A Philosophy in Futures Thinking
As a futurist, I am committed to lifelong learning, relationships of co-evolution and futures thinking as process. Claiming our agency in futures thinking creates alternative ways of knowing the future for greater effect. By creating different ways of knowing, we can author alternative narratives in which to situate our self, our futures, our relations in context, Futures thinking could be considered an exploration into one’s own ethic of freedom, An exercise in questioning our ways of knowing the future as a concept. A space to liberate and emancipate our thoughts and feelings about ourselves, others and the constraints to alternative futures. A place and space where we can understand how to integrate such constraints into possibilities. Thus, as integrated individuals we can understand future possibilities as realities for the present. A present which may have been previously un-imagined, unscripted or unquestioned. Possibilities as alternative present narratives displace. Narrative futures, as a philosophy of futures thinking, invokes or rather invites an ethic of response-able freedoms. Freedoms for our intellect, ways of knowing, and action. One method in how to move beyond limitations of the known and familiar. Thus there are many futures possible for each of us; the challenge is understanding and incentivising ourselves why our current futures narratives may need to change…
A Vision For Leadership
Leadership in the 21st century can no longer be about the views of a few at the expense of the many; rather leadership as phenomena seems more effectual today if Leadership is relational as process. By being relational, I mean creating multiple entry and exits points or spaces for individual to exercise their leadership phenomenon.
Leadership is an inherent human conditions implicit within all of us as humanity. A future thinking concepts and specifically the use of foresight methods creates many forms of freedoms for the individuals to access and exit the leadership phenomena. Such freedoms benefit the accessing of other forms of unimagined leadership phenomenon. What is traditionally privilege, either by he weight of history, peer recognition or the intellectualisation of leadership as a concept, can privilege defaulting social and conceptual constructs of leadership. Such social constructions simply privilege the ‘business as usual’ over alternative futures. Alternative leadership constructions require psychologically integrated worldviews and stories of oneself.
Relational Leadership Foresight (RFL) is one method for exploring alternative leadership constructions.. As a process, RFL uses futures thinking, foresight methods, Jungian archetypes and narrative therapy to challenge how we access and make sense of our own leadership phenomena. This is because futures thinking concepts & foresight methods enable us all to step outside our privileged and dominant intellectual constraints or cultural limitations and provide us an opportunity to re-construct meaning making and intellectual ways of knowing self, leadership and leadership in context. Furthermore, while futures thinking and foresight enables us all the opportunities to re imagine our and other versions of the future, narrative therapy re scripts psychological stories for relevance. Thus, we can re-examine leadership concepts, and phenomena through critical examination of our own personal narratives and discourse. However, the most transcending aspect of a ‘Relational Leadership Foresight’ approach to leadership is the opportunity to displace that which is comfortable and familiar with an integrated version of both the owned and disowned self. Thus, a process of RFL is actions that are self examining for co-evolving the future of leadership. A process which is continually being critically examined, rewritten, co-authored and enacted through participatory, critical and anticipatory action learning constructions.
