients are typically preoccupied with the short term. They always find themselves thinking about here and now. Skillful futurists can switch their clients’ minds to the long term and grant them a higher degree of focus to take the value of time and space more consciously. Creating such a level of awareness requires continuous scanning so that their confusion might be removed by providing them valuable information. In this way, they will be able to filter out the noises that prevent them from attaining their desired goals. At a higher level, potent futurists enable their clients to get out of their organization and go beyond their industry to see what is going on at the global level. Thus, strategic focus makes it possible for futurists to do a high quality job of developing their profession, services and exploiting current and emerging foresight markets.


Futurists are also different by their level of creativity. As Rick Slaughter (2005) says,” creative futurists are offering possibilities to people and to cultures. We’re not saying that there’s a blueprint that has to be followed – such a thing does not exist. Instead, we’re offering options, interpretative possibilities, practical possibilities, tools of understanding which represent a vast, extended tool kit for reinventing culture.” Beyond Slaughter’s reference to culture, the futurists’ creativity works in foresight profession at large. Standing on the shoulders of many giants, the futurists examine the ways by which they might be able to activate their own creativity and shape the foundation of new knowledge and ideas targeting the future. In fact, creative futurists apply their sense of curiosity in favor of motivating individuals to explore new areas of foresight and cope with unanswered questions.

Earlier, I reviewed a number of questions on ranking the futurists. I recall that ranking is a means of qualification in terms of knowledge, skill and the quality of service that professional futurists provide for their clients. Any ranking initiative or system should serve the ultimate goal of futurists’ professional recognition.


Coates, J. (November-December 2004). Looking ahead: Futurists are different. Research Technology Management. Retrieved from

Slaughter, R. (2005). Towards a wise culture: four classic futures texts. Australia: Foresight International.

Tags:  foresight  futurist  professionalization 

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Why would you want to publish in any language other than English?

Posted By Administration, Monday, June 29, 2015
Updated: Thursday, March 28, 2019

Daniel Bonin

Daniel Bonin shares his thoughts on publishing ideas in any language other than English in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.


It is argued that a universal world language is unlikely to arise as long as different countries exist and people strive to differentiate themselves from other groups (Ettlinger 2014; McWhorter 2015). However, as an economist this sounds compelling but inefficient, especially when it comes to research. Last time I presented the basic concept of a platform that makes German literature in future studies more accessible to non-German-speaking futurists. Over the past weeks I started to conduct a systematic literature scan which showed me that this could be a worthwhile endeavor. While I find this project to be interesting and exciting, it is actually a pity that it is necessary. So now I am wondering what the incentives are to publish only in German. 


The literature scanning showed that there seem to be two patterns. First there are sources available only in German and fortunately second, some authors tend to condense their old articles published in German into an English article (e.g. articles by Cuhls). An example for sources that are available only in German is the book “Zukunftsforschung im Praxistest” (“Practical Applications of Future Studies”) published by Springer VS (Popp and Zweck 2013). This book features contributions of practitioners that allow others to obtain an insight into the methods and processes used within their companies, respectively public institutions or associations, to explore futures and business opportunities. 

However, this raises the question, for me, what are the incentives to publish only in German. The exchange between cultures and practices is a necessity for “Zukunftsforschung” (future studies) as I understand the field. I recalled that there was a discussion on methods used in companies back in March on the listserv. It seemed that the German literature could provide one with more examples. German sources range from collections of articles on practical applications of futures studies (e.g. Popp and Zweck 2013), to more specific research questions like the role of IT-supported foresight processes (e.g. Durst et al. 2011; 2012), the role of future studies in management disciplines from marketing to logistics to controlling or finance (e.g. Göpfert  2012, Tiberius 2011) and surveys on the use of foresight methods in companies (e.g. Kreibich et al. 2002).


Given the inefficiencies in communication with English-speaking futurists and interested parties, I take it that it is undesirable to have more than one language in future studies. Therefore I am wondering:

Why would you want to publish in German at all?

