Chapter 1. Introduction – Our Emerging Foresight Field

How Large is Our Community?

The website Inside Jobs reports that “futurist” is one of several little-known job classifications with “awesome or unusual” perks, whatever that means. They don’t yet list “foresight specialist” “forecaster” or other foresight-related terms. They also estimate 75% of us hold bachelors, 21% masters, and 4% doctoral degrees, and that our salaries range from $33K to $111K. A 2009 BLS article on the futurist occupation guessed that there are just 500-1,000 practicing futurists in the US. But as we’ve seen, the label futurist is only the most public of the titles used in our profession, and far too narrow and simplistic a way to understand the foresight profession.

LinkedIn: The Top Global Business Social Network

LinkedIn: The Top Global Business Social Network

How many people would self-describe as foresight professionals using the definition we’ve given above? The top global business social network LinkedIn currently has 280 million users. This is about 60% of the 500 million people with a college degree globally, and about 40% of the world’s 700 million postsecondary-educated knowledge workers.  These 700 million are our pool of current potential foresight practitioners, a pool that should grow greatly in coming decades, as they represent only 20% of our current global workforce of 3 billion. Given current penetration rates, we can guess that LinkedIn’s current user base represents roughly a third of those who might self-identify as foresight professionals today, if given a survey. At present growth rates LinkedIn or its successor might contain two-thirds of our professional community by 2020, and even more circa 2030. In other words, our global social network of foresight practitioners will soon be relatively detailed and representative. Lots of good things are likely to happen as that occurs.

The better we define foresight’s full extent, the more talented and diverse our practitioner community will become. There are just 5,000 personal profile hits, out of 280M global users, in which the word “futurist” appears somewhere on a LinkedIn member profile. But searching a broader sample of foresight related words returns the following profile counts:

5,000 “futurist”

7K “actuarial and future”

8K “Delphi and future”

10K “probability and future”

12K “uncertainty and future”

18K “predictive and future”

24K “foresight”

28K “scanning and future”

29K “alternatives and future”

48K “scenarios and future”

60K “trend and future”
79K “prediction”

80K “statistical and future”

82K “forecast and future”

138K “risk managment & future”

166K “innovation and future”

169K “vision and future”

185K “predictive”

293K “scenarios”

415K “create and future”

587K “forecast”

690K “strategy and future”

1M “planning and future”

1.5M “innovation”

2.1M “future”

2.3M “forecasting”

7.6M “strategic planning”

[As “futures” is a dual-use term that describes both our set of future options and financial derivative trading (a specific type of investment foresight) we elected not to use that term in our searches above.]

Anyone want to conduct a statistical survey? There are methods for measuring the size of a large population you cannot directly survey, based on the redundancy that occurs in repeated small independent samples. In the absence of such a survey, we’d guess there are at least 10 million people around the world who would presently self-identify as foresight professionals, using the definition offered in our previous section. There might be ten times as many (100 million of our 700 million potential members) who have engaged in 2+1 or more of the Eight Skills for their organizations in their past, but do not do it routinely at present.

This is a very big community! It is waiting patiently to be better trained and networked. With roughly 8,000 attending the Association for Talent Development conference, 1,000 folks attending the annual World Future Society conferences, 1,000 attending Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals, and the same or less attending perhaps a couple hundred other planning, forecasting, scanning, trends, visioning, intelligence, risk management, ideation and related foresight conferences globally today, there is great room for better integration and growth of our profession.

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