Sarah Skidmore, a member of our Emerging Fellows program makes assumptions about the role of tribalism in the future of Africa. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
Tribalism manifests as people make decisions out of loyalty to their group or tribe. Think of modern Africa. Consider the vastness of the continent – the Arab culture of northern Africa, the poverty throughout the sub-Saharan region, and even racial tensions in South Africa. This does not even begin to examine the magnitude of diversity and wealth of identity that is present among the 3,000 plus tribes that call Africa home. The Angolan Civil War. The Ethiopian Famine. Apartheid. Rwandan Genocide. War in Darfur. Civil conflicts spurred by groups with varying ideologies have plagued Africa historically. The divisiveness of these conflicts and the havoc the African people experience due to power moves by African leaders drastically impact the ability of the continent to unlock its potential.
What future is in store for a continent that continues the cycle of civil unrest, the and violence evoked by tribalism? What future may exist if tribal imbalances continue in the decades to come? What harm may come from tribal grievances continuing to perpetrate?
The legacy and continued impact of colonialism is far reaching – even in postcolonial times. Colonial powers manipulated and destroyed classic power systems of African tribes for centuries. The beliefs and systems European colonialism imposed throughout Africa have a lasting influence on indigenous groups and impact politics. Following the reign of colonialism, the latter half of the twentieth century was shaped by Western imperialism and followed by the influence of international investment. However, all throughout this history, Africa was, and is, filled with countless tribes, ideologies, and customs.
Merely focusing on tribalism is similar to focusing on the concept of diversity. There is value in diversity. There is importance on honoring cultures and customs. There is significance in hearing differing perspectives. But there is more work to be done than simply recognizing diversity. Groups and tribes must shift toward fostering inclusion and cultivating a shared vision for the grips of destructive tribalism loosen. Without this shift toward inclusion and a shared vision, tribalism in Africa will continue the cycle of violence and destruction too common in the past decades.
Tribalism represents groups with varying cultural identities, societal identities, historical narratives, political views, and power dynamics. Along with the distinctive features of each people group, there are the histories and relationships among the various groups. These relationships are shaped by varying levels of trust, tension, and power, which influence decisions. How might cultivating greater trust between groups allow for a conflict-free Africa?
When ideating ways to achieve a conflict-free future in African by 2050, tribalism is undoubtedly a factor that will influence attempts toward that future. Tribalism represents the vast diversity that exists throughout the continent. Consider the value that tribalism may bring the people as they honor the unique culture and beliefs of other groups. Image a conflict-free future when tribalism evolves beyond a focus of violence and power toward one of inclusion, shared vision, and unity.
Ruth Lewis a member of our Emerging Fellows program checks the possibility of re-defining liberty in her twelfth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
For thousands of years, humankind’s generational evolution has been slow and steady, the narrative informed by the wisdom or misdeeds of the past. In the present there is constant change, systemic complexity and uncertainty. This has bred an atmosphere of fear for the future, fear of losing control, fear for our personal liberty, and fear of the ‘other’. People strive to create economic wealth and political certainty, making false assumptions and implementing technological systems without due consideration of the social ethical, environmental, legal or human rights factors. This striving for certainty actually undermines our personal liberty and our individual dignity.
In the future, personal liberty will be redefined by living confidently with uncertainty. Future libertarians will embody Sir Isaiah Berlin’s fox and recognise that true freedom may be unknowable. They will recognise the precarious balance between safety and autonomy, between utopia and dystopia, and will be comfortable in living within the polarities of this duality. They will action multi-scenario plans, each outcome as likely or possible, some more desirable than others. Their anchor point will be to take personal responsibility to define and enact a moral code of values for community, for society and for future generations.
Personal liberty will be to action these individual values now, and not wait for them to evolve through exogenous circumstances. It will be to contribute to the national and global conversation of what global values we have in common. Whether for common land and environmental protection, or for data and privacy, we will act for preservation and against exploitation. Common assets can be owned, governed and enjoyed by the collective, and individual characteristics will be preserved and protected for individuals. Individuals will be able to determine what aspects of themselves that they wish to share, and will have ownership over this determinant.
