Confirmation bias is getting attention in American politics. It is the tendency we have to pre-filter what we see and read according to our established views. Confirmation bias closes our minds to new ideas and other viewpoints. We end up in a protective bubble of our own making.

This is also a trap in foresight. The act of exploring for information and ideas about change is called environmental scanning. (Also called horizon scanning.) It is the work of collecting information, links, observations, etc. to better understand change and explore future possiblities. Confirmation bias afflicts scanning. It leads us to see only things that confirm our beliefs about the future. In fact, even your set of digital or paper filing categories can trick you into missing other changes. 

Confirmation bias file folders

This is a inevitable risk, and you have do two things to overcome it:

1). develop an approach that ensures you encounter new ideas in new categories. Don't just collect things that confirm what you have already decided is true. Read opposing views on purpose. Move towards divergent thoughts instead of away from them.

2). watch yourself and learn to catch yourself at this. Call out your biases when they happen. Carry your awareness of them into situations like when you will meet people with different world views.

Breaking through your own biases is a win. You should delight in discoveries as you read and observe that don't fit your understanding or or your categories. Get excited about finding out you're wrong. If you can't file it, leave it on the desk top. It's got an important insight for you. Pop that bubble. 

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Governance and foresight: Views of a futurist/trustee

by John Mahaffie on February 21, 2017

28555956016_c3cd0f4ae8_zThis post accompanies “Pitfalls in Governance” 

Foresight needs to become instinctual and habitual for boards. Jeff De Cagna of Foresight First LLC, is doing seminal work on this. He coined the phrase “duty of foresight” to accompany the other duties of trustees: duty of care, duty of loyalty, and duty of obedience.

Foresight is an ongoing process—a culture to foster in a leadership group. Organizations should recruit board members with skill at working in understanding change. It’s common for too many trustees and too many discussions to be about compliance and about confirming actions already taken. Boards need to also be at play in generative discussions about new things, and not merely immersed in old or existing things.

Trustees should frame their own discussions in multi-year terms. They should require organizational leaders to given them tools such as financial statements that focus beyond the current budget year. Ask the organization to build long-term tools for leadership, e.g. a 5- or 10-year budget. Creating it will raise questions of long-term strategy, growth, and assumptions about sustainability. And it will identify of themes and forces of change that impact the organization. 

Boards and their organizations should build scenarios looking 10 years out and check the mission and strategic plans against those. This thinking is not exclusive to the board. But it is a best fit with boards who can stand outside the day-to-day work and crisis-to-crisis action inside the organization. 

To fail to do these things is, in fact, a derelection of duty, the duty of foresight.

Image: Alexis Lewis, via Flickr, Creative Commons attribution license

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Pitfalls in governance: Views of a futurist/trustee

February 21, 2017

This post addresses the non-profit governance roles of Boards of Trustees. See related post: Governance and Foresight Those in governance have a distinct role that may be at odds with the organizational roles they are used to. In the governance role, you wear a different hat. I bring to this question my own experience in […]

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Foresight helps you see the forest for the trees

February 14, 2017

You sit at your computer, productive, focused, dedicated to your work. You engage the detailed specifics of your job, the numbers, the facts, the personnel, the movement of things. You are an expert. You can tell when things are right and wrong. The organization rewards you for your knowledge and skill. You get things right. […]

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Foresight is like fitness

February 8, 2017

Foresight is work you do to get ready for the future. What will come at you? How ready are you to respond? Most of what you will have to respond to is out in the unknown space that is your future. But you can prepare for the things you’ll do, though less often the exact […]

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Why we need scenarios to be ready for the future

February 6, 2017

No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be…This, in turn, means that our statesmen, our businessmen, our everyman must take on a science fictional way of thinking  –Isaac Asimov, Asimov on Science Fiction 1981 Organizations have to […]

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Future of Learning: The Classroom of 2030

November 6, 2015

Future of Learning: The Classroom of 2030 is the fifth piece I've done for the World Innovation Summit for Education's online news and idea site: WISE.Ed.Review. My focus for them is on clear future views of what's possible and desirable in education in our future. Previous pieces: The Future of Education: How For-Profit Businesses Will Reshape Education […]

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You make it or you take it–The two things you face when you face the future

October 21, 2015

You move, always, into the future. But what future? Well, there are two kinds: 1). The future you can shape. [“You make it”]  Defining this future is about exploring the changes you can influence and clarifying the outcomes you want. A future you strive for is called a normative future, and there is little reason, across the sweep of change […]

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The unreasonable man

September 29, 2015

"The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man." — George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903) "Maxims for Revolutionists" If you acknowledge the need for change, sometimes sharp change, then there is a thin line separating the reasonable and […]

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The best time in history

July 2, 2015

"What was, do you think, the best time in human history?" Bob Olson, Olson Carriage & Harness, teaches people skills from the past. He is an expert at horsemanship. He shows people how to teams of draft horses pulling a wagon, carriage, or sleigh.  Bob lives and works on his ranch in Black Forest, Colorado. I […]

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