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You’re a what? You do what?

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Leading Futurists? What’s that? The questions keep flowing, and there’s nothing better.

The fun of being a futurist is telling people what you do for a living. At least a couple of times a week, I get to explain what I do to people. I enjoy doing that most when the person either has never heard of futurists, or is quite familiar with the profession.

With the person who has no idea, it’s great fun to make them aware that there are people who work full time at exploring change. (Some go away shaking their heads. More go away slightly jealous! They all go away thinking.)

For the person who knows a lot, it’s fun to make connections to books they’ve read, futurists they’ve seen, and good and bad foresight efforts they know about. People with just a vague awareness, and a big batch of misimpressions are a little tougher to deal with.

I usually tell people something specific right away–give them a concrete example of my work. I might say “Earlier this week I was with a group that develops office furniture, and I helped them explore the big trends in worklife, the economy, and technology that they are facing.”

I tell people that a futurist is an expert on discovering and analyzing the ways the world is changing. We look at change in values, lifestyles, consumption, technology, the economy, and other areas of society and work to help people find meaning in that change.

I sometimes explain that futurists take a holistic view of the future—focusing on how a wide sweep of forces and trends will shape our future. And, if folks are still engaged, I may share that futurists believe that there are alternative futures–a range of potential outcomes, not a single, predictable future. That’s important to move people away from the idea that we predict the future, and also towards the notion that you can take some control of your future, by working to shape it.

To me, any chance I get to tell people about being a futurist is a win. I know that’s true for me as a consultant and a professional, but I also think it’s a win for the future.

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