Citizen governance will promote liberty by forming and shaping polity through consensus according to collective normative values. It will recognise individual liberty is not compatible with capitalism, communism, nor any form of exploitative or repressive regime. It will recognise the equilibrium and duality of the individual and collective assets, encoded in the minds, the hopes and dreams of its citizens. It will recognise and work to overcome bias. With this equilibrium of common moral values, society can look to confidently plan for future uncertainty and societal health, rather than seeking refuge in past tribal structures or domination agendas.
Strategic Foresight bestows us with a unique set of tools and methods to explore future opportunities and landscapes, from the utopic to the dystopic, to experience and play with a multitude of possibilities for the future. It allows us to define our own version of future liberty, delving into wicked, unanswerable systemic problems, holding lightly to our preferred version of the future. It allows us to confidently trust emergence, so that we can develop respect and freedom from fear for ourselves and our fellow travellers through life. Liberty will be re-defined in the future by freedom from fear of uncertainty, freedom to be ourselves within our societies and our communities.
Alex Floate,a member of our Emerging Fellows program believes that the role of finance in the emergent future is made by our choices. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
2050 – Continued status quo
WNN, the World News Network, announced the closure of the Tokyo, New York, and London exchanges today, citing the owner’s announcement that the exchanges were no longer profitable due to the lack of publicly available stock assets. Finance watchers had been warning for years, even decades of the growing disparity in wealth in all nations, especially those with extensive and politically influential financial systems.
The concentration resulted in privatized holdings that were no longer accountable to public transparency, or hijack by minority investors. Other investment vehicles that the oligarchs could control, and usually skirted many archaic government regulations, were still offered for the masses. The money raised from these token offerings were then used to make the riskiest bets, ones the corporate monopolists and oligarchs did not want to risk their own money on.
The governments overseeing the economy were content with maintaining the status quo of reasonable stability in the broader economy. If the masses were content with meager returns, and a standard of living that allowed them to plug-in to a large selection of neuro-linked content, why not let the rich have their way?
2050 – Transformed by design
WNN, the World News Network, announced the renaming of the Tokyo, New York, and London exchanges. The exchanges now track the true costs and benefits of each company, both private and public, and their social responsibility scores. This allows governments to levy appropriate taxes and gives investors full information on the companies’ ability to create social goods in addition to profits.
Also announced was a unified global taxing and currency structure. This will stop corporations and individuals from using tax havens that reduce tax liabilities in primary markets. The move is aimed at corporations who gain all the benefits of a market without having to bear any of the costs. Additionally, it will restrict the ability to manipulate currency or financial assets in one market for financial advantage in another. These changes deal a blow to the world of ‘paper profits’ and the financialization of markets that enrich a few at the cost of the broader social good.
Present Day – What role do we want finance to play in our future?
The future of finance is dependent on the role we believe it should play in our society and economy. If we decide the status quo is sufficient, we can expect that financial profits will remain the priority of those who earn them, and they will continue to seek power to protect them. We can expect continued attempts to keep profits as private gains, and costs and losses turned into public debt. We can also expect other aspects of life, such as freedom of movement, expression, and privacy, to become luxuries that are priced and sold as commodities. Ultimately, the role of finance in the emergent future is what we make it. It is up to us whether it is our servant or master.
Charlotte Aguilar-Millan checks the urgency of human resources in future companies through her eleventh 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.
The company of the future will not have the same staffing requirements as the company of today. The use of personnel, an often costly fixed cost, has been declining. The company of the future will not rely on personnel to fuel their growth. We are now in an age of technology where unskilled labour is fast being replaced. This can be seen with robotic lawn mowers, self-service fast food and even an order app for Starbucks. These tasks once performed by humans, have now been successfully replaced by technology.
While technology has been developing, labour supply has tightened as the population ages. Unemployment rates have been steadily declining from 2011, with May 2019 seeing rates of only 3.8% in the UK. The last time this was seen was in 1974. With tight labour markets, an opportunity for labour to demand a better working environment is emerging. With this, the workforce is becoming more agile. The company of the future will have to compete to attract and retain staff.
In July, Amazon announced that it will retain a third of their US work force in the technologies of the future. The companies that will succeed will be those who entice new workers and keep them stimulated sufficiently to stay. The rise of the gig economy heralds an opportunity for staff to determine the environment in which they wish to work. The gig economy gives the workforce more flexibility on working hours and location.