I hypothesize that this might have something to do with the lack of knowledge of the existence of foresights methods among the broader public. Chances are much higher that a German company interested in exploring the future of its business simply googles “Zukunftsforschung“ or related German terms than for keywords like foresight or future studies. Even if “Zukunftsforschung” carries a negative connotation as it sounds unscientific and less technical. Picture a manager that only knows that he wants to find out about the future of his business. What would he google for, where would he start? Possibly with something like “Zukunft” or “Zukunftsforschung”. So is it that there is some implicit pressure from the demand side, as clients might be illiterate in future studies terminology and do not know what to search for? Then the challenge becomes two-dimensional: (1) Future studies in Germany struggle as a general concept as clients might have a defensive attitude towards the general idea that one can explore futures (an experience many futurists in other countries might relate to), but also (2) as there is a need to publish in German to get the clients’ attention and get ranked well in Google, as clients do not know or think of more “technical sounding” terms. I am wondering whether the solution would be to educate the broader public about future studies, in order to break this vicious circle. While carrying out the “German-English project”, I hope to figure out how the project could become obsolete, which would be the only ultimate goal of such a project (or until we need to translate our knowledge into another language in the future).


Reference List 

Durst, C., Volek, A., Greif, F., Brügmann, H., & Durst, M. (2011). Zukunftsforschung 2.0 im Unternehmen. HMD Praxis der Wirtschaftsinformatik48(6), 74-82.

Durst, C., Kolonko, T., & Durst, M. (2012). Kooperationsdilemma in der Zukunftsforschung–Ein IT-basierter Lösungsansatz der Bundeswehr.Tagungsband der Multikonferenz Wirtschaftsinformatik, 1785-1796.

Ettlinger, M. (2014). Here's Why The World Can Never Have One Universal Language. Retrived from

Göpfert, I. (2012). Zukunftsforschung in der Logistik. FOCUS-Jahrbuch, München, 4-5.

Kreibich, R., Schlaffer, A., Trapp, C., & Burmeister, K. (2002). Zukunftsforschung in Unternehmen. Eine Studie zur Organisation von Zukunftswissen und Zukunftsgestaltung in deutschen Unternehmen. Sekreteriat für Zukunftsforschung (Gelsenkirchen): Werkstattbericht, (33).

McWhorter, J. H. (2015). What the World Will Speak in 2115.Retrived from

Popp, R., & Zweck, A. (2013). Zukunftsforschung im Praxistest. Springer VS.

Tiberius, V. (2011). Zur Zukunftsorientierung in der Betriebswirtschaftslehre(pp. 89-103). Gabler.


© Daniel Bonin 2015

Tags:  communication  English  language 

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Creating the Future

Posted By Administration, Monday, June 22, 2015
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Jason Swanson shares his thoughts with us about the possibility of “Creating the Future” in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

I can’t believe it has been a year! For my last post in my tenure as an Emerging Fellow, I want to explore the idea of creating and influencing the future. Before I do, I want to take a moment to thank the APF, my fellow Emerging Fellows, and you, the reader, for allowing me to explore the many questions I hold about the field and the practice of foresight.

During one of my first classes at the University of Houston’s Foresight program, we were taught that Futurists engage in two main activities; we describe images of the future, and we work to influence the future. Ever since those early classes I have wondered to what extent the act of describing the future actually works to influence how the future might unfold, rather than the act of describing the future actually being separate than the act of influencing the future?

The act of forecasting or describing the future can be said to have an effect on influencing the future. Forecasts can act as provocations, leading to action. They can uncover new markets, uncover bias, and help stakeholders ask more critical questions about what they may or may not want in the future. Of course these are just a few examples of how forecasting might influence the future and in truth we may never know the true influence the images of the future we create actually have. Even without the ability to truly measure the level of influence in our forecasts, perhaps we can speculate as to the level of potential influence that the images of the future we create hold?

