How to Read The Foresight Guide

If you only have time to read one thing, read Chapter 1. It serves as an overview, a mini-book introducing the great breadth, depth, and promise of our amazing field.

Color Legend for The Foresight Guide

ThreePrimaryForesightTypesColorLegendThe Guide uses bold red to indicate both header titles and important concepts. We also use bold text in three primary colors (blue, green, and purple – to refer to the three primary types of strategic foresight, exploring probable, possible, and preferable futures. See the picture at right for a preview of these three primary foresight types. We also occasionally use gold to refer to any of twenty foresight specialties that we think are the most important ones to understand and use in organizational foresight. That means we use a five-color highlighting scheme to illustrate various aspects of foresight practice in the Guide.

POGU Foresight – The Four Practice Domains

The Guide is organized into the four most obvious domains of foresight practice: Personal, Organizational, Global-Societal, and Universal, the POGU Foresight Domains. One easy way to remember them is that they range from small to large in scale. We use foresight to better lead ourselves, our teams and organizations, our societies, and finally, to better understand the nature of this amazing, complex, and always-locally-accelerating universe in which we all emerged.

You can also remember POGU by learning about Pogu, a little British company that makes slip-on ice spikes for snowy mountain hikes and runs. I own a pair and recommend them. Their slogan is “protect what matters.” That’s a perfect slogan for good foresight practice, too. You need POGU Foresight if you want to protect what matters. Foresight practice can be a lot like ice hiking, up on a mountain, at high altitude. The slope is often very slippery, there isn’t much air up there, you’re alone a lot of the time, far from help, and you need to be careful. Mind all four of the POGU domains, and you and your clients will have many successful trips out to the icy peaks, to see further, do better, and thrive more.

Practicing POGU foresight is often like hiking at altitude, on snowy and icy trails. It is dangerous at times, but also offers breathtaking and inspiring views. Image: Tarentaise Tours.

Chapter 2, and part of Chapter 3, introduce Personal Foresight, a survey of models, tools, and habits that we can use to understand and work with our traits, strengths, and weaknesses to be more effective as individuals, and the various practice options we personally have, in and outside of organizations, to do effective foresight work. Along with building a literate, evidence-based worldview, being personally effective at navigating the future, and taking the time to fully know your career options may be your most important priorities as you begin your foresight work. Many future-oriented people are in love with speculating, or giving others advice, but their own lives are very unforesighted, ineffective, and disorganized. Those folks don’t get very far as professionals. So we need to constantly apply foresight thinking and action to our own lives, seek to provide value and get feedback, and choose practice options that make us more effective as our experience grows.

Chapters 3 through 9 introduce Organizational Foresight, all the ways we can help teams and firms to better anticipate, create, and manage their futures. Besides Career Options for practice, which is both personal and organizational foresight, as we cover the major departments of the typical firm, this section also includes key Models and Frameworks, the Do Loop of essential practice skills, and practice Methods and Frameworks. Our last chapter, Visions and Challenges , and our first appendix, Peer Advice, are also focused on this foresight domain. We hope this section showcases the amazing breadth and depth of our field, both from personal and organizational perspectives.

Chapters 7 through 10 introduce Global Foresight, highlighting a sample of probable, possible, and preferable futures (and in Chapter 9, pasts) and some ideas for entrepreneurs and builders. Global foresight is a huge topic, and these chapters merely introduce it. We are seeking funds for two open, crowd-editable platforms to better address some aspects of this domain. One platform, Futurepedia (Chapter 9) is a wiki platform for collective foresight by topic. Another, Idea Hub (Chapter 10) is our modest start at a crowd evaluating, ranking, funding, and founding platform for promising entrepreneurial and technical solutions to important human problems.

Chapters 7 and 11 introduce Universal Foresight (the science and systems theory of universal change, and universal goals, processes, and values). Chapter 7 introduces accelerating change, and Chapter 11 explores both unpredictable and predictable universal processes, and explains why seeing both is so important to good foresight work. These two chapters are both speculative and controversial. Surprisingly, some futurists today still disagree on whether accelerating change (long-term and multisystem exponential growth) is even happening, or whether parts of the future are predictable (evo devo foresight). Our field still has some growing up to do.

