Anyone interested in becoming a futurist can’t afford to miss these seven tipping points. In addition to the essential need of learning futures methods, theory, frameworks and philosophy, a futurist needs to be a disciplined guy in his profession.
How can we become disciplined futurists? First of all, we need to know that living a life as a futurist means spending time usefully and getting the most out of every future-oriented idea.
1. Make Every Minute Count
It is all too easy to become sidetracked from your main goal and to waste your golden research time by reading (online and offline) pages which seem interesting, but not relevant to your futuring activities in hand. That time need not be wasted if it has been invested in a possible foresight project. Make every minute of time spent futuring count by always being on the lookout for a future-related topic with enough research worth. Avoid timewasters. Checking your website or blog stats every hour, reading 500 blogs in your RSS, playing on Facebook, Twitter and etc. all day will kill your productivity. Focus on what yields results and stay disciplined to stick with that. Social media are important for building professional relations, but you have to keep them in check.
2. Create an Ideas Box
If something catches your interest on the web, make sure that you have a place where you can quickly bookmark the page and make a note of your ideas. Make an “ideas box” in your PC. Save your favorite pages and resources there. Having an idea box in your PC, with web pages to kick off research will always stand you in good stead. It’s also useful to tie this in with a paper “Ideas Folder” on your desktop where you can quickly jot down a few notes. Don’t spend a lot of time writing too much about a potential idea. Just take quick notes along with any useful URLs. You only need the minimum required to set you off in the right direction when you follow through with more research later. Your ideas box can serve as a wealth of useful hints. It can even shape your professional future.
3. Build a Retrieval System
Your futures endeavor will bring you huge content. You need to manage your data effectively. Making many folders based on topics, the futurists, countries, regions and … and putting your contents inside them may be useful in the beginning, but you need a better solution as your content grows. A simple quick solution can be “Archivarius 3000” available at: http://www.likasoft.com/. Archivarius 3000 is an application to search documents and e-mail on computers, local network and removable drives (CD, DVD and others). The program will extract and save full information about documents. This allows you to search and view documents even if they are physically not accessible. In this way, you’ll have an always ready search engine on your PC without having to get connected to the Internet.
4. Enrich Your Ideas
The other way of making your futurist profession disciplined is to see the potential for getting several ideas out of an original thought. When you do research on your first idea, try to be aware of all the possible branches of next ideas. For example, if you are doing research about the future of work, that involves future account keeping capabilities, future marketing and promotion activities, and future work spaces; remember that the same basic information can be used to study or write articles and books for several related topics such as how to combine different jobs to make new ones, or how women will look at the future of their jobs, or how people can adjust to being self-employed from having been salaried (with so many people being made redundant in the current economic climate). Work is your first keyword, but “entrepreneurship” will be your second keyword. Give time to your initial thoughts. You see that they can bring new branches and fruits.
5. Reproduce Your Top Works
Always look at the material you have through the eyes of all the different markets that exist. As a futurist you may have some (or many) articles and books, but you know better than anyone else which ones are the best. Even if you don’t write any article, bring your past notes on the table and try to make a logical relationship between them. Keep them in reserve in your “Ideas Folder” and you’ll see that you have good material to write a nice article. Believe it or not, you can make your article outline easily in this way. If you are a professional futurist author, you surely have many articles and perhaps books. Always go through old articles and see if you can give them a new spin or angle. It may be possible to add to them, expanding them for another market or client in the shape of a new report. It may be that there have been new developments which mean that you can update and re-write the material in the new work. Always try to see the potential for development in all your old articles and books and try to get the most out of everything you write.
6. Be Open to More Learning
Your willingness to learn makes you different from other people who think they know every necessary thing. Stop learning and stop growing. This is more meaningful for the futurists as it is a matter of time. Our knowledge and what we unconsciously call “science”, becomes quickly obsolete by the advancement of science and technology. Who can says Futures Studies are as same as what they were last year? Perhaps well-known methods such as scenario planning or Delphi are the same, but new thoughts and ideas are also generated. It’s about 20 years that I’m struggling with formal education and learning new things, from English language to website building and recently to learn Strategic Foresight at Regent University. During all these years I’ve learned one thing: I should never stop learning. Yes, born to be a life-long student! I have no claim of being a disciplined futurist, but I’m happy that learning different skills has turned me into a multi-function expert. At best, I can personally supply most of my own professional needs. I’m looking at the possibility of even learning more, especially working as an intern to enrich my experience as a foresight practitioner. Learning makes us always up-to-date.
7. Be Connected
If we admit that we need to learn, we will be ready to learn from other futurists who have more theoretical knowledge and practical experience. This means connection. We should keep in touch with those who can be sources of inspiration for us in terms of futures thinking. Most people think that it is easy to become a futurist, but the difficult part remains in growing as a futurist. Since the day I started my futurist voyage, I started to admit that there are many things that I don’t know. This will be true until the last moment I’m alive. The solution is professional connection, especially with knowledgeable futurists. The world is bigger than what we usually assume. You may wonder that there are many experts around the world who are not futurists, but their thoughts and ideas have been very useful for the futurists. Look at Wilber and Slaughter or Sarkar and Innayatullah. Great philosophers and thinkers of other fields have energized the futurists’ thoughts and works in many ways. So we should not limit our professional connection only to the futurists. It should also cover the experts of other fields and disciplines.
There are many other attributes that can be summarized in one word: “self-control”. This and other traits can turn a student of Futures Studies or Foresight into a disciplined futurist, but personally I hope by remembering above mentioned characteristics I may put myself in the line of learning more and shaping my professional future in good manner. I wish the same for you if you love futuring.
Alireza Hejazi is a freelance futurist. He is the founder and developer of “FuturesDiscovery.com”. He is also a member of WFS and WFSF. Hejazi is currently an MA student of Strategic Foresight at Regent University School of Global Leadership & Entrepreneurship. His works are available at: http://www.futuresdiscovery.com/