One example we might consider is Berger and Luckmann’s Social Construction of Reality. Berger and Luckmann proposed that people create society, as we do so we create social facts, and in turn those social facts influence us as people, in turn making people a social product. An alternate explanation for the Social Construction of Reality might best be summed up in reply to why something is a particular way with the answer, “I don’t know it just is”. This to me brings home the point that as we create social facts, such as the 8 hour work day, they become such an ingrained idea in society after a period of time that we accept them as part of reality.

Berger and Luckmann’s work might provide some measure as to the level of influence our forecasts have on creating or influencing the future. Like social constructs that become social fact, certain images of the future might move from novel images and ideas to seemingly more plausible, almost expected futures. Andy Hines recently explored this idea with the Singularity, noting that while the Singularity itself may not be here, the idea has seeped into popular consciousness. I find myself wondering that as the Singularity concept gains more traction that if in some way this particular image of the future has become a sort of social fact, possibly enough so that Singularity might feel almost unavoidable?

Quantum physics might offer another example of forecasts themselves acting to influence the future, specifically the thought experiment of Schrödinger’s cat. In this thought experiment, physicist Erwin Schrödinger proposed putting a cat in a box or steel chamber with a vial poison gas though if you prefer Einstein’s version it is gunpowder. There is a 50/50 chance that either the gas or the gunpowder, again depending on whose version you prefer, has killed the cat, and we won’t know until we look in the box. When we finally bring ourselves to look, the cat is either dead or alive. Before we look, the cat is in a superposition where it is both dead and alive, and it is our act of looking that forces nature’s decision. From the cat’s perspective, it either sees the powder explode or the gas leak or it does not. In this way, the cat’s reality becomes entangled with the outcome of the experiment, and it is our act of observation that forces nature to choose one option or another. Does our observation of change and forecasts of the future act in some similar fashion? Does describing the future act in some way to create it beyond simply influencing mental models in the same way we might observe whether the cat in the box might be living or dead? Does the future exist in some manner of superposition?

So, do we create the future simply by describing it? I like to think so, and I think the works of Berger, Luckmann, and Schrödinger provide some interesting ideas as to how. As to what extent? Well, much like the future, that remains uncertain.


Tags:  forecast  foresight  futurist 

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Hopes for professionalization are still alive

Posted By Administration, Monday, June 1, 2015
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Alireza Hejazi shares his thoughts with us about the “professionalization” of futurists in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

Futurists’ professional development has been of growing notice, and several efforts have been made in this line of research in recent months. Among these efforts, the findings of a global Delphi study in press indicate that professionalization is still an achievable goal for futurists. The study supports foresight professionalization which is under construction and might be completed in the coming months and years thankfully to the precious efforts of our dear colleagues at the APF and elsewhere. This blog post offers a synopsis of this Delphi study.

To see how futurists compare their work to get recognized as a profession, Gary and von der Gracht (2015, in press) developed and ran a real-time Delphi (RTD) study. Their study established a framework that weighs the pros and cons of formalizing a foresight profession. The authors conducted the survey with 14 projections among 142 experts from 29 countries. The participants were asked to discuss the driving forces that might diminish or enhance the foresight profession. The RTD succeeded to locate authors’ targets where there were dissent and consensus on professionalization, its impact and desirability, and the likelihood of professionalization in practice.

The study was accomplished by developing a scale that used factor analysis based on the theory of competitive advantage. A three factor scenario model was generated composed of three market forces: assimilation, academicization, and certification. While the assimilation of professional futurists into other professions seemed most likely, the professional certification appeared least likely and less desirable by 2030. The study also indicated that the academicization of professional futurists could be moderately possible due to the rise of academic foresight programs in recent years.

It is clear that no scenario can guarantee futurists’ achievement of a formalized professionalization. However, it is worthy enough to check the possibility of attaining professionalization in those areas of foresight which require foresight practitioners’ qualification such as policy making, which determines nations’ social, political and economic destinations. Besides, any effort that would be made in this line, should consider foresight market contingencies according to the requirements of various regions and sectors, which need foresight and forethought differently.

