First, find your foresight friends

Pressed to explain why some associations have abandoned impressive foresight initiatives, I said they couldn’t spread the benefits of foresight across their organizations: you must find your champions and allies.

Too often people assign the failure of foresight projects to resistance to change. I believe the root cause is failing to bring other leaders along on the journey into foresight. People distrust “oracle on high” pronouncements; they are more likely to trust their own sensemaking about the implications and effective responses.

In an association, the best one-two combination of champions typically is the chief staff and chief elected officers. They have both the motivations and multiple means to engage the entire association in foresight practices. However, I have had multiple experiences with committees and task forces whose charge is anticipating the future for their profession or industry. These groups also can infuse foresight across their organization if they have the means and the demeanor to engage other leaders in making futures learning actionable.

The chart illustrates common actors in association governance. Where could you find champions and allies within your own association, whether you are on staff or on the board or chair of a key council or committee? What means do you have for engaging them in what you are learning about the future? How can you make practicing foresight easy for them to incorporate into their work?  

You will find the right answers for your organization and culture. The User’s Guide for the ASAE ForesightWorks research (acknowledging my authorship) is designed to help you think through initiating your association’s journey into foresight. But I can offer a few quick tips:

  • Lengthy reports rarely get read these days. Consider how leaders in each situation consume information and want to learn.

  • Avoid making recommendations about what some other unit of your organization needs to do; instead walk them through an implications analysis and let them use the authority vested in their body to decide how best to respond.

  • Be patient. This week I talked with a volunteer leader exploring how to initiate foresight within his national organization. He said scenarios my team of futurists helped create in 2006 for a regional organization proved surprisingly prescient. That regional organization used its own resources to underwrite the project and essentially gave it to the entire profession. Those regional leaders were feisty change agents and ultimately wise champions for foresight.

First, find your foresight friends and your journey into the future will become a fun, energizing adventure no matter how scary it may look now. Go it alone at your own great peril--potentially wasting your social capital, time and financial resources.