Can Foresight and Transformation Play Together to Create a Green “Futures Mindset?”

Updated: May 25

Beth speaking: This week, I’m pleased to introduce my colleague Jim Burke with DeepDive Foresight as our True North guest blogger.


This post is the first in a series on Green trends and foresight in support of our forthcoming GreenSenses Workshop: Practical Strategies for Career Pivots.


James E. Burke photo

Jim is founder and Foresight and Solutions Navigator at DeepDive Foresight, bringing decades of successful long-view analyses, planning, and innovation experiences to improve business operations and support career transitions.


He delivers people-focused foresight, creating specific, actionable insights. He worked for organizations in the Department of Defense during his first career in the US Air Force and afterwards consulting to large and small businesses, including Fortune 500 companies and Defense and civil agencies.


His non-profit service includes former Vice Chairman of Ascent Virginia, dedicated to a clean energy economy in South West Virginia, previous President of the D.C World Futures Society chapter, and former Chairs of the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy and Virginia Interfaith Power & Light. His undergraduate degree is in history, with graduate degrees in Public Administration and Science and Technology Studies.


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Can Foresight and Transformation Play Together to Create a Green “Futures Mindset?”


What is foresight and how does it relate to transformation?


What roles can mindset play in foresight and transformation?


Summary:

· Foresight identifies stories for the future

· Transformation gives a framework to live into those futures

· A futures mindset lays the foundation to use foresight and transformation


Discussion:


What is foresight?


Foresight is a more formal name for something that comes naturally from a sense of wonder—an itch to ponder about tomorrow and what it might bring. The easiest and most normal approach is to assume that tomorrow will be pretty much like today.

That is a good strategy until we find ourselves surprised and, in the midst of adjusting to the shock, we seldom ask if we could have seen it coming. In fact, the growing response by business and technology to gradual changes in climate since the 1960’s provides one example of something we did not fully anticipate.


At the same time, we all engage in foresight as we look at our children and grandchildren and wonder about their future lives or when we think about our retirement years. We apply foresight when we start a new job and eye the corner office that we know will be ours in a few years. We also apply foresight when we think about a future vision for the neighborhood we live in or preserving the parks and wild places that we hold dear.


There is emerging evidence that the human mind is particularly attuned to look for patterns and translate them into possibilities, that we are wired for anticipation. And we also have seen that predictions about the future, especially by experts, are frequently contentious, so we naturally want more evidence before accepting some forecasts. How do we handle this paradox?

Foresight is frequently tossed in the pot with palm-reading and crystal-balls. Foresight, however, starts from questioning—we cannot predict the future—and an acceptance of ambiguity. We can, however, look for clues about the future and create different pictures and stories of ways the future might unfold.


Foresight is not magic, but a discipline that collects trend patterns to forecast, not predict, possible futures. It allows foresight users to create different pictures of the future and offers ways to “live” in those futures through stories, then bring those lessons back to today to help shape the way we live into the future.


What is transformation and how does it relate to foresight?


Transformation is an invitation to change and the personal and professional response that results. Often, the call to transformation is small, perhaps dissatisfaction and restlessness about a job or a company. This, if there is an opening to think about the situation, may lead to a series of invitations to learn and perhaps change, calling for a heightened and deeper awareness of the present and the possibilities for the future.


Foresight plays a role here, by offering insights into emerging trends, forecasts, and early warning signals about possible futures. Transformation involves accepting the small invitations and using the possibilities to design and shape a personal or company future.


Foresight offers ways to create stories about the future that, in turn, can allow users to stress-test their plans and ideas in a low risk, useful way.


Transformation finally is transition, allowing the new to enter and the less useful “old” ways to fall away, doing so with increased confidence based on the added awareness that can come from foresight and forecasts.


How can you take advantage of foresight and transformation?


A starting point is to cultivate a mindset for the future. A mindset is the way we “frame” a situation, similar to the way that a window frame gives a view into the neighborhood. It includes our attitudes and biases. We likely know someone whose attitude is always upbeat and optimistic, seeing the best in every situation.


Similarly, we probably have acquaintances whose frame is decidedly dark and most things to them call for deep pessimism. And being human, we may have tended towards frames of both. We also tend to enjoy near-term gratification which gets in the way of looking at longer-view implications.


Foresight can help us nurture a mindset of the future by inviting us to consider the ways that the future could widen to reveal possibilities or risks. Consider the effects of trends on our future, for example, asking ourselves questions like:

  • How could artificial intelligence affect my career?

  • How might the growth of easy-to-use investment platforms affect my retirement planning?

  • Does growing attention to sustainability and a circular economy open up new career opportunities?

The answers can be important and creating a mindset that continually asks how will this affect my future could be more important. Adding together the questions and range of answers may lead you to ask if you are being invited to transform the way you live or your company operates.

Some concluding questions:

  • Do you feel any restlessness about the present—personally or professionally?

  • How might a better understanding of the future help address desires for a more satisfying career and life?

  • Have you ever experienced a transition that did not have some sense of the future?

Learn more about our upcoming GreenSenses Workshop: Practical Strategies for Career Pivots


Can we help with building and sustaining the skills you or your team need to advance professionally? Reach out to Beth Offenbacker, PhD, CPCC, ACC, at beth@waterfordinc.com or via phone or text at 703-623-4811 to discuss if our Green Career, Executive/Leadership Coaching, Small Group Coaching and Mentoring, or Learning & Development services are right for you. We work with professionals and organizations that have a sustainability focus in their work. All services are customized to your needs.

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