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Thinking about the Future [Social Technologies]

Social ) Technologies
1776 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Suite 815
Washington, DC 20036
Main office: +1 202 223 2801 www.socialtechnologies.com
Email: Hope Katz Gibbs

THINKING ABOUT THE FUTURE: Guidelines for Strategic Foresight

Edited by Andy Hines and Peter Bishop
LLC
Publication Date: February 28, 2007
Price: $19.99/softcover // ISBN-13: 978-0-9789317-0-4

Andy Hines and Peter Bishop publish an essential reference guide to help executives, analysts, and educators prepare for the future

“This highly scannable book provides examples, benefits, and key steps that will help leaders securely position their organizations for years to come.” — David Smith, Charles E. Smith Companies

April 2, 2007, Washington, DC—“There has perhaps never been a time in human history when strategic foresight is more needed,” says futurist Andy Hines in the introduction to his new book, Thinking about the Future: Guidelines for Strategic
Foresight (Social Technologies, 2007).

Precious little guidance is available for executives, analysts, and educators seeking the best way to plan and prepare for the future. That is why Hines and co-editor Peter Bishop put together the 231-page paperback, which distills the expertise of 36 world-renowned futurists into an easily scannable guidebook.

What is strategic foresight?

Because the future is not predetermined or predictable, future outcomes can be influenced by our choices in the present, Hines and Bishop explain—and that is where strategic foresight comes into play.

At once highly creative and methodical, strategic foresight gives organizations the ability to create and maintain a high-quality forward view to detect threats and opportunities before they reach mainstream awareness, to guide policy, and to shape strategy. The ultimate goal of strategic foresight is to make better, more informed decisions in the present—making it the ideal tool for exploring new markets, products, and services, or
more generally for successfully navigating the rapids of today’s constantly shifting, increasingly complex global environment.

“Although this is a highly logical approach to planning for the future, we don’t expect leaders and managers of companies to know how to do it without any training,” says Hines. “In fact, the reason we wrote the book was to provide essential, need-to-know information that can immediately be put into practice. Whether it is for corporate strategy, government policy, community development, or to better understand customers
and markets, I firmly believe organizations that follow these guidelines will be more effective than those that do not.”

How to navigate the guide

The book is packed with case studies, practical tips, and 115 guidelines—yet is highly scannable because Hines and Bishop break the information down into easy to understand categories that mirror the six phases of strategic foresight:

1. Framing: This important first step enables organizations to define the scope and focus of problems requiring strategic foresight. By taking time at the outset of a
project, the team analyzing a problem can clarify the objective and determine how best to address it.

2. Scanning: Once the team is clear about the boundaries and scope of an activity, it
can scan the internal and external environments for relevant information and
trends.

3. Forecasting: Most organizations, if not challenged, tend to believe the future is going to be pretty much like the past. When the team probes the organization’s view of the future, they usually find an array of unexamined assumptions that tend to converge around incremental changes. The task, then, is to challenge this view and prod the organization to think seriously about the possibility that things may not continue as they have—and in fact, rarely do. Considering a range of potential futures is the only surefire way to develop robust strategies that will position the organization securely for any future that may occur.

4. Visioning: After forecasting has laid out a range of potential futures, visioning comes into play—generating the organization’s ideal or “preferred” future and starting to suggest stretch goals for moving toward it.

5. Planning: This is the bridge between the vision and the action. Here, the team translates what could be into strategies and tactics that will lead toward the preferred future.

6. Acting: This final phase is largely about communicating results, developing action agendas, and institutionalizing strategic thinking and intelligence systems, so the organization can nimbly and continually respond to the changing external environment.

How executives and analysts can use Thinking About the Future

Executives will find both the guidelines and framework of the book to be invaluable when it comes to understanding what it takes to successfully explore the future.

