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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 fromhttp://www.businessinsider.com/why-there-wont-be-a-universal-language-2014-7?IR=T

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 http://www.wsj.com/articles/what-the-world-will-speak-in-2115-1420234648

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.



Notes:

https://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Schr%C3%B6dinger%27s_cat

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Social_Construction_of_Reality

http://www.andyhinesight.com/media/the-idea-of-the-singularity-is-here/

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.

Reference

Gary, J. E., von der Gracht, H. A. (2015, in press). The future of foresight professionals: Results from a global Delphi study. Futures, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2015.03.005

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.

 

References

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

http://www.auma.de/de/DownloadsPublikationen/PublicationDownloads/AUMA_Edition26.pdf 

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?

http://www.lawfareblog.com/2014/05/the-intelligence-legitimacy-paradox/

http://www.informationlifecyclemanagement.net/collateral/analyst-reports/idc-extracting-value-from-chaos-ar.pdf

http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-pace-of-social-change/

http://www.r-project.org/

 

© 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.

Source:

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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Free futures and pasts thinking

Posted By Administration, Thursday, May 7, 2015
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Sandra Geitz shares her thoughts with us about “free futures and pasts thinking” 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.

This post ponders our habits of thinking and doing, and whether we can open ourselves to see and act on potential futures.



What enables and what inhibits us to think of possible futures?

What ifs seems to be freely imagined by the young. So what happens to our early innate abilities as we mature? Is it that we develop habits and rules of thumb to contain the complexity of our lives? Habits help us deal with overwhelming choices and pathways. Is that we notice that particular strategies work more often? More successes, and less embarrassments or failures are the result of sticking within certain rules and habits? Does training and schooling further embed our proven methods and shortcuts? We keep within these deep grooves of thinking and doing, often unable to imagine other or better ways of thinking and doing.



How to think and do with time and experience?

The diagram attempts to distil my own experiences and learnings, using abduction for problem-solving, designs and intuitive insights, using science of induction or probabilistic inferences, as well as deduction and intuitive judgement via experience. It also is based on Ackoff’s (1989) knowledge hierarchy from specific data, information, knowledge, to the wisdom of the universal. And, it includes and visualises concepts of design thinking versus science by Roger Martin (2007) and Doerfler and Ackermann’s (2012) intuition studies. Abductive, Inductive and Deductive thinking, adapted from Ackoff (1989), Martin (2007) and Doerfler and Ackermann (2012).

When I’m open and curious, fearless and playful, I recognise I’m more likely to use abductive thinking. This involves deeply noticing and observing phenomena, pondering what if and what might be, to generate potential or preferred futures. It is seeing new patterns and connections through those vast reams of data. This mode of thinking and doing aligns with problem solving within uncertainty and design thinking. It envisions a potential known outcome, and explores various pathways of what and how we may arrive at this future state.

Very rarely, in situations where I know many inputs what and their outcomes, I may use induction to infer how they relate together. At first this thinking appears similar to abduction, but it needs large samples and probabilistic conditions to infer the how. From my experience, it is easy to develop the wrong theory, as data is rarely valid for probability,.

Most often, in known environments, I’ll choose deduction to reach the desired outcome using known inputs what and methods how. This thinking generates predictable outcomes from known approaches. It just works (most of the time). I use this thinking so often, it becomes automatic habit or intuitive. In areas of considerable experience, I’m so confident I just know the outcome looks right or not. Intuitive judgement of experience.



So what, if we judge with time and experience?

The visual provides the clue. Deduction works when environmental conditions are stable and known, if connections between inputs and their outcomes are known and predictable. Deduction is established and validated in practise over the years from theories of induction if there is a stable environment/

And if the environment becomes turbulent or uncertain? Then, what if thinking becomes the best approach. Trouble is, it is directly opposite to intuitive judgement by experience. It requires us to put aside our wisdom and experience that worked in our pasts. We need to delve into data and emerging details, to become curious and child-like, exploring unknowns and novelty. Deeply uncomfortable, yet essential practise.



References:

Ackoff, Russell. (1989). From data to wisdom, Journal of Applied Systems Analysis,16(1), 3-9.

Doerfler, Viktor & Ackermann, Fran. (2012). Understanding intuition: The case for two forms of intuition, Management Learning, 43(5) 545-564. Retrieved December 20, 2014 from http://mlq.sagepub.com/content/43/5/545

Martin, Roger. (2007). The nature of the schism between the design view of business & the business view of design, SMMRSD. Retrieved March 21, 2015 from http://summarised.co.za/

Tags:  future  past  thinking 

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What roles does a futurist serve?

