Foresight is the multi-disciplinary study of change and its implications in the context of the future. It synthesizes insights from a wide variety of fields including economics, engineering, sociology, politics, systems theory, creativity, community building and so on. Foresight is not about predicting THE future but rather about uncovering a range of plausible alternative futures, and then identifying the indicators that suggest which way the future is unfolding.
Some of the most common uses of foresight in organization are to help them come up with more creative and innovative offerings, to better understand the future needs of their customers or clients, or to craft strategy. Foresight is also used in government agencies to develop policies and plans informed by a future perspective. Associations often study the future to help their member organizations anticpate and prepare for the future. We all have an interest in the future, so foresight is helpful across wide range of activities and institutions.
Futurists are often employed as consulting futurists, insider or organizational futurists, and academic futurists. Some also make their living as speakers, facilitators, or writers. Because foresight is a relatively new field and futurist a new occumpation, many times futurists are in positions as analysts, writers, strategists, planners or other more generic titles. Wherever they are employed, they draw upon a common body of frameworks, tools, concepts, and knowledge taught in the foresight program.
A message for prospective and current students
From Day One we want you to be thinking about how you are going to use your educational experience in foresight. Be thinking about what works for you. What are you drawn to? A method? tool? A particular thinker? An Organization? Do you want to be consulting futurist? An insider or organizational futurist? Or a “futurizer,” where foresight is secondary to your profession, but you work to spread the foresight message? Learn what works for you. Each of you brings different skills, capabilities, and needs to the table, so it’s important to customize what you learn to what suits you going forward.
We want to build an experience for you that extends beyond just the classroom. This fall, for instance, we’re participating in an online game. We’re having a futures classic book club meeting at my house on an October Saturday morning. We have our Annual Spring Gathering of students, alumni, and friends and this is a great time for our virtual students to visit. We participate in the APF Gathering each spring and the WFS Assembly in the summer. And we’d like to do more.
We are looking to build up our research capability to provide students an opportunity to get hands-on project experience. There’s no better way to prepare for project work in the future than practice in the present. There are also opportunities to do interesting research on your own. Besides the Master’s project, there are independent study options, and many students have used their class projects as a foundation for building thought leadership on their topic. We encourage our students to speak and publish. Our students routinely speak at the APF and WFS conference. Our students have regularly won awards for their written projects for the APF Student Recognition Program.
So, for those of you thinking about it, come join us! For those already here, thanks for your time! Remember, we’ve got work to do, and it’s important!