Just like we are different people to different people Foresight Identities are different approaches for different needs…

I gave a talk on Foresight Identities and my journey through them at the ‘Futures Hot House’ at AMP building in Sydney last week, thank you Janine and thank you audience for the wonderful questions.

The NINE different ‘Foresight Identities’ respond to different foresight needs. Their drivers are different and so are the ways in which the foresight pulls us in, transforms us or the groups or societies where the foresight is applied.

I will start with Intuited Foresight.

Malcolm Gladwell’s “Blink” eloquently describes how intuition works and how we use it all the time.

The need to measure and the idea that better decisions are ‘rational’ decisions have led to decision-making being equated to 1/ load me with facts 2/ show the many research studies to prove it 3/ show me where it worked before.

All of these are fine qualities for those who make decisions based what others do. As we have to make decisions with less historical facts, then we need to go with what it is that our gut is telling us about the situation. Is it aligned with what and who we are or want to be? Does it feel right? Does it look right? Can we hear the cheers? Is this what we want our future to be?

You may have read Jonah Lehrer’s book: “Proust was a neuroscientist”.  In it Jonah Lehrer discusses how several artists in various fields intuited, understood, provided foresight for scientists to research and prove years later.  As an example Walt Whitman, the American poet, had insights into the inseparable nature of mind and body. As Antonio Damasio, a neuroscientist said: “The mind is embodied”.

Is everyone’s every intuition useful in a business setting or as source for serious consideration? No! What makes the difference? Let me put it this way. An artist whose life work centres around understanding something fundamental about how the world works and expressing it through their art is as valuable to human knowledge of its own condition as a scientist who designs research methods and comes out with results from the research.

The timing of artistic intuition is what makes this Foresight Identity fascinating in business when we wish to draw true insights for differentiated vision.

The next Foresight Identity is Experienced Foresight.

Around the world there are hot spots [and despite being a Finn I am not referring to a sauna], which are a hub of focus for something specific. That focus creates a buzz and competitive as well as supportive environment, which urges for excellence and going beyond. Bay Area, US for Net, Milan for fashion, Nordics for mobile, Renaissance Florence. ……

These hot spots tend to live a step or two ahead of the rest in terms of the behavioural and societal impacts of the focus.  A matter of been there done that! You can take that a step further inside the businesses which are within the hot spot…..

William Gibson: “The future is already here it is just unevenly distributed”

We learn from different contexts which brings me to the next Foresight Identity which is Learned Foresight.

Eclectic reading, emulating our heroes or drawing from insights from scenarios are all examples of gaining foresight and inspiration in one’s own life.

These ‘book’ learners can be once removed from actually doing anything about it in a team, group, corporation, nation sense but they are a great source of inputs and insights on how the world works.

In Eric Hoffer’s words, “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”

A means to put transformation into the hearts, minds and bodies of companies, nations and other groups of people is Internalised Foresight.

Have you ever lived through an experience, which made you look at the world differently and changed you? It perhaps made you change the friends you hang out with. Perhaps it made you take some uncharacteristic steps in relation to some relatives or a job.

I have lived through many such foresight programs where the story line, the narrative of the world brought new context and meaning and the priorities were reset.

There is one caveat in this. You don’t get this from sitting in a boardroom being TOLD in 20 minutes or less what the future looks like. In order for the re-wiring to occur you need to be part of the process.

This mode has great potential for business transformation as long as the executive play ball.

An example of this is Martin Luther King “I have a dream”.

Sometimes this can be one person’s quest or a few people’s quest for the ideal shape they believe everyone should take or have and yet sometimes that model is not liked or followed due to ideology differences, cultural differences or era issues.

This leads to our fifth Foresight Identity, which is Opinionated Foresight.

Nothing wrong with firmly held opinions. Often they are steeped in facts and figures, feelings and experiences, knowledge and understanding, but they just tend to have one significant issue, the opinion is not shared by others as it flies in the face of firmly held beliefs, facts, knowledge, understanding in the other camp. Sound familiar? What can you think of as having been like this lately? [Climate change, Mind/Body, Sexuality, Abortion, Political systems].

