Marina Gorbis on: ”Five Principles for Thinking Like a Futurist”

Marina Gorbis is a futurist and executive director of the Institute for the Future (IFTF), a research organization that helps organizations to think about and prepare for the future. In Educause Review she wrote this really good article where she listed “Five Principles for Thinking Like a Futurist“:

  1. Forget about predictions.
  2. Focus on signals.
  3. Look back to see forward.
  4. Uncover patterns.
  5. Create a community.

By forget about predictions she means that our work is about trying to understand the tides, the deeper forces underneath the waves and reveal the interconnection between technologies and society and economics and organizations in order to be prepared for what might be coming and if possible help us see the new possibilities.

The institute is working with the above cycle which is very similar to the logic I follow in by business future – insight – strategy.

When she says we need to focus on signals Gorbis means that we need to see and acknowledge new things, phenomenon and e g anomalies as signals which is telling us something about what might be coming in the future.

To look back to see forward refers to that many patterns or chains of events are not unique. Even if the history doesn’t repeat itself, it seems to rhyme. This means that learning about history is extremely useful in order to zoom out and see the larger patterns of what have been happening before, what happened recently and how it opens up paths of thinking towards what might unfolding in the future.

With uncover patterns Gorbis means to find and identify the underlying patterns by which nature seems to order itself. It might be very helpful to use these patterns as lenses by which to look at the current events.

This pattern of the two curves shows how change repeatedly occur in nature. By using this patterns we can ask questions about if and when we will be facing a shift like this.

With the advice of creating a community she points out maybe the most important point when thinking about the future: it is so complex and multifaceted that a single person is very limited. Thinking about the future is a team effort where several individuals needs to bring different perspectives, knowledge areas as well as experiences to the table to get anywhere.

She ends with characterizing futures thinking with

At its best, futures thinking is not about predicting the future; rather, it is about engaging people in thinking deeply about complex issues, imagining new possibilities, connecting signals into larger patterns, connecting the past with the present and the future, and making better choices today.

I think this article fits like a glove with what I try to preach as well. Thanks, Marina!

Read it yourself at: Five Principles for Thinking Like a Futurist