Posted By Administration, Monday, April 20, 2015
Updated: Thursday, March 28, 2019

Alireza Hejazi

Alireza Hejazi shares his thoughts about the roles that futurists may serve 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.

 

Reviewing a number of published works, I concluded that the futurists’ roles can be generally defined based on a continuum that stretches from a point of leadership to a point of innovation. Many functions, competencies and responsibilities might be considered on this continuum, but there are six key roles that can be attributed to futurists. First, three roles are described from the point of leadership and then three other roles are reviewed from the point of innovation in this post.

 

In my view, the futurists are primarily leaders. This is why I changed the direction of my studies down the road of strategic foresight at MA level in 2012 and took up the leadership road at PhD level in 2013. I look at foresight from a leadership perspective, and this convinces me to consider Mumford, Campion and Morgeson’s (2007) strataplex of leadership skills as a good basis for classifying futurists’ roles. Therefore, I can regard a futurist as an analyst, a manager, or a consultant in the first place. 

 

Second, I think that foresight is aimed at serving the objective of facilitating or improving innovation at the corporate level. Consequently, Rohrbeck’s (2011) taxonomy of initiator, strategist, and opponent can be considered as one of the best classifications that have been proposed to this date. I will make an attempt to describe each role briefly in this post based on two of the above mentioned resources.

 

Futurist as analyst

An analyst is the person who applies foresight tools and methodologies in his or her activities, someone who is competent in scanning, trend analysis, and basic forecasting. An analyst is not laboring under the influence of others’ ideas. Instead, he or she studies those ideas and proposed the best way of applying them in favor of individual, national and international benefits. The analyst produces information for the second role, the manager.

 

Futurist as manager

A futurist manager is usually a foresight project manager who supervises the foresight processes at the corporate level. He or 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.

 

Futurist as consultant

A futurist consultant is a strategic leader who works with executives to facilitate change based initiatives on the base of insights resulted from foresight processes. He or 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.

 

Futurist as initiator

Foresight activates innovation by identifying new customer needs, technologies, and product concepts of competitors at the corporate level. A futurist initiator analyzes cultural shifts and collects the needs of lead customers. He or she scans the science and technology environment to identify new emerging technologies. At a higher level, a futurist initiator identifies new competitors’ concepts by monitoring the activities of the competitors.

 

Futurist as strategist 

Foresight directs innovation activities by creating a vision, providing strategic guidance, consolidating opinions, assessing and repositioning innovation portfolios, and identifying the new business models of competitors. A futurist strategist develops well-informed future-oriented strategies that lead innovation on desirable effective paths.

 

Futurists as opponent 

Foresight challenges the innovators to create better and more successful innovations by challenging basic assumptions, challenging the state-of-the-art of current R & D projects, and scanning for disruptions that could endanger current and future innovations. A futurist opponent not only challenges innovative ideas and assumptions, but proposes tweaks and re-adjustments that can improve innovation in various ways. 

 

It should be noted that foresight is a cross-functional profession, and a futurist may play two or some of these roles simultaneously based on the nature of enterprise he or she serves. Another consideration is that new future-oriented jobs have been created or conceived in recent years such as: future-guide, global system architect, global sourcing manager, grassroots researcher, organizational quartermaster, monitor/analyst, and talent aggregator (Wagner, 2010). It is possible to include all these jobs and professions into the proposed taxonomy or perhaps something better.

 

References

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.

Rohrbeck, R. (2011). Corporate foresight: Towards a maturity model for the future orientation of a firm. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

Wagner, C. G. (2010). 70 jobs for 2030. The Futurist, 45(1), 30-33.

 

© Alireza Hejazi 2015

Tags:  foresight  futurist  professionalization 

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Fear is the mind-killer

Posted By Administration, Monday, April 6, 2015
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Jason Swanson shares his thoughts with us about “fear” 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 my last post, I pondered about what might make a futurist a good futurist. With the help of some great input from Maree Conway, rather than asking what might make a futurist good, perhaps we ought to ask what makes a futurist effective.

In the month that has passed since writing that blog post, the thoughts about what makes for an effective futurist have still been top of mind. During those four weeks, I have had a number of conversations where I was asked what attributes might be needed to be a good (or effective) futurist?