The – oh dear – part about Opinionated Foresight is that it might play out well or not and so there could be much to lose. The way to deal with this in business context is to look for the higher ground. Look for the purpose and try to find the common ground above the argument.

The good thing about Opinionated Foresight is that you tend to have very devoted champions behind the activity or movement.

Ideologies – isms – tend to be in this camp. They are not practical philosophies of ways to live life but rather they are often an idealist view to how the society should function, even an extreme view as against the current way. So we go with pendulum swing to antagonism and back again.

Our institutions are based on neatly articulated opinions and judgments of right and wrong. This model is the only way.

Personalised Foresight is a source of transformation for those who proactively seek change or who are imposed change through a crisis. It could also be a person on a mission, who knows exactly what they wish to be and do in life and who are out to make it happen, sending the messages to the universe about their dreams and hopes.

A change is fundamentally a personal matter. If we are not fired up and passionate about it, how hard do you think the change is going to be? Or how effective? This is where many transformation programs fail miserably.

You know how we say Einstein was very intelligent and we assume that was what made him figure out the theory of relativity. When you look at Einstein’s life he was utterly focused on one thing, light and its relationship with time, figuring it out. Wife/wives, family, how he dressed or even whether he’d combed his hair that morning were of no consequence. He had several suits of the same to avoid making wardrobe decisions when time was of the essence. ☺

“Don’t ask yourself what the world needs; ask yourself what makes you come alive. And then go and do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman [1899-1981, philosopher, educator, Boston uni, author]

Actualised Foresight is a source of transformation for those, people and companies, who have lived through change from inception to conception to implementation.

Those of us who have had a long career in corporate foresight have been privy to this Foresight Identity. Depending on how the company arranges its strategic foresight input versus taking action and measuring value and follow-through, the engagement may be more or less end-to-end.

The beauty of this identity is that it does not become a story on a shelf but a living and breathing thing, which continuously increases its depth and gathers its own history and understanding as well as holds the red thread from inputs to outputs.

An enlightened organization does not need to prove its foresight program. It knows that without it the company would not have the eyes necessary to be in charge, to lead its own destiny.

To me the most powerful foresight identity from a big picture point of view is Co-created Foresight Identity.

When an organization has created a view of the future they will invariably realise that in order to get there they need to take a number of stakeholders there with them.

Some of these stakeholders may have nothing to do with their current situation and hence there is some tilling the soil that is necessary well before any products/services/experiences/other are being considered.

When this happens right it is an amazing shift and it feels great as all obstacles are taken away.

“The best way to activate your future is to co-create it” [Dominique adjusted from Alan Kay’s quote “The best way to predict the future is to create it”

When things don’t go so well there is a need for something else and this brings us to our final Foresight Identity, which is called SISU Foresight.

SISU is a Finnish word, which means having guts, perseverance and dedication when faced with hurdles. So far I have struggled to find its exact translation in the English language but these words get me close enough.

SISU Foresight is a source of transformation when faced with a crisis either in personal life, in organisations or nations. SISU demands that we dig deeper within our selves to find the strength, to change the situation which carries within itself a gloomy outcome. It is about finding positives from foresight matched with SISU in the make up of the team going after the change or relief.

When you find such a team or such individuals who are capable and willing – hold onto them. These types may be a dying breed, other than in entrepreneurial settings.

Finns fought against Soviet Union in WWII and held back an attempt of invasion leveraging some smarts and lots of SISU. Holding back an army of 50 from Soviet Union to 1 Finn.

Steve Jobs at Apple. He had disagreements with the board and left Apple only to come back and deliver the goods. He may not recognise the word but if he had no SISU would the past allowed him to go back?