Nevertheless, this Guide will argue that if you don’t presently cultivate both exponential foresight (Chapter 7) and evo devo foresight (Chapter 11) you will miss major aspects of the future, and your models and strategies will suffer as a result. If our arguments are correct, the material in both of these chapters will increasingly better characterized and validated as science advances. Our worldview determine the limits of our practice, and what things we think are likely and unlikely to occur next. These two chapters are our best attempt at widening and improving the worldview of all foresight thinkers, to make it consistent with the curious, and still-little-studied phenomenon of accelerating change.

Our Appendix has three chapters. The first is Peer Advice (A1) from existing foresight practitioners. The second is Leaders (A2), a very incomplete but hopefully still useful list of exemplary foresight practitioners and organizations.  The last is Resources (A3), a set of recommended books, media, and tools to help you grow your expertise in the POGU foresight domains.

Our Target Audiences, and What They Might Find Most Useful in the Guide

The Guide is written for four audiences, in this priority order. Below is some advice on how each audience may best use it.

  • Foresight Students, and anyone reasonably new to our field, may benefit from the whole Guide, which can be read sequentially or by chapter. Chapter 1 introduces the foresight field, including its definitions, history, training, opportunities and challenges. Again, if you only have the time to read one chapter, Chapter 1 would be it. Chapter 2, on personal foresight, is a set of tools and techniques to help you become more self- and future-aware, effective and motivated. Chapter 3 covers career options, and the most common roles, styles, industries, functions, and methods available to foresight practitioners. Chapter 4, on models, will help you better understand the many useful ways to analyze change. Chapters 7 and 11 will help you think about how change happens, why certain kinds of change continually accelerate, and what futures are likely to arrive next, and what futures are just feel-good stories or hype, and are unlikely to ever occur. Appendix 1 offers broad peer advice from experienced practitioners in the field. These chapters may be the most helpful for the beginning student.
  • Foresight Practitioners may benefit most from understanding The Do Loop (aka The Eight Skills), our preferred model of adaptive foresight practice. It is derived from a broad survey of the management literature. The Do Loop (actually, the learning, foresight, doing and feedback loop) is outlined in Chapters 1 and 4, and discussed in-depth in Chapter 5, The Do Loop: The Eight Skills of Effective Foresight Practice. Three of the Eight Skills are core foresight activities, and the remaining five are necessary to translate foresight into effective action in the organization. Does your team presently use all eight skills, and some of the related methods (Chapter 6)? Are your team or your client weak in one or more of these skills? How can you compensate for those weaknesses, and better run this fundamentally adaptive learning and doing loop? Practitioners may also benefit from the twenty specialty functions of foresight, and their practice associations, outlined in Chapter 1. Which of these specialties best fit your current strengths? Who can you partner with in specialties where you are weak? Practitioners may also gain insights from Appendix 1, peer practice advice from over fifty foresight professionals in five practice types. Chapters 7 and 11, exponential and evo devo foresight, can also help practitioners better anticipate exponential opportunities and disruptions, and better take advantage of both unpredictable and predictable futures for their clients.
  • Managers and Leaders will find value in Chapter 1, which defines foresight across twenty practice specialties, Chapter 2, on personal foresight, and Chapter 3’s survey of foresight practice in the twelve departments of the firm. Chapter 5, The Do Loop: The Eight Skills of Effective Foresight Practice, and our end-of-chapter introduction to adaptive leadership may also be particularly of value. Does your team employ foresight as broadly as we have defined it? Are you strengthening your personal foresight skills, and using them to become a better leader?
  • Anyone interested in the future may enjoy Chapter 1, and skimming other sections of the Guide for occasional thoughts, stories and predictions on the near- and longer-term future. Those looking for even more challenges, opportunities, uncertainties, forecasts and predictions are encouraged to dive into the ample global foresight reading lists in Appendix 3.

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