As human beings we find uncertainty deeply troubling. We want the answers, and preferably we want the answers now. So when I tell people that I practice future studies, the first question I am usually asked is, “so what’s in store for me in the future?”.
The answer I usually provide people is that they will live to be 10 – 15 years older than their parents, if they live in the developed world, so they’d better make sure they have a decent pension. But, surprise surprise, people don’t really like that answer.
So that begs the question …
1. What is future studies about?
On a philosophical level, future studies is about identifying and understanding patterns of opportunities and dangers that lie ahead so you can start creating desired future outcomes in the present. In essence, it’s about trying to make the world a better place.
On a practical level, future studies is not about trying to predict the future. It’s also not about coming up with weird and wonderful ideas about the future, like flying cars (the so-called “pop futures”). Though some futurists do specialise in coming up with pop futures.
For me, future studies is about making a real and positive impact in organisations by identifying possible, probable and preferable futures. The operative word in that sentence is “futures”.
Even with the best intentions in the world, no person or toolkit will be able to tell you exactly what the future has in store for you and your organisation. That means having to live with, and try be comfortable with, a high degree of uncertainty.
All of this alludes to the strategic nature of future studies and the different contexts in which a futures toolkit can be used.
For example, you own a company that manufactures widgets. In the future, should you keep focusing on your current line of widgets, or should you be looking to create new kinds of widgets? If you do need to move away from your existing line of widgets, because of certain trends you’ve identified, then what new widgets should you focus on?
A classic example of this approach, in my opinion, is Nokia. The company started off as a paper mill, then started manufacturing rubber boots and now manufactures mobile phones.
But future studies can also play a role in helping broader society. For example, how should we be changing the structure of our education system to cope with future trends?
2. And what exactly is this blog about?
There are two aims that I have for this blog.
The primary aim of this blog is to provide you with some tools to help you envision your possible, probable and preferable futures. The way that I will be doing that over the coming weeks is to walk you through the hypothetical lifecycle of a futures project by discussing futures concepts and tools. At the same time I am going to weave into my narrative the themes that Annemie highlighted in her blog of 14 June, “What next / so what / what is PurpleBeach?”.
The secondary aim that I have for this blog is to do some trend spotting. So this blog will provide you with a space to share interesting articles / stories. Every Friday I will be posting links to interesting articles that I’ve read and that you’ve read during the week. Feel free to send me links to your interesting finds before Friday morning so I can include them in my blog posting (mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org). Trends won’t emerge immediately, but with enough time some trends will begin to emerge.
I’m really excited to be blogging for PurpleBeach and I can’t wait to start sharing ideas with you over the coming weeks.
To finish this blog here’s a thought for you …
Thought from the Lifeguard’s Hut
Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centres of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance
– Robert Kennedy