Further studies are needed to identify other factors, which are missed in this study but constitute futurists’ professional reputation such as moral development and cross-cultural similarities and discrepancies that might affect their qualification. It seems that the demand for professionalization will go beyond futurists and in the coming years. Many other consultants and managers who are not necessarily futurist but apply foresight in their own areas of research and work will need to attain some sort of professional recognition to practice foresight in authentic ways.

My personal hope and prediction is that foresight will finally win a deserved universal recognition as an established profession and will gain a competitive advantage over other professions due to its comprehensive view of society, technology, economy, environment, policy, and values. In my view, all the professional futurists have a vested interest in realizing this dream that seems achievable more than ever. Let’s do our best to realize this great dream through our joint efforts.


Gary, J. E., von der Gracht, H. A. (2015, in press). The future of foresight professionals: Results from a global Delphi study. Futures,

Tags:  foresight  futurist  professionalization 

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Building a Bridge Between the German and English Literature

Posted By Administration, Monday, May 25, 2015
Updated: Thursday, March 28, 2019

Daniel Bonin shares his thoughts about the possibility of building a bridge between the German and English literature in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.


As I am currently traveling around the U.S., I am experiencing the cultural differences and similarities between here and Germany. This experience has made me think about how to make German literature in future studies more accessible to non German-speaking futurists. I get the impression that, when one compares English and German-speaking literature on future studies, a certain pattern becomes evident - both "camps" tend to stick to sources that are familiar to them, not only language wise but also, in terms of organizational and geographic affiliation.


While it is obvious that native English-speaking futurists are unlikely to understand German, their German counterparts do speak English. However, they often do not cite English literature that is considered to be state of the art. This tends to become even more pronounced for people outside of the field of future studies like researchers in the field of business administration. For instance, while working for the Institute for Trade Fair Management, I came across a scenario analysis on the future of trade fairs, commissioned by the Association of the German Trade Fair Industry (AUMA). The authors, who are mainly from the area of marketing, introduced scenario analysis by only referring to German literature. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, I am wondering whether a meta analysis that compares German and English-speaking literature on future studies can help to create a common understanding or even open up new perspectives. I feel that, especially here in Germany, business scholars hesitate to cite English literature on future studies or are not aware of its existence. On the other hand, there is specialized German literature on futurism and even a master’s program on future studies in Berlin. For instance, a Springer book describes how DAX companies apply futurism within their organization (Popp and Zweck 2013). Such literature is not yet accessible to the wide audience of English-speaking futurists. 


This is why I had the idea to do a literature review in order to create a wiki-like platform, which combines information that is provided by both camps and features a review of the main articles that are published in German. So far, I have started to sketch the necessary steps: 

1. Scan the literature and Internet resources

2. Filter and structure the information 

3. Synthesize the information

Like any literature review, the basis is to scan the literature and Internet resources. The results will then be analyzed. In this second step, the aim is to detect the keywords that are used to define, e.g., scenario planning, wild cards or the like. Moreover, information on the author(s) and sources that are citied will be collected. German articles that are reviewed will feature a short abstract in English, so that interested English-speaking futurists can get an impression of what the article is all about. Requests for a more detailed review can then be made. The literature will also be categorized as to whether the focus is on academic or practical purposes. Finally, the filtered and structured information will then be used to define the terms that are relevant to future studies.


Benefits would be twofold: (a) the differences and similarities would become evident and (b) the German literature would be more accessible to non-German speaking futurists. Still the question of how to make German scholars outside of the field of future studies aware of the state of the art literature remains. 


I plan to carry out the necessary steps in the next months after I return to Germany in mid June. Then, until I have figured out how to best present the results from an IT-Technical point of view, I will install a temporary website that features the current status and preliminary results.



KIRCHGEORG, M. (Ed.) (2007): Messewirtschaft 2020: Zukunftsszenarien. AUMA. 

