Practice Thinking like a Futurist

I switched careers into futuring 17 years ago because another futurist told me I think like a futurist and suggested I consider becoming one. I don’t know what innate capabilities he detected, but I believe any executive or leader can and should learn to think like a futurist.

Futures thinking has at least three important attributes: critical analysis, inquisitiveness, and imagination.  Here are some questions that can help you develop an aptitude for thinking like a futurist. You may never earn your living this way, but you may find you are making better decisions in the career you do have.

Futures thinking is critical thinking:

  • What evidence do I have to support what I am seeing? Are these reliable sources?
  • How is this change related to other changes I am observing?
  • How pervasive is this change? How quickly will it occur?
  • What am I missing in my observations and analysis?

Futures thinking is inquisitive:

  • What assumptions are required for this change to occur? Why might this change not happen?
  • What will this change mean for me, my organization, my members, my customers?
  • What can I learn from how this change has affected others?

Futures thinking is imaginative:

  • What possibilities does this change create for my organization?
  • What can I do tomorrow that I could not do today?
  • What alternative futures or scenarios are also possible?

Try these habits of mind out in all kinds of situations. If people find your new behaviors out of character, tell them you are practicing thinking like a futurist and invite them to do so, too. We need more people throughout society willing and able to question our present conditions and see a pathway that leads into a more promising future.