Specifically, the book will help leaders:
• Design strategic foresight projects
• Develop robust strategies that can stand up to a wide array of possible futures
• Find how-to answers to specific tasks
• Provide a refresher for experienced practitioners
• Adopt guidelines for excellence as an organization

How educators can use Thinking About the Future

Practicing and critiquing the guidelines in a classroom setting will provide a valuable learning experience for undergraduate and graduate students studying political science, economics, policy analysis, education, and more.

Specifically, students will:
• Examine important tenets of futurist theory and research
• Understand how futurist thinking can powerfully strengthen an organization’s
strategic thinking and acting on a day-to-day basis
• Obtain a strong intellectual edge in preparing for careers in management or
consulting
• Role play and interview analysts
• Corroborate or modify their own assumptions

“Although this book is for those seeking guidance on the strategic forefront, it is not intended to ‘convert’ anyone into becoming a foresight professional,” Hines concludes. “On the other hand, the lure of long-term change can be compelling. Many who get bitten by the foresight bug want to learn more.”

About the editors

Andy Hines, Futurist

Peter Bishop, Futurist
Dr. Peter Bishop is Associate Professor of Human Sciences and Chair of the graduate
program in Studies of the Future at the University of Houston. He is also Executive
Director of the Institute for Futures Research, where he conducts research with students
and alumni. And he is President of Strategic Foresight and Development, which offers
education and training in futures thinking and techniques to the corporate market to
clients that include IBM, Caltex Petroleum, and Toyota Motor Sales.

About Social)Technologies
Social Technologies is a global research and consulting firm specializing in the
integration of foresight, strategy, and innovation. With offices in Washington, DC,
London, and Shanghai, Social Technologies serves the world’s leading companies,
government agencies, and nonprofits. A holistic, long-term perspective combined with
actionable business solutions helps clients mitigate risk, make the most of opportunities,
and enrich decision-making.

Contributors, Thinking about the Future
Tom Abeles, On the Horizon, Enrique Bas, Universite d’Alacant, Michele Bowman,
Global Foresight Associates, Lynn Burton, Simon Fraser University, Joseph Coates,
Joseph Coates Consulting Futurist, Inc., Tom Conger, Social Technologies, LLC,
Cornelia Daheim, Z Punkt: The Foresight Company, Peter de Jager, de Jager and
Company, Ltd., Kate Delaney, Delaney and Associates, Jay Forrest, JayForrest.com, Jim
Gelatt, University of Maryland University College, Jerry Glenn, The Millennium Project,
Michel Godet, Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, Jack Gottsman, The Clarity
Group, Ken Hamik, LipidViro Tech, Inc., Peter Hayward, Swinburne, Jennifer Jarratt,
Leading Futurists, David Jarvis, IBM Business Consulting Services, Trudi Lang, Curtin
Business School, Richard Lum, Vision Foresight Strategy, LLC, John Mahaffie, Leading
Futurists, Mika Mannermaa, Futures Studies Mannermaa Ltd., Leonora Masonic,
Gregorian University, Peru Mimic, Future Management Group AG, Danny Miller, Cole
des Hates Etudes Commerciales, Stephen Millett, Battelle Columbus, Mary Jane Naquin,
Informed Futures, Erszebet Novaky, Corvinus University of Budapest, Ian Pearson,
BTexact, John Peterson, The Arlington Institute, Alan Porter, Georgia Institute of
Technology, Dominique Purcell, Visioware, Wendy Schultz, Infinite Futures, Charles
Snow, Pennsylvania State University, Rohit Talwar, Fast Future, Ruud Vanderhelm,
ENGREF

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"I get by with a little help from my friends," says Hope, who gives special thanks to:

• MICHAEL GIBBS, website illustration and design: www.michaelgibbs.com
• MAX KUKOY, website development: www.maxwebworks.com
• STEVE BARRETT, portrait of Hope on Bio page: www.stevebarrettphotography.com

Contact HOPE KATZ GIBBS by phone [703-346-6975] or email.

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