POPP, R. and ZWECK, A. (2013): Zukunftsforschung im Praxistest, Springer.


© Daniel Bonin 2015

Tags:  Communication  English  German 

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Future Shock for Futurists

Posted By Administration, Wednesday, May 20, 2015
Updated: Thursday, March 28, 2019

Jason Swanson

Jason Swanson shares his thoughts about Future Shock for Futurists in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.


Roughly this time last year, Ben Wittes of the Brookings Institute wrote about what he called the “Intelligence Legitimacy Paradox. ” Wittes argued, “…the threat environment America faces is growing ever more complicated and multifaceted, and the ability to meet it is growing ever-more-deeply dependent on first-rate intelligence. Yet at precisely the same time, the public has grown deeply anxious about our intelligence authorities and our intelligence community is facing a profound crisis of legitimacy over its basic authorities to collect.”


Witte’s explanation for this paradox is technology. Technology has allowed for weak nations and non-state actors to play “in the big leagues of if international power politics”.  As technology is helping to contribute to the USA’s threat matrix, “…technological change is also the fundamental reason for the intelligence legitimacy crisis. The more ubiquitously communications technology spreads and the more integrated it all becomes globally, after all, the more that surveillance of the bad guys—in all their complexity—requires the intelligence community to surveil systems that we all use every day too. In other words, the same technologies that are making the threat picture more complicated, more diverse, and more bewildering are also bringing the intelligence process into closer day-to-day contact with people living their daily lives. These technologies also require intelligence agencies, to be effective, to touch giant volumes of material, most of which is utterly anodyne. The more the community does these things, as it must, the more people it offends and the more legitimacy problems it creates for itself.”


As a Futurist, I find the “Intelligence Legitimacy Paradox” fascinating.  Technological advances have made for an increasingly complicated threat matrix, yet at the same time gives our security agencies the tools to mine for first-rate intelligence. Leaving aside the issues surrounding the authority to collect data and information, I wonder if technological acceleration might one day create a paradox or dilemma for the futures field?


As mentioned above, Witte’s explanation for the paradox was technology, but to be more accurate the core of Wittes’ idea might be better defined as technological acceleration. With more and more data being generated and shared, agencies must sift through vast piles of information to find first-rate intelligence, scanning more broadly, probing more deeply, and coming closer in contact with those creating and sharing the data than ever before. As technological change continues to accelerate, the amount of data we generate will continue to grow. In 2015, we are expected to create and share eight zettabytes of information. How much is a zettabyte? 1 zettabyte = 1 trillion gigabytes. And that amount will rise, along with the ease of sharing the data that we create. As technology accelerates, Witte’s “Intelligence Legitimacy Paradox” might be even more pressing in the future, with more and more data being generated, an ever more complicated and evolving threat window,  closer touch points with data creators, and a greater need for quality data in the ever-expanding sea of information.


So where might this leave the futures field? To be clear, the majority of us are not dealing with a security risks or impending violence, rather we see more complex and rapid changes to the present, a more complicated and multifaceted threat matrix to present or current reality by way of rapidly approaching futures. Much like the intelligence community, our field must also contend with technology acceleration. As researchers, we put a premium on quality information, or what Witte calls “first-rate intelligence.”  If the information we use for our work is less that quality, we can assume the output also to be less than quality, or to borrow a phrase,” garbage in, garbage out”.


As more and more data is created and shared there is an issue of quantity versus quality that any researcher must contend with. For Futurists, in particular, this has the potential to be a blessing and a curse. With the acceleration of data generation, we are able to use increasingly rich streams of information to gain insights and generate images of the future. Beyond trends and drivers of change, these data streams also put us in touch with novel ideas and other signals. With more data being generated and shared over time, we might expect to come in contact with greater numbers of novel ideas and signals. This is where I see a potential issue. While not quite a paradox such as the “Intelligence Legitimacy Paradox”, the issue I see arising might be called something to the effect of “Future Shock for Futurists”. This is where the accelerating change of technology, specifically the increase in the amount of data being generated and shared exponentially increases over time, combined with accelerating social change, create an issue in which novel ideas and signals are no longer novel but commonplace, or in instances where they are novel, the shelf life of these ideas are extremely short, creating the potential for an echo chamber of sorts within the field.  What happens to our signals and signposts if they move from novel to accepted idea in a matter of weeks rather than years? Would that affect your practice?