This is only possible where there is a shortage in supply. Specialists in fields such as IT or Finance have seen their conditions significantly improve, with large companies offering incentives such as unlimited annual leave or pet maternity leave. In the unskilled work force, for gig workers in fields such as fast food or transport, the landscape is not so good. Uber provides a platform for gig workers to supply their labour. It determines a driver’s profitability and whether any customers are routed to their cars. Uber’s control over what a worker is paid month on month has created an instability for unskilled labour. It also demonstrates that the company of the future does not need staff. The Company of the future will not even require drivers. Once autonomous vehicles become sufficiently reliable to be roadworthy, these will replace the workforce.
This has enabled companies to exploit the labour force by expecting a pseudo employee relationship with control over the worker. However, they do not have the obligations of a typical employer. No sick pay, parental leave or pension contributions are required where you do not employ your labour force.
The trend to have fewer employees will only continue into the future. Tech companies are leading the way. Facebook in 2019 had an average turnover of $1.4m per employee while Apple had $2.1m per employee. When compared with the successful companies of the past, this demonstrates how the need for employees is in the past. VW’s average turnover per employee was $0.5m with Ford at $0.8m in 2017 and 2018 respectively. The Company of the Future does not need employees in the same way the Company of the past has. The trend of specialisation will continue into the workforce with those unspecialised left exploited.
Will the company of the future need staff? Yes, and no. If those staff are highly trained and motivated, then yes. If those staff are unskilled and could be replaced by robotics and AI, then no. The challenge to society is how to upskill to ensure that the latter aren't left behind.
Charlotte Aguilar-Millan inspects the key players of future companies in her tenth 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.
The key actors of companies of the future will demonstrate a significant influence from Generation Z. By 2030, 30% of the workforce within the US will be Generation Z. They will act as key stakeholders of the future through their purchasing power and consumer habits. Companies should not assume these habits will be the same as previous generations.
Climate change is rapidly becoming a higher priority for consumers. This will heavily affect the success and profitability of future industries. Greta Thunberg is a telling example of the future desires of consumers. She is a significant climate change activist and often heralded as the voice of the future generations. On her trip to New York from the UK in 2019 she rejected the efficiency and economic pricing of flying due to the affects this would have on the environment. Instead, she took two weeks to sail there on a journey that had a zero-carbon footprint. This carbon reducing style of holidays is evidenced by the rise of the staycation where tourists remain in their home country for their holidays. The majority (52%) of those in the UK who had a staycation in 2019 were aged 25 to 34.
Airlines must develop in coming years to offer not only low costs, many routes and reliability. Attributes which current consumers expect. They must also address how they are offsetting their carbon footprint. Today this is offered as an optional addition to consumers booking flights. However, the Company of the Future will have this as a mandatory cost. Most likely borne through taxation. Companies should get in front of climate action to not only help the planet but to act as a leader within their industry. Corporate social responsibility will also drive the Company of the Future. As the population live longer, aspirations of successful careers, fulfilling hobbies as well as families grow. The Company of the Future that demonstrates progressive working solutions for parents as well as offering true work life balances will thrive.
Generation Z are not content with a static workplace. They have grown up seeing tech start-ups develop into unicorn IPOs. Generation Z are more mobile and entrepreneurial than previous workforces. They require a flexible workplace, as has been seen with the rise of the gig economy, that will enable them to fit in work around their lives. The largest actor in the Company of the Future will be the individual. As the individual becomes more aware, they will not accept a workplace that demands long hours that does not support new parents and will leave the individual at retirement without a liveable pension.
Social awareness of the profits and bonuses large companies make is on the rise. No longer can a company use employees as a resource without respecting the individual also. The individual will also vote with their consumer habits on the companies that will thrive in the future. Companies that do not actively plan to effect positive change for the climate cannot be successful. Companies need to take a leaf out of Greta Thunberg’s book to evolve into the Company of the Future.
Alex Floate,a member of our Emerging Fellows program examines the governments’ potency in leading finance futures through his fourth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
Solving big problems has never evaded the human spirit. Ferocious tigers and bears led to spears and group tactics. Episodes of famine led to granaries for storing against future hunger. Following that came the domestication of the cat to protect against rodents feasting on the stockpiled bounty. In just the last century we have overcome distance with advances in communications, heavier than air flight, and even leaving earth’s atmosphere. As problems have become bigger in scale and cost, we look to our governments to take the lead on solving them. That we can solve big problems and overcome the constraints of our environment is not in doubt; that we have the will to do so is.
