Futures and futures

Linda asked for a quick summary of ‘futures’.

There are two very different business meanings of ‘futures’:

  • ‘futures’ as a category of financial-derivatives trading
  • ‘futures’ as a strategic view

To my mind, the former perhaps used to have some practical purpose, to provide a hedge against price instabilities, but is now little more than yet another parasite on the festering corpse of capitalism. Like the other ‘stock-markets’, it’s no longer about raising capital, or any other kind of future-focus – it’s just another pointlessly-complicated form of gambling-based theft. So we’ll just forget about that – or rather, just wish we could. ๐Ÿ™

When I talk about ‘futures’ here, it’s about foresight, the ‘forward view’. From a business perspective, it’s what ‘strategic planning’ morphed into, through key developments such as the Shell scenarios from the 1970s onwards, when people finally realised that the future wasn’t predictable and wouldn’t conform to any predefined ‘strategic plan’. Hence not ‘the future’, but futures – plural, not singular. Which needs significantly different approaches than the previous all-too-common ‘strategy’ of “same as last year plus 10%”… Some examples:

Perhaps the simplest summary of futures is that from the FAQ on the Association of Professional Futurists site:

Futurists explore the future to anticipate and prepare for change in order to make better decisions today.

Futurists explore the future, just as historians study the past. Whereas history is concerned with origins, roots, and where have been; futures studies is about goals, purposes, and where we are going and how we get there.

Futurists survey and explore the full range of plausible futures. A futures consultant or facilitator helps clients expand their typically narrower focus on the future to a broader range of possibilities. They forecast the future, not just to know the future as an abstract description, but rather to prepare for it as a concrete reality.

The objective is not just to know what will happen, but to be ready whatever does happen. The objective is not necessarily to be exactly right (which is impossible), but rather not to be wrong–that is, not to be surprised. Surprise means inadequate preparation, late response, higher risk of failure, even chaos or panic. Thus, preparing for the full range of plausible futures is the objective of futures studies.”

Without a clear sense of possible futures, it’s kind of difficult to create the future we want, really. ๐Ÿ™‚

2 comments on “Futures and futures
  1. Linda says:

    Ah, yes, that makes sense. I am pretty sure that surprises are still always going to be an inherent part of the future though. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. Tom G says:

    Yup. ๐Ÿ™‚ The point about futures as a discipline is to be prepared for surprise rather than trying (and inevitably failing) to be prepared against surprise.

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