Professionalism in futures field firstly comes from the futurists who are worried about the quality of work offered by other people working under the flag of foresight. Many strategists, planners, technologists, and analysts use the term ‘futurist’ wisely as far as it can serve the objective of making some sort of credibility. But the extent to which they use such a title depends on the futurists’ performance in public and private sectors and so their own expectations and intelligence in seeking a valid proficiency, not a dubious identity that may endanger their current business and even worsen their fame.
Today, we can see how important the problem of professionalism has become given the increasing number of foresight, forecast and strategic planning courses. Many of foresight services customers admit that they buy a pig in a poke and there is always a danger of buying fake services truly or wrongly introduced in the name of futuring. There should be a way out of this mess and I think it can be found in a recognized code of professionalism. But how achievable such a code can be?
In my point of view, the futurists’ proficiency can be evaluated according to their knowledge, abilities, skills and competencies. Behind foresight profession is a history of orthodox decisive struggles among them shaping a code of profession like what was offered by Slaughter in 1999 or by Coates in 2001, but today the futurists’ roles have become more complex than what they were in the last decade. Today the boundaries of foresight and other related professions have become so blurry that it is really difficult to determine foresight territory in clear lines.
Keeping that consideration in mind, the futurists may have to impose more controls over their profession by creating solid entry requirements based on short and long courses of education and training with stiff examinations. I think that all of these measures can be advantageous to all the futurists and the foresight profession.
Personally, I remember many futurist friends with remarkable abilities even without receiving formal (academic) foresight education, but when I want to categorize them in my suggestive taxonomy of futurists (analyst, manager, and consultant); I cannot find a proper place for them, because sadly they fail to reflect most of the required qualities of an academic futurist. Pardon me if my words sound somehow selfish or too perfectionist, but that’s a fact.
I can suggest a set of traits for each class of my desired categorization. The professional futurists may be classified according to their competencies. I think that a futurist analyst should be ornamented with remarkable mental qualities like creativity, imagination, anticipation, innovation, and learning by doing. In addition, he or she should be equipped with a good collection of knowledge covering systems and critical thinking, using foresight tools, techniques and methods; and especially certified in futures studies or foresight. I stress that certification is a crucial component of professionalism, especially if we are going to make futurist for 2030 and beyond. Yes, certification is the only meaningful tool we know and it provides a distinction between academic professionals and their practical counterparts.
A futurist manager should be a self-disciplined individual capable of creating change, managing uncertainty, offering a range of foresight services, creating alternatives and transforming the future. In addition, he or she should be able to design and run environmental scanning systems in all STEEP areas and enough talented to put his or her knowledge into practice, like accomplishing policy making missions.
A futurist consultant should gain a reasonable level of professional specialization to offer credible consulting and teaching services. He or she should be able to develop professional rationale, vision, commitment, trust and leadership; going beyond conventional foresight discourse. A successful consultant has good teaming and collaboration competencies, practices problem-based foresight and welcomes transformational challenges.
We need to remember that a futurist consultant needs strategic skills in addition to cognitive, interpersonal, and business skills required for a futurist analyst or manager. We may not stratify necessary skills according to their importance, but based on contribution that they can provide at cognitive level, or interpersonal and business competencies, or their relevance to a futurist’s career level.
Finally, let me raise a number of questions if you see this topic enough valuable to meditate on: What does professionalism mean in foresight? What does it mean to be a professional foresight practitioner? What are the essential competencies of a foresight expert? What levels of knowledge and what mastery of methods of foresight are needed for a professional? And how can futurists be evaluated in terms of their knowledge, experience, business effectiveness, and accomplishments? Thank you in advance for your comments and views.
Alireza Hejazi is the founding editor of Futures Discovery website: http://www.futuresdiscovery.com/. He is currently an MA student of Strategic Foresight at Regent University School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship.
Essays and comments posted in World Future Society and THE FUTURIST magazine blog portion of this site are the intellectual property of the authors, who retain full responsibility for and rights to their content. For permission to publish, distribute copies, use excerpts, etc., please contact the author. The opinions expressed are those of the author. The World Future Society takes no stand on what the future will or should be like.
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This is my last posting for the next few days. I will be taking my office apart so that we can move to our new apartment downtown next Tuesday. I will be unplugged and disconnected except by tablet. Expect me to be back in the saddle before the end of next week probably in time to provide you with some more headlines. In the interim these are the stories I share with you this week:
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