Futurists explore the future, just as historians study the past. Whereas history is concerned with origins, roots, and where we have been, foresight is about goals, purposes, and where we are going--and how we get there. A futurist helps clients expand their typically narrower focus on the future to a broader range of possibilities. They forecast the future, not just to know the future as an abstract description, but rather to prepare for it as a concrete reality. The objective is not just to know what will happen, but to be ready for whatever does happen. The purpose is not necessarily to be exactly right (which is impossible), but rather not to be wrong--that is, not to be surprised. Surprise means inadequate preparation, late response, higher risk of failure, even chaos or panic. Thus, preparing for the full range of plausible futures is the objective of foresight.
Because foresight is multidisciplinary, some futurists seek to build special domain expertise -- that is, they may become experts in the future of a topic such as energy, law, education, etc. Others prefer to be generalists, ranging across a variety of topics. They become skilled in getting up-to-speed quickly in a particular topic area, and then apply foresight tools and techniques to study its future. Along these lines, some futurist tend to specialize in a particular method or methods, while others have a wide variety of tools they like to draw from.
- Monitor the global environment for signs of change
- Challenge prevailing assumptions about change
- Describe likely and other plausible scenarios for the future
- Help others envision, plan for, and work toward their preferred future
- Consult diverse information sources
- Use consistent and transparent methodologies and tools
- Involve stakeholders in the work process
- Act ethically for the good of current and future generations