Foresight Abuzz in Associations

Associations are increasingly eager to learn how they can practice foresight to anticipate drivers of change and make more informed decisions in the present.

At ASAE 2018 in Chicago, people packed two sessions to learn to think like a futurist and prime their boards to act for the future.

Hannes Combest, executive director of the National Association of Auctioneers and ASAE Foundation Research Committee chair collaborated with futurist Terry Grim, Foresight Alliance principal and ASAE ForesightWorks research team leader, to explain the ForesightWorks program and introduce some basic theory and tools executives could use to explore the future, such as: 

  • Scanning systematically using STEEP categories (social, technology, economy, environment and politics)
  • Understanding change in three time horizons
  • Exploring first, second and third order implications of any change by building a futures wheel.

Once people with an interest in foresight couldn’t get a seat in either the main room or the overflow room for living streaming, the buzz grew. More people were talking foresight out of amazement and frustration about their experience.

The second strong indicator that foresight is abuzz in associations came 9 am Tuesday when more than 300 people chose to rise early on the conference’s last day to hear four association executives share their wisdom in using foresight with their boards and staff.

Angela Cain, chief executive officer, CoreNet Global, inspired the audience with her association’s strong engagement in foresight, including FutureForward 2025 that is producing bold forecasts to guide the association’s future. Describing herself as a chief listening officer, she stressed the importance of having hindsight, insight and foresight. Her members, professionals in corporate real estate, have to take the long view to forecast and inspect their association to do the same.

Shawn Boynes, executive director, American Association of Anatomists, brought home a very important point about getting governance right and out of the way to make the most of your future opportunities. His association has boldly committed resources from its substantial reserves to pursue future-oriented strategic priorities.

Bruce Levi, general counsel, American Academy of Neurology, described how identifying important changes through the academy’s ongoing scanning now drives board strategic discussions and decisions about what programs to initiate and which to abandon. His association makes foresight a board and staff collaboration.

Peter O’Neil, chief executive officer, ASIS International, has experienced championing foresight in two different associations. He provided insight into judging your association’s maturity to effectively use foresight as well as how to proceed when the board may be uncertain about how to champion the work. His association is educating members about the change drivers through its content strategy. 

Ultimately all four are determined to make foresight a habit their associations adopt and keep, while taking a clear-eyed view of the challenges and risks of doing so. Their mature perspectives reinforced why foresight matters to associations.

Marsha Rhea, moderator and Signature i president, closed the session summing up what associations gain from foresight. Practicing foresight empowers associations to pursue the preferred future their members and even the larger society are counting on them to deliver. Foresight is essential to the Power of A.