“In dealing with the future, it is far more important to be imaginative than to be right.” – Alvin Toffler, Future Shock.
So will you believe it? I’ve turned the corner and put my job on hold as a co-founder of a cool startup (great team and fun business, but definitely a feeling of déjà-vu) to dedicate myself to a new project. I want to become a Futurist. A what? Yes, a futurist. Are you kidding me? What the…? My husband is patient and supportive of my every passion, but let’s say that this time his jaws dropped to the floor.
Not only do I think it’s the coolest job in the world, I am actually also wondering why not everybody is willing to become a futures themself! Or even, isn’t everybody supposed to be one? Preparing for our future is the most important and most exciting thing in the world. Okay, I tend to become overly excited when I find myself a new passion. But somehow I feel that this time, it is will be a lasting one. It is a revelation: Futures thinking is at the crossroad of all my interests and hobbies!
First of all as part of my background, I studied philosophy, sociology and anthropology. In college I loved to think about the future of our society, the organization and evolution of work patterns and human behaviors at work, and I dreamt of becoming a Sociologist for Private companies. Somehow I never ever really found a job offer designed for Sociologists in the business world. But a little tiny part of brain never totally gave up on this and as the concept of Future of Work arose, my dream started having a second life.
Then I spent my past 15 years working closely with Corporate innovation leaders and Consulting with technology startups. I’ve witnessed the emergence of more technologies and products aimed at changing the face of our earth than I can count, some in minor range, some at a bigger scale.
As a consultant I also got to mix both quantitative analysis tools and creativity to develop framework to answer the main questions of my clients: how to sign deals, how to gain traction, how to increase our customer basis, how to make more money, etc. But whereas my colleagues would be all about finding customers (a nice smart goal I admit), I took my pleasure in this aha moment, when entrepreneurs start thinking differently about their business. When I knew that I had brought them the facts to make up or even change their mind. When I knew that something had just clicked. And most of the time, this aha moment was linked to meaningful (and often visual) representations of the future and a strategic roadmap to seize the opportunity that this future opens to them. Afterwards we would be able to design an action plan to address these new challenges. Going from a short-term vision based on opportunism to a strong strategy-oriented state-of-mind has been my motto my whole consulting career.
So now what? I discover that a job description combining all these skills actually exists. According to the Institute of the Future, futures thinking is said to rely on 7 key strengths:
- Creativity, Imagination
- Mental Flexibility
- Practical skepticism
Note that in Futures thinking, there is a plural at Futures, as we do not envision just one Future, we draw scenarios out of possibilities. Being mentally flexible, and able to imagine what could be(-come), instead of being fixed on a single most accurate future, also gives us agency to develop the right tools, technologies, forms of organizations, and lead individual and collective actions, in order to create together the future we want for humankind. That’s why hope is also a core element of Futures Thinking.
Now my husband starts to understand it better, right this sounds like it’s meant for you. So what should you do? Is there a training? What should I do to support you? (Ah I love him!) Very well, for starters I need to read and learn a lot about the methodology. In no time I am enrolling in all possible Coursera classes from the Institute of the Future, determined that I am done for the job.
But yes of course, I still need to convince others, like for example… employers! So second step, I have decided to start this blog to share with you my path to become a futurist and my amazing discoveries along the way!
About the author
Sylvia Gallusser is an inquirer of our future, conducting foresight research on the future of health and well-aging, the future of work and life-long learning, as well as transformations in mobility and retail. She also closely monitors the future of the mind and transhumanism She has been advising 500+ tech companies for the past 15 years. She is a published author, teaches MBA classes, and facilitates workshops on go-to-market, competitive analysis, futures thinking, and entrepreneurship.