“A professional futurist is a person who studies the future in order to help people understand, anticipate, prepare for and gain advantage from coming changes. It is not the goal of a futurist to predict what will happen in the future. The futurist uses foresight to describe what could happen in the future and, in some cases, what should happen in the future.” — Association of Professional Futurists
That’s a good definition, rooted, as you’d expect, in considerations of the future. And it nicely characterizes what I do. But what’s even more fundamental about my work is getting people to think differently.
When I work with groups to help them explore change, what I realize is how much they already know, at least about the near-term future. But their view is too narrow. They need help: advice, tools, an independent pair of eyes, to see past the immediate, change their perspective, and get somewhere new. They need to think differently.
Foresight is a superb capability. It jumps your thinking beyond what’s in your inbox, beyond what’s going on today that is soaking up your time and attention. It opens up a space to anticipate change, and to do so with colleagues.
But that fresh thinking needn’t only be about the future. Opening a door and looking out, encountering something new, even in the here and now, is already transformational. Of course, foresight helps. It keeps you from falling back into narrower thinking patterns. It helps makes sure you think differently.