Longer term the issue of increased data creation may be solved as data analytics such as R become easier to use so that we might make sense of  this growing sea of information. It stands to reason that web analytics will also provide increased brokering and curation services for information delivery in the form of a stronger filter bubble. Nearer term we might continue to use primary research, social networks (being mindful of our own filter bubbles there!) and other tools to ride the growing wave of data, being mindful of the rate at which ideas move from the seemingly crazy person rambling to accepted social fact.


How has increased data generation affected your practice? Do you see a downside to the increased creation and sharing of data? How might the hyper acceleration of ideas, where an idea might move from novel conception to mainstream inception affect the filed?


© Jason Swanson 2015

Tags:  futurist  technology  the US 

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From High Reliability Organizations and Foresight

Posted By Administration, Monday, May 11, 2015
Updated: Thursday, March 28, 2019

Julian Valkieser shares his thoughts about High Reliability Organizations and Foresight in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

My past articles were more and more related to Big Data and Foresight. In this article I want to demonstrate the concept of High Reliability Organizations (HRO).

The world is a very complex system. That’s no question. You can’t understand it as a whole. It is impossible. But on macro level, some organizations and companies try to make complexity highly reliable by preparing for the unexpected as much as possible. I was fascinated by this idea and the underlying approach. I believe that you can submit projects with better risk management. Conversely, the procedure of HROs would be exciting for Foresight.

Let me introduce the definition of an HRO, which states that those organizations have a particular behavior regulation and organizational structure. It is characterized to operate at a high percentage of reliability, despite the fact that these organizations act continuously under changing or difficult conditions. Statistically, one would expect a much higher error rate compared to traditional organizations.

HROs are usually structured very complex. When you think of a hospital or an aircraft carrier, there are diverse professional groups in many hierarchies and groupings. If a patient comes to a hospital, he meets doctors, nurses, medical technicians, traditional technicians, employees of the service or management, and certainly more people who contribute in any manner to the smooth workflow in the hospital.

Accompanied by complex team constellations, clear structures and hierarchies are needed. We know it, especially from the military, and here in accordance with aircraft carriers in the extremes. Where responsibilities prevail and decisions must be made in short periods of time, it requires a clear and transparent decision-making process.

One of the essential characteristics of a HRO

Sensitivity for operational processes: The personal sensitivity to the patient and the colleagues is more important than the pure control of data, such as patient records, prescribed medications or recorded data to physical circumstances. Environmental information must also be made available. So you can see new developments that need to be noticed also. But how to get information that have an impact on a particular situation. Environmental factors can be seen, among other things under the description of a "Vuja De".

A Vuja De would be a realization of a previously known routine, you didn’t have before. You were sensitive to this factor in the routine situation and discovered an anomaly, which is previously not noticed. (Sutton, 2001) This observation and a possible recommendation should be added to a manual or guideline to improve knowledge management and the common experience. Additionally, it is also an element of an HRO to adapt policies, practices and specifications constantly.

I'm very interested in the concept of Vuja De and I do not want to see it only as a buzzword, even though it describes what we already applies to many Foresight methods. In my mind, have a look inside HROs and their circumstances, you will certainly derive new insights for Foresight methods from short-term methods like them used in HROs.


Sutton, R. I. (2001): Weird Ideas That Work: 11 ½ Practices for Promoting, Managing, and Sustaining Innovation.

© Julian Valkieser 2015

Tags:  foresight  high reliability organization  organization 

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