1. Futures Thinking in a Nutshell:
    Everyone can do Futures thinking which is nothng more than considering and preparing for variations of whatever might happen tomorrow. How you choose to do that and how well that works for you, is up to you
    Marcus Barber

  2. Stephen McGrail

    Great thought, Marcus – and I agree that everyone already does it, so in one importance sense it’s about making this more explicit and then enhancing it. For me, the 5 “S”s are important aspects of developing more advanced futures thinking.

  3. Enhancing good and for me that comes AFTER you’ve explained what it is. We (the royal ‘we’ of futurists) too frequently get caught up in jargon and trying to impress with our tools and methods. I explain things in very stripped back terms:
    Breadth, Depth, Distance is where you apply your methods and Assumptions & Expectations are what you target.


    • Stephen McGrail

      Hi Marcus,

      Apologies for the delayed reply. I applaud the effort to simplify and avoid jargon for jargons sake (I’ll endeavour to avoid this), but I must also say that increasingly I struggle to find anything unique in foresight especially in very stripped back terms. It just sounds like planning and good decision-making processes, which both inherently deal with the future and require us to be aware of the assumptions we’re making about the future.

      From this perspective the core driver of jargon and complex terms is to try to make something (‘applied foresight’, or ‘futures’) sound new and sophisticated, which is, in turn, driven by concerns about professional credibility, marketing and so on.


    • Stephen McGrail

      Marcus, further to my last comment, you’ll enjoy this article. Here’s a taste: “Few attempts to destroy the English language have been as successful as the strange utterances of management consultants.” And: “Management language is deliberately opaque to give the impression the consultant is an expert possessing privileged knowledge. If you cannot understand what they are saying, then they must be clever and worth the exorbitant fee.”

      Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/business/dont-be-fooled-by-the-jargon-20130712-2pvjz.html#ixzz2Yuq0POrv

  4. This is just feedback, as requested. Hope this doesn’t feel like rambling…

    “Explanations” have a goal – to provide a definition of something, describe how it works, and describe why the success of that functionality makes sense (i.e. should be expected). The audience then feels that they “know how and why the thing just explained is distinctive, and what the significance of the distinction is. This enables them, in turn, to explain it to someone else.

    Workshops have goals too. Perhaps you have more than one goal.
    – Explaining (the concept) is a goal.
    – Instructing (the practice) is a different goal.
    – Critiquing (the events and effects) is yet another goal.

    I would certainly try to avoid mixing them up, but everyone should benefit from being aware of them all, with their distinctions.

    “Futures” are not “knowns”, but they are concepts. Concepts come with generic challenges.
    – In what sense is a future “knowable” ?
    – What is the value of having a “concept of” a future ?
    – Are there terms on which some futures are more “usable” than others?
    – Are there terms on which some futures are more “reliable” than others?

    And I will add here, but not argue “finally” or anything, that “futures” change because “concepts” change. But historically cataloging concepts allows them to be studied, which allows their production to be studied in relation to apparent consequences. This goes to the matter of technique and methodology. I think it is important to draw a distinction between “futurist” behaviors and futurist practice. Practitioners must be held to a different standard of accountability. But part of the practitioner’s competency is to know how to incorporate and orchestrate futurist behaviors from multiple sources.

    There are many ways of “thinking” — and doing a workshop about “thinking” is always going to be attractive to some. But many issues about thinking have nothing necessarily to do with “futures”. Instead, thinking issues should be expected to affect generated concepts and consumed concepts. So if there is something peculiar about the type of concept called “future”, then it would certainly be interesting to illuminate how that peculiarity relates to thinking. Hypothetically, someone not actually very interested in thinking could still be highly engaged with the notion of a “future”. I mention this only to say that thinking is the tool used to make an object, and a “future” is an object; we presumably have an argument that thinking is a preferable way to generate the object — and we need to substantiate that preference.

    • Stephen McGrail

      Nice one, Malcolm, these are very rich meta-reflections on my post. A quick comment: in my experience, people in the foresight field are often very interested in how humans’ think and related issues (e.g. the cognitive biases identified by Tversky & Kahneman) — typically much more than their clients and audiences. A challenge is to link the conceptual to the practical worlds people live and operate in. I’ll certainly further ponder this challenge.


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