Skill Sets for Futurists?

Wow, it’s been awhile since I’ve posted. I want to blog a bit about Transmillennial 2008, but until then I want to share something I’ve been working on concerning the skills that those engaged in Strategic Foresight should tend and cultivate.


A Futurist needs a broad-base of interests, including science & technology, history, anthropology, art & literature, pop culture, faith & religion, sociology, ecology, and more…the sky’s the limit! Without the seedbed of breadth, many things will pass us by in our data-collection phase.


Though much of Futurist work is, indeed, quantitative research, creativity must be exercised in interpreting the results and indeed in what to even include in our environmental scanning. An eye for the odd and intuition can pay significant dividends.


Futurists in forecasting need to be flexible, in order to try out many scenarios and be willing to admit to mistakes in methodology. We’re all wrong, and the sooner we can bend to this, the sooner we can spring back again.

Integral/Systems Thinking

The ability to consider the Whole when examining any facet is crucial for Futures work. Non-linear, integral thinking is key. One of the chief insights that Futurists can practice in everything from scanning to forecasting to personal life is that reality is rarely simple cause-and-effect; we each contain systems, are systems, and are parts of systems—or, to put it another way, everything is comprised of holons. Making connections beyond the obvious is crucial for holistic scenarios development; we must transcend personal and/or external blame-games.

A Love for People

Futures work is not done in isolation. Working with teams, conducting original research, and relaying findings and suggestions to clients and/or the public is necessary for successful Futures work. While some of each of these processes are carried out alone (and indeed, not all forms or genres of Foresight work involves human beings), the human component is a lynchpin.

Strong Work Ethic

Futures work is interdisciplinary work, and at the heart of this is discipline. Because we’re always on the Bleeding Edge of the Possible (sorry to capitalize like a German, it just seemed Important), a strong work ethic is needed to help hold everything together. Practically speaking, this involves having good time management and research skills, as well as proficiency with various software programs. These fluencies provide the ‘invisible architecture’ of our work as Futurists.

Spiritual Center

Working with the dazzling and terrifying possibilities of the future is nerve-wracking work; a spiritual center is crucial. It is important to balance hindsight and foresight with the insights that we “are hidden with Christ in God” (Paul), “the Center does not move” (Buddha), and “take no heed for tomorrow” (Jesus). These are paradoxical realities for future-oriented professionals, but I believe they are needed for our balance and sanity. Of course, potential ontological realities need to be grounded, experienced and enjoyed in consistent spiritual practice or they are of little practical benefit.

9 Responses to “Skill Sets for Futurists?”

  1. 1 pomopirate September 24, 2008 at 4:20 am

    Is that all? What about X-ray vision and great fashion sense?

  2. 2 zoecarnate September 24, 2008 at 12:07 pm

    Well Tripp, I think you’re confusing me with futurists in general. These’ll be in an upcoming post entitled “Setting Yourself Apart as a Futurist.” Very flattering of you to notice, though.

  3. 3 Gunnar September 25, 2008 at 6:16 am

    Man, I am pumped….I want to make myself a shirt that says, ‘I transcend personal and/or external blame-games.’ That makes a statement!

  4. 4 Adam Gordon September 25, 2008 at 10:33 am

    Haha, yes. nice list. May I add “ability to critically evaluate forecasts” because all futurists are relying to greater or lesser degree on forecasts/data extrap of others. My topic of interest this, witness Adam Gordon, “Future Savvy,” Amacom Press, 2008. many thanks for interesting blog -A

  5. 5 Cathryn September 26, 2008 at 12:43 am

    now don’t forget the prophetic antenna that needs to be adjusted… to see and speak life into situations… that can ONLY come from HIM… —
    and Tripp perhaps fashion will take on some new meaning in California- i’ll pray for a holy elbow on your wardrobe!— some fashions do NOT need raising from the dead–

    Sounds good Mike… really— but since i’m a bodyworker….. (physical therapy and massage) or as i put it Movement facilitator and Body archeologist ——- the kinetic space for movement – dance- mime- or just basic- decompressing physically from walking on religious eggshells is also needed. I’m in dialogue with a few of my Bodyworker & dancer friends, and looking at the kinetic part of the frame…… So much of this type of convo is HEAD based- so to speak… but Jesus touched, healed, breathed ect……… In Him we Live – MOVE and have our being… so what is that space on – in and about the incarnation… that the mystery of the Gospel is that He Lives IN us…. so what does that look like, taste like, smell like, breath like … MOVE like… on a physical frame….

    I may be doing a co-laboring blog on the topic.. with those bodyworker friends….. (new age has huge volumes on it) but what of that territory.. and taking back the land that was originally intended ——— just my thoughts there.
    xo cat

  6. 6 thegreycoats September 26, 2008 at 8:50 pm

    I’m lost. Oh well. Back to my own little meta.

  7. 7 graham September 27, 2008 at 6:29 pm

    Cathryn, they are great additions to the list!

  8. 8 Jeff Goins October 10, 2008 at 1:52 pm

    I wish I knew what this meant.

  1. 1 Observations from “The Great Emergence” | Homebrewed Christianity Trackback on September 26, 2008 at 3:55 pm

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