To be sure, there is an endless list of attributes that one might associate with a good or effective futurist. In fact, if you were to administer a Myers-Briggs type test to the futures community you may even generate some sort of archetype, but for me, as a professional early in his career there are two attributes I feel are particularly relevant; fearlessness and obsession.

Anyone involved in futures must be fearless. Foresight is about change, and change makes many people uncomfortable. You will constantly be walking an edge, talking about images that might be, sometimes playing the role of provocateur, pushing your audience to think differently, to question their current reality, and to hopefully change their mental models. You will be challenged, occasionally be called crazy, and deal with territory where there are no data points. There is also a very public learning curve to this field. You will blog, you will write, and you will speak about the future, all the while honing your craft as you go. It is not for the faint of heart, and as a beginner this may feel incredibly daunting. It did for me. It still does.

The fearlessness one develops is joined by a second attribute I feel is just as important; obsession. I am not condoning a horrible life balance, but rather a passion about the future, and a drive to perfect a craft that cannot be perfected. Foresight is something I refer to as “the gift and the curse”. It frames my view of reality, and for better or worse I cannot turn it off. I recall an email exchange between two gentlemen I consider mentors. During the exchange, one of them remarked that choosing this line of work was more a lifestyle choice than a choice of profession. I couldn’t agree more. It is that obsession about the future; the endless drive to see what might be next, the bottomless curiosity that makes us question our current reality that separates this field from so many.

For those that may be considering entering the field, or have just begun their careers and are wondering what attributes make for a good or effective futurist, develop your fearlessness and turn your passion and curiosity to obsession. On the days where you feel fear creeping in, let your obsession and passion guide you. For those who have spent time in the field, may your fearlessness never runs out nor you obsession wane.

Tags:  fear  foresight  futurist 

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To be continued – Benefits of Big Data – from predictions to foresight

Posted By Administration, Monday, March 30, 2015
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Julian Valkieser  shares his thoughts with us about “Benefits of Big Data” 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 my previous articles, I have already mentioned some examples where large amounts of data are used to create future predictions. Mostly, these are very specific and limited to a certain range. After all, worldly influences are very complex. If there is too much variety of influences, the predictions using big data are less accurate.

Next I want to mention other examples, in which big data is used for creation of short- and medium-term forecasts. Of course, at first this has little to do with Futurists and Foresight and long-term forecasts. But in my opinion, it represents a baseline for future practice for Futurists and Foresights. I will explain at the end of the article. Now I want to mention two examples of big data forecasting.

The Berlin-based start-up SO1 claims to be able to predict your behavior very accurately based on customer data in supermarkets. With certain offers and discounts they can move you to change your favorite brand. This works on the principle that we already know from Amazon: “Customers Who Bought This Item Also Bought”. Of course, the concern of SO1 is a frightening scenario. After all, each customer may be offered different prices for a specific product. I think no one wants this. Presumed that SO1 maintain its algorithm, this is a good indication of how well you can predict human behavior already.

Another example from German Technology Review: Thomas Chadefaux from Trinity College in Dublin, analyzed social media channels and the Google News Archive from 1900 to 2011 by specific signal words, to find out if weak signals in the media advance to crises and violent confrontations. With a probability of 85% he could predict crises, like those in Armenia, Iran or Iraq up to one year in advance. The problem here is currently: He is looking back. How his algorithm will be developed in the future, must be observed. Nevertheless, one should be alert of his name.

In summary, I would like to explain why I see these examples of predictions using big data so important for the area of Futurists and foresight. Of course, classical foresight methods are used for a company to be prepared for future influences and circumstances. For example, this is also the theme of the so-called HRO (High Reliability Organizations).

Many companies base their strategic decisions in the short and medium term now on Big Data. For long-term and accompanied much more complex decisions Big Data itself is not complex enough. Here the classical Futurist jumps in. On the basis of Big Data evaluated scenarios and trigger events it can record creative eventualities that have not been enumerated by Big Data Analytics. The future of Futurists is essentially asking to set its basis for discussion with big data and finally, base eventualities on classical methods to which a company besides the main focus should also prepare. An HRO works similarly. There are eventualities outlined and for each one with a given weighting a process is defined, e.g. how to react. HRO examples are hospitals, fire stations or on an aircraft carrier.

Tags:  big data  foresight  futurist 

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