Continued financialization may create a dystopian-tinged future of financial feudalistic lords, while nationalistic oriented systems may reverse global gains and destroy the value of national currencies. Fortunately, neither future is set in stone and the opportunity to create a different one is possible, but dependent on current governments choosing a different direction and using the tools at their disposal. The mechanisms available include monetary policy for expanding and contracting money supply, fiscal policy to set taxing and spending priorities, and regulations on financial investment and exchange.
How should they deploy these mechanisms, and for what end? Should the government pursue a policy of continued economic growth, or one that favors renewing the social contract to favor all citizens? Should we create rewards for sustainability and disincentivize consumption? What system best emphasizes personal initiative and innovation, while caring for the least of us? Although this is a political exercise more than a financial one, the answer will determine which mechanisms are put forward as solutions.
If we decide that economic growth and consumption is not as important as sustainability of resources, then systems that favor labor and saving over those that promote investment churn and profit will be needed. However, just as this will call for increased taxes on investment and capital, higher taxes on consumption, which disproportionally affect the poorest, will also be required. Should we decide that social programs, especially in a possible future of large-scale human obsolescence, to ensure an economic floor for all citizens is vitally important, then investment and tax mechanisms will need to be balanced to provide revenue while maintaining risk incentives for growth of capital.
Before we can fully and rationally answer those questions as a society, the greater challenge is confronting the myths of both capitalism and socialism. Believing that free markets and privatization are always the best method for delivery of goods and services ignores that many needs are basic for life, and costs are not always inherent in the price. Conversely, believing that governments are always honest managers that efficiently gauge the needs and wants of their citizens and deliver accordingly is also not supported by history. The answer lies somewhere in between with a need for a new folklore and heroes to provide a basis for a future that tempers the worst of these extremes while balancing the best of them. The question to be answered is whether governments will work to balance these needs and forge a new story for the future, or abjectly acquiesce to the myths of the money changers.
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Thursday, November 22, 2018
Updated: Tuesday, February 26, 2019
Adam Cowart, a member of our Emerging Fellows program explains the term hyperstition in his twelfth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.
Previous posts have explored various ways in which the real economy may or may not be real in the future, utilizing the concept of hyperstition, the combination of “hyper” and “superstition”, which refers to the process of ideas becoming reality in our culture. More specifically, how new realities manifest in the economy.
While perhaps the academic study of hyperstition and its effects and influence on late-capitalism is relatively new, the conceptual underpinnings are not. One of the most well-known lines in the Bible is “And the word became flesh and dwelt among us” (English Standard for those wondering). In our current age, the capacity for words to dwell among us, in the various forms of social media in general, twitter in particular, and our latent inventiveness in turning ideas into reality, has led to a powerful and reinforcing loop between the word and flesh.
The myriad ways in which this has influenced our economic systems have been explored, though far from exhaustively. We’ve looked at the nefarious means by which late-capitalism will continue to mine the nooks and crannies of everyday life for growth opportunities, including trauma-related world building in the form of imaginary paracosm economies, and the incredible ecological strain of consumers shifting from “having” to “being” consumption patterns. In the virtual realm we’ve considered whether AI entrepreneurs pumping out transient products and services will cause our much admired entrepreneur to go extinct along with those who face the future challenges of virtual foraging. Finally, we’ve delved into the implications of the grand performance of scarcity in a post-scarcity world, the hamster-wheel of sub optimization brought on by situated innovation and, of course, back to where we started our journey with pigeon Ponzi schemes going up in smoke.
Of course, our fiction to reality process is far from linear. And it is far from monolithic. With the most recent rise of nationalism, with left and right in a constant oppositional state of becoming far-left and far-right, we’ve also seen the proliferation of folk economics. This rejection of globalism for localism, whether practical or not, has likewise bred a plethora of local, culturally and economically ingrained hyperstitional realities. Reality and economics is now situational. The economy is both great and terrible.
We have been referred to grandly as “The Weather Makers”. Perhaps of greater concern is our inconsistent ability to be “The Reality Makers”. Still far from clear is how this will manifest in the future, where reality is customizable and up for debate.