My Values As A Practitioner
My practice is predicated on five key values. These values held by myself are enacted so that others may benefit. These are:
- Futuring: our understanding that the future requires us to move beyond singular, predictive and probable futures, rather futuring invites the value of pluralistic possibility and preferences;
- Freeing: futures workshops create opportunities for individuals to experience freedoms. Freedoms are a process of freeing our personal agency, thinking and imaginings. This freeing liberates and add hope to our thinking and feeling about ‘the future’;
- Facilitating: my facilitation creates safe learning spaces, with the scope for equity of access, accessibility to engage, be engaged and develop synthesis from participation;
- Relating: creates scope for a paradigm interplay of contrast and contradictions for reflections and learning;
- Learning: creating safe spaces to explore how I have come to know and use the future. To learn why, what and how to disrupt and find alternatives in ways of knowing;
My Model Of Praxis
In more recent times there has been a shift from anticipating the future to the exploration and co-creation or rather experiencing a ‘community of futures’ as contemporised versions of foresight experiences. This community of futures experience is more to do with creating foresight spaces and discourses that are inclusive of the diverse and unfamiliar and a tolerance for the emergent. The necessity to shift foresight approaches is more to do with a world which is becoming increasingly ambiguous, complex and uncertain. Thus, no one foresight way is the right way, rather simply historically or politically privileged ways. To get ahead of the 21st century change game, futures thinking concept and foresight methods need to enable us to invoke our capacity to influence the future rather than passively receiving the future forecasted or predicted by others. The challenge for leaders and leadership in the 21st century is not to get the future right, rather to ensure the future is relational and reflective of the desires and hopes of the stakeholders they represent. Thus, 21st century leadership requires not only a capacity to anticipate, rather also a capability to creatively engage others, to ‘question the future!’ All of us as leaders need to own our complicities in colonising the future at the expense of possible transformations.
Thus, all of us, at some time, need to question how we have come to know and use the future. The challenge is to become more apt in our usage of the concept called “the future’. The main fundamental shifts in recent approaches to futures thinking and foresight praxis is through the use of critical thinking futures methods. These methods specifically seek to challenge and disrupt cultures and practices that may no longer be useful or relevant. Once named and explored with voracity, other desired or alternative futures may thus be considered.
This ‘disruption of the future’ can be done respectfully through the phenomenon of relational leadership in conjunction with foresight. I call it ‘relational leadership foresight’ . First, in a ‘relational leadership foresight’ culture, leaders seek to co-invent the future through layered relational and dialogical foresight engagements. Second, no longer today is it possible or less expected by others, for the leaders to get the ‘future right’, to predict and anticipate with accuracy. Rather, leaders today have the potential, are expected, even demanded at times, to share, include and let go (in part) their responsibility/agency for creatively imagining, envisioning and implementing the future. Final, for many of us, the concept of ‘the future’ seems to reside as something outside of our being, outside of our present, something that we have to work towards, be patient in our receiving, a reward to be received, a goal. Alas, before we receive ‘our future’ we must endure!
However, this way of thinking about the future is a misconception, a myth to be challenged. The idea/way of thinking that the future is outside of us, out there in the distance, as something to be worked only serves to do us a dis-service, as leaders, a disservice to our futures possible. This way of futures thinking denies our recognition in our innate foresight abilities to believe, to imagine, having hope. As humans we all have agency to influence the future. As I have learned from the wisdom of seminal futurists, who suggest “The ‘future’ is not an empty space but like the past, an active aspect of the present. Meaning, it is not something out there! Rather, we live our future today through our todays/present assumptions, our present narratives about the future” Change the present narrative about the future, we change who we are today.
Hence, the future is more usefully understood as being a reflection of which we are today, a mirror of our imaginations, beliefs and narratives. We tell ourselves today stories about tomorrow, which really are stories about who we are in the present. We have to find alternative stories to displace today’s story.
Furthermore, for each of us we all have our own unique take on the future. As individual as we are, we all have unique imaginations, ideas and ways of knowing, thus no one future is more valid or legitimate as another, just privileged or different. Consequently, we can understand futures as ‘futures plural’ rather than singular. Meaning, the many futures possible resides in each of us, as a construct of realities, as imaginations, visions, ideas, pragmatics, images, and knowledge bases as scenarios. Scenarios focus on revealing and testing assumptions about the future. All of these concepts are as diverse as we are as individuals, both historically and futuristically speaking.
As a philosophical and psychological construct, the future, or rather futures/futures thinking are about understanding, questioning and interrogating our own personal & organisational narratives as futures stories, and to critique their continued effects. If we want to change the effects, then we need to name, identify and then change our assumptions supporting our futures stories. Simply, we need to question the narratives about the future for continued relevance. Thus we can use the future narratives as an asset, an alternative resource to be deployed.