Chapter 6. Methods and Frameworks – Building Adaptive Foresight Skills

1. Mahaffie’s Foresight Initiation Framework

To start building foresight habits and culture for yourself, your team and in your organization, John Mahaffie of Leading Futurists, offers an excellent seven step framework on his Foresight Culture blog. Here it is, with minor embellishments:

  1. Start Future Conversations
    Make time for open, thoughtful, creative conversations about the future of critical topics. Make it a regular and informal ritual, like “Future Friday” lunches, where a conscious goal is to make the future part of the conversation. Keep these conversations relaxed, exploratory, and fun.
  1. Find Kindred Spirits
    Your conversations will attract colleagues who either enjoy or see the value of thinking about the future too. Collect a diverse group of thinkers and feelers, pessimists and optimists, artists and engineers. Value all input, seek everyone’s counsel, and build a foresight community.
  1. Ask Questions and Get Visual With Answers
    Ask future-important questions. “What are the top trends shaping our future?” “What are we not talking about that we should?” Good questions focus people on their relevant personal, team, or organizational future, and their answers beg to be written down. Get good at using paper, whiteboards, or digital tablets for outlines and diagrams of these conversations. Make one sentence summaries, lists, and simple models. Get folks to critique what they see.
  1. Do Environmental Scanning
    Make time to learn about the environmental and competitive forces, trends, issues, challenges, and opportunities you face. Find great data, discussion lists, websites, articles, books, and communities of relevance to your organization. Start building a set of scanning sources and habits for continual learning. Part of this scanning involves familiarizing yourself with the human capital of your organization. Learn who is good at what, and what they care about.
  1. Share What You Learn (Pay It Forward)
    Appoint yourself as a future scout for your organization, doing reconnaissance in the environment. When you discover information that might be of value to particular folks in your organization, share it. Present it lightly (“thought you might like this”), not didactically (“I know the future”). Help them see the value of foresight, sharing, and learning. Don’t expect anything in return.
  1. Push the Strategy Horizon
    Whenever key strategy is open to discussion, make a habit of asking questions that push out the strategy horizon, like “can we take a moment and look at how this plays out, longer term?” “What do we think will happen if such-and-such occurs?” “What new opportunities open up for us then? What threats?” Be known as a person who stretches out the team’s horizon, but only when it makes sense to do so. Know there is a time in all strategy talk for some divergent, open discussion, and a time to converge and then take action. Become a master of all three.
  1. Join a Community of Practice
    Join one or more of the Primary and Specialty Foresight Communities listed in Chapter 1. Seek excellence in all Eight Skills and a few of the Twenty Specialties. Foresight is a richly rewarding, never-ending journey. It offers great vistas, and great advantages. Make the journey with others who appreciate it as much as you.

Do these things, and you will be seen as a productive foresight professional very soon in your organization.

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