One of the things I get asked a lot is about making organizations flexible and adaptable so that they can weather the forces that assail them from various directions. Looking out of my window this morning at the torrential rain and gusting winds I wondered if the weather would clear for my running training this evening and I consulted the weather forecast. It was accurate. The rain stopped.
It's much more difficult to get any accurate forecast for organizations to plan against but a couple of days ago I got an email from the University of Houston, reminding me that I'd previously shown interest in their Certificate in Strategic Foresight.
"This is a 5-day, project-based, face-to-face workshop. Participants learn to anticipate disruptive change and work towards the creation of transformational change, in order to influence the future of their organizations, companies and communities. Participants can obtain the Certificate if they complete a project within a given number of weeks."
This was true and I looked at the flyer about it again. In the footer of the flyer is the legend "College of Technology Futures, Preparing Foresight Professionals." Always curious and skeptical I googled 'foresight professionals' half expecting a lot of tarot card or palm readers. However, what came up first was Global Foresight (www.globalforesight.org). It has a list of foresight professionals by country and in the case of the US by state. Dr Peter Bishop, course director of the Houston program. is listed in Texas and his one liner tells us that he "runs the oldest MS program in futures in the world (started 1975)."
Peter Bishop's name is below Don Beck's. I'd not heard of Don Beck before last night, when over dinner with a friend I used to work with we were talking about Ken Wilber's book Integral Spirituality which the friend was reading. Somewhere in that discussion the name Don Beck came up. So now I've come across the name twice in two days when I'd not heard it previously.
Anyway, the connection between Wilber and Beck is lies in their interest in "The Integral Age". Beck tells us "He [Beck] has inspired thousands of people toward a new experience of organizational and personal empowerment through Spiral Dynamics (Spiral Dynamics Integral), his unique values-based model that charts the evolution and emergence of human nature."
While Wilber, apart from writing books, co-founded Source Integral not a mineral water but "a boutique management consulting firm" whose purpose is to
develop the organizational capacity to address global challenges before they become threats to the existence and further development of the human race. This requires nothing short of an evolution in how world leaders think and the kind of organizational structures, systems, and processes they create.
I have a rather short attention span/interest level on some of the Beck/Wilber type of writing. But even so, I began to read Beck's Human Capacity in the Integral Age which starts off
The focus on the role of productivity in enhancing competitiveness, while generating wealth and cultural well-being, has shifted over time from the micro (personal, team and "circles") to the meso (organizational design and performance) and now the macro (large scale and complex systems). Likewise, the essential thinking around productivity matters has emerged through systemic, strategic, humanistic and now integral patterns and organizing paradigms.
And after only a couple more paragraphs I found myself drifting off into remembering buying whole wheat bread in France "pain integral" and had to pull myself back to the color coding of "eight distinct worldviews or vMEMES" that both Beck and Wilber subscribe to.
Giving up on Bishop, Beck, and Wilber but still pursuing learning about future thinking I looked at the Said Business School's Scenario's Programme. In plain English I learned that
"Decisions made today assume a given future context; the objective of scenarios is to invite you to consider several alternative future environments to help improve the effectiveness (and robustness) of your understanding and decision."
But the program that really grabbed me was Strathclyde's Centre for Scenario Planning and Future Studies. Deputy director and general manager of the Centre, George Burt, said, "The Centre is about working with organisations that want to be pro-active in managing their future, whether it's in Scotland or elsewhere. It's about utilising human judgement and adopting a learning framework for the future."
Scenario planning is not about forecasting the future but looking at all the possibilities. It involves using and building on a key resource – the information already known by people within the organisation, but enriched with external non-traditional perspectives."
If you know of other programs based on future studies, scenarios, or foresight capability let me know.