What kind of a profession is futurism anyway?

Some reflections of the discussions among the fururist at LaFutura2013

Some reflections of the discussions among the fururist at LaFutura2013

Futurists, trend researchers, futurologists, trend spotters, people who who try to say something about the future carry all kind of names. Despite references to the Antiquity, the oracle of Delphi amongst others, the profession is kind of young and still struggling with its position, especially in the business context. Valuable frameworks such as the framework for thinking about the future by Andy Hines and Peter Bishop make up a proper scheme of activities that encompass strategic foresight. However, people in this emerging industry are still looking for ways to describe what they do and how this can add value to innovation management, business strategies and organizational planning. LaFutura unconference is a meeting space of this industry to discuss progress in this young industry.
Outside in – inside out: the lemniscate
Given the variety of methods that are available, the process of a future study for a particular client always boils down to two distinct processes. One part is looking for information, data, research of what is happening on the horizon. The other part is generating insights, building a business strategy to stay ahead or anticipate future developments. You can visualize these two phases of every foresight study as a lemniscate, because of the iterative nature of the process. In the middle of the lemniscate there is a special place for creating grand visions, the bigger picture of an organization that balances the outside and the inside world.
Left brain, right brain
Future studies is both a science and an art. No one can predict the future, so by nature, there are limited data about the future. Thus, in addition to the analytical work of literature reviews and meta- analyses, the imaginative part is very valuable. Through the work of designers, illustrators, film makers, story tellers and many other creative disciplines we get a glimpse of what the future may look like. These images may stick in our heads. And it is the combination of rigorous research with striking visualizations that help organizations in developing visions and strategies for the future. This combination of analytical left brain work with creative right brain work is crucial for the impact of future studies. Often in organizations, one of the two is more dominant, so left right thinking restores this balance and opens the eyes for blind spots.
Challenging conventional wisdom
Futurists are not hired just to please people with exciting and flashy presentations. Their role in particular is to help decision makers think about unforeseen futures. Those are the unconventional worldviews that we don’t like to think about, that trigger resistance. Futurists should be able to use this emotion constructively and help an organization to embrace the uncertainly of the many possible futures that are waiting in front of us.

About Freija Van Duijne

Twitter: @FreijavanDuijne Futuring is my passion. I am fascinated about what the future might bring. Always looking around for leads about the future and open for new insights. I am futurist, trendwatchter and strategist at the The Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, a thinktank in the Netherlands. My background is in Human factors psychology. I did my Masters at Leiden University and I did a PhD in Delft University at the faculty of Industrial design engineering. I have been involved in foresight studies since 2006. I am frequently asked as an expert for future studies in area of food, natural resources, health and governance. I am also a speaker and workshop facilitator on futures studies, trend presentations and the many topics that I blog about. My contributions to Futuristablog represent my own personal opinion and is never a statement of the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
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