As for the Pigeon King story I began this series with, I recently attended a play in rural Ontario, a matinee production, called “The Pigeon King”, based on the true story in which a man built a Ponzi scheme empire selling pigeons. Or, perhaps, he was just a bad businessman. Regardless, economic abstractions had given way to tangible pigeons, which had now given way to a theatrical performance. Fact had come full circle back to fiction. After the play finished, the performers took their bow. But we weren’t done yet. The performers encouraged us to open our programs. In the program was a folded paper pigeon. They told us to pull out the pigeons and then, on the count of three, we launched our pigeons into the rafters of the theatre. A theatre full of old people, laughing, suddenly children again. A sad flock of paper pigeons trying to take flight, sputtering out, before being snatched back up and tossed a few feet further. Up on stage the actors and the musicians watched. The audience and performers had switched roles. I noticed the fiddler. He didn’t play now. Didn’t fiddle. Just watched us. Content.
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Monday, January 15, 2018
Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2019
Monica Porteanu is one of our Emerging Fellows. She and our other Emerging Fellows will be posting throughout the year. Her first article discusses the intersection of society and trust.
Trust is a social construct essential to economic and societal development. However, trust has issues that the passing of time has not only not yet solved but also blurred any futures orientation. Furthermore, while technology presents possible solutions, it also introduces new challenges. One would expect that science has resolved such issues, but science itself has undergone a trust crisis. A solution to re-establishing trust is designing the future with the society itself.
In 2017, trust in official institutions registered a collapse in the US and a significant drop in the UK, after a steady decline over time. Decades earlier, behind the Iron Curtain, the communist regime thrived through the propagation of mistrust.
Centuries ago, the victory or defeat in war was a question of how the communication amongst generals, stationed at various locations, was transmitted through trusted, non-forgeable links. The system, at that time, did not have any control or feedback loop to ensure traitors did not intercept and interfere with the message. Dubbed the Byzantine Generals’ problem in mathematics, in many ways similar to the Prisoners’ Dilemma in economics, the challenge might now be solved by blockchain technology, with its promise for a single record of fact between two parties involved in a transaction.
Even if blockchain succeeds, another technology facet raises trust questions: data. With staggering amounts of data available but a remarkably low percentage analyzed, and even smaller amounts validated, how do we know whether we can count on the truth of this content?
The belief that scientific research is a trusted leader is also challenged. Investigations show that less than 50% of psychology studies could be replicated, together with increasing instances of corruption, including priming effects, fake peer reviews, or proliferation of citation cartels.
Extending the question of trust to forward-looking settings enhances decision makers’ ability to anticipate possible futures and navigate risks and uncertainties, especially when trust molds into “the willingness to be vulnerable to another party’s actions.” Trust in futures thinking enhances the capacity to embrace opportunities presented by “actionable images of the future” while deflecting weaknesses and threats.
A solution to re-establishing trust is expanding its definition from being an ingredient that catalyses economic prosperity and social life for people, to envisioning futures of a society with people. This participatory approach is diametrically opposed to the communist doctrine as well as the hierarchical, patriarchal, belief, and value systems that underlie existing power structures. Participation not only increases the likelihood of trusting what could be developed but also the engagement to ignite futures and shape the preferred one.
The reciprocal relationship between participation and trust is self-explanatory: participation spawns trust through dialogue, transparency, and agency, while trusting beliefs and actions (e.g., ability, benevolence, integrity) strengthen participation through the willingness to engage, take action, and break various barriers such as personal, situational, functional, or psychological.
Such relationship alleviates the anxiety of unknown futures through mental training and careful orchestration of expert and participant involvement. For example, while futurists’ skill is critical in trend analysis to unearth blind spots and set the stage for grounded results, diversity and wide participation is more beneficial than competence during the next phase focused on opportunity prioritization. Further refining of selected opportunities is easily enabled by experimental prototyping of actionable future narratives, as a method to understand and handle the uncertainties and risks of unproven ideas about the future. The experts’ facilitation skills and toolkits, such as empathy maps, role-playing, or installations, contribute to establishing the need, desire, and feasibility of building the envisioned futures.
As a final note, participation to build trust is the opportunity to develop further the networked society in which the collaboration amongst creativity, ethnographic, foresight, and analytical approaches convert the unknown into a viable and promising future for society.
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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.
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.
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,
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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.
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/