Just like with us humans who carry around several identities the Foresight Identities may be a feature of a broader program. Use identity 1 when it is ok not to dive into a truckload of facts and figures but rather to hear what the experienced gut tells the artist, designer, visionary. Use identity 9 when things are gloomy and ‘the rallying the troops’ approach may fall flat on its face – instead focus around some robust SISU individuals and teams.

These NINE Foresight Identities lead to different approaches in the way in which a Foresight program, facilitation, mentoring might unfold. They are different because the need for Foresight is different and the outputs expected as a result are different.

9 Responses to Foresight Identities – a journey of transformation

  1. Mahaffie says:

    This is powerfully useful to me and aligns beautifully with thinking and writing I’ve been doing on foresight.

    You, like me, spend time and share your thinking on foresight and how to do it and use it, as opposed to trends/tech breakthroughs, etc. Our circle is perhaps small in the blogging world.



  2. Hi Dominique (Satu would no doubt say hi) 🙂

    Like the framing of this as a point of reference, am curious if a couple of categories could be compressed or are sub-sets of others and how we might align the internal-external links between these. In sales the discussion is on ‘justify with logic’ but ‘buy with emotion’ which kind of covers the idea of intuition/sensation versus mind and how they might be linked. I’m getting much of the same from these 9 positions too.

    Am also offering the link to a piece I’d put together that looks at how different Value Systems approach the future which I hope is of value to you
    Marcus 🙂

  3. dj says:

    Thanks John and Marcus

    Marcus I’ll study the Values Systems / Foresight Frameworks article you’ve uploaded shortly. I am sure it will be of assistance!



  4. A great blog, Dominique! Gets to the subversive nature of foresight/futures thinking.

    You are the first other person I’ve come across (besides Mimi, who I just met recently) who believes that artists intuit the future. That tells me new things about you. And the blog tells me new things about myself!



  5. Patrick says:

    Ouuuuuf ! C’est assez consistant….j’ai lu en diagonale, et je me fais une traduction (que je vais proposer à Pascal, s’il le souhaite) pour te donner mon commentaire sur ce sujet très intéressant.


  6. Jay Gary says:

    Dominique, thank you for this original piece. I’ve been reflecting in this area of the extended self, the extended present, the social self, the future self, the possible self, in connection with Bandura’s social cognitive theory, Thom’s model of leadership and time orientation, and Gibb’s model on the temporality of consumer behavior–grounded in the self. Do you have any further writings on foresight identities or any recommendations for further reflection? All the best, Jay Gary

  7. dj says:

    Hi Jay,

    I have been studying phenomenology, which would touch upon our perception of time and space, as well as is a well of insights on the experiential dimension of our existence and relative realities. Hegel, Heidegger, Husserl – The H boys 🙂

    Many philosophers from Epicurus to Sartre have provided some food for thought around the area of change – or death – all change is a little death as we give up something to go in a new direction.

    Also I believe the new areas around neuroscience, epigenetics, neuropsychology and so on are providing fascinating inputs to understanding our ‘limitlessness’ and ability to change on a personal level.

    I am in the process of writing more on it so would love to hear more about dimensions to look into.

    Talk soon


  8. Phil Klein says:

    Hi, thanks for the wonderful posts on foresight, which I found through TED. A domain where foresight management is acutely important is amongst cancer survivors (now numbering in the millions) whose orientation to the future is severely disrupted, and which remains dynamic over periods of months and years. Managing foresight identity strikes me as holding much potential in helping these people manage through their shifting futures. Do you any further thoughts or ideas along these lines?

    Also, I think their is good renonancy between co-created foresight and Sartre’s later idea of the fused group (unified in praxis towards a common project).

  9. John La Grou says:

    Dominque, great to meet you at TED2009. I see my friend Jay Gary chimed in on this post. I considered his graduate course at one time, but alas life is already too packed.

    The Eric Hoffer quote is so true of today’s accelerating world: the learners will inherit the future. And it’s more than strategy. It’s something we owe to each other as part of our shared humanity. I wish we would have had more time to talk. Let’s stay in touch.

    Rakkautta ja valoa, JL

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