Injecting the Future

Screen Shot 2014-09-30 at 10.40.30 AM

The image here illustrates a model for change we discussed over the weekend in the local Western Australian Future of Learning and Education event for the 3rd Global Education Hackathon.

On the x-axis we have time and on the y-axis impact.

Those who work in a new or alternative paradigms of education (whether it’s online MOOCs, alternative approaches, peer-to-peer concepts, life-long education, self-directed learning, home schooling, multiple intelligence based learning, indigenous wisdom, Meetup groups, etc) often struggle to be accepted, certified and acknowledged by the “old”, formal education system.

One way to envision exchange between the two systems is by acupuncture or “injection” of a future virus in the old paradigm. The benefit for the whole is a more seamless transition between the two systems, which will eventually happen anyway, but with more or less friction. The creative forces in the new, alternative paradigm cannot be prevented and will eventually win.

The challenge here for both the old and new is to find the exchange mechanisms between the paradigms. The systems of the old paradigm are set up to react against the new and most of the new does not fit into the templates – hence the slow ‘death by stagnation’ of the old.

What can educators, learning hackers and entrepreneurs gain from trading with the other side? And how can they do this?

Intrapreneurs Build Better Typewriters

electric-typewriter-540

I recently wrote about the current slow death of the institution.

It’s  increasingly obvious that the efficiencies we humans have gained in using institutions (to create scale, while minimizing transaction costs and increasing profits) no longer are relevant. The internet have changed this and institutions are obsolete.

Huh?

Yes.  As futurist and director of IFTF Martina Gorbis explains in this talk, there is no financial point in us having institutions any more, and therefore (as we live in a world where money decides) institutions will soon disappear.

“You can think of organisations as a technology for creating scale and minimizing cost. This technology is being disrupted.”

They will likely be replaced with online networks, peer-to-peer solutions or other post-organisational structures.

But the centralized institution as we know it will soon be gone.

It’s like the typewriter. Once an important and ubiquitous technology… And now gone…

***

For years I was a believer in intrapreneurship: To use the principles of entrepreneurship to hack or disrupt large organisations from within, while maintaining the actual system, the organisation.

Today I think of intrapreneurs as a bit like those guys who tried to re-invent the typewriter back in the day.

“Hey, Look! We can add another colour to the pad so that you can type in both black and red now!”

“Look! We have invented an electric typewriter. You don’t need to move the paper down with the scroller thingy, now you just plug the typewriter into the wall and press this button!”

These guys had no idea that the typewriter would be replaced with a smartphone soon. They thought that the typewriter would always be around in a different shape or form.

Exactly like people who spend their time managing and trying to change or develop large rganisations today. They think that these organisations will always be around.

But why?

Organisations are a technology like any technology, and it is obsolete. The benefits are no longer there.

Sure, there are social and other benefits, but that’s not enough. If it doesn’t make financial sense it will go.

***

Do you work to make organisations better? As a manager, organisational development expert, change management consultant, intrapreneur or similar?

Be careful. You are likely holding evolution back. You are probably a barrier to progress.

As John Hagel recently pointed out in his excellent 21st Century Global Declaration of Independence:

“We find ourselves now at a crossroads in history. The institutions – commercial, educational, political and civic – that we created in an earlier era in an effort to expand our potential have now become increasingly significant barriers to progress. It is not surprising that our trust in these institutions is plummeting around the world. We see so much opportunity and yet the institutions that are supposed to be helping us are increasingly standing in our way.”

Don’t try to build a better typewriter.

Where To From Here? Why Strategy in 2014 is so difficult.

transformation

 

The image here was used for a recent Meetup for Stockholm Futurists. It’s a graphic representation of futurist Jim Dator’s four alternative futures archetypes;

  • continuation (a.k.a. growth, business-as-usual, all-is-fine, keep-calm-and-carry-on),
  • collapse (systemic failure on a massive scale)
  • discipline (simplicity, sustainability, fundamentalism)
  • transformation (radical shift of some sort)

These archetypes seem to come back over and over again in civilizations of the past, according to Dator’s studies. And today – as before – these four trajectories are on the cards for us and our civilisation.

But which one will it be?

Being a futurist and thinking about these models all the time makes it very difficult to strategize and make plans. Sometimes I wish that continuation and the business-as-usual scenario was the only thing on my mind. Life would be so much easier then.

I think about the likelihood of these four. And this depends on who you listen to.

  • If you listen to futurist Richard Slaughter, Gaia scientist James Lovelock and Dark Mountain co-founder Paul Kingsnorth, we’re in for a collapse.
  • If you listen to mega-entrepreneur Peter Diamandis and friends we’re in for abundance and a never-before seen exponential technology extravaganza.
  • If you listen to the Transition movement, the Green political movement and other sensible environmental groups we can change behaviour towards disciplined, simplified lifestyles.
  • If you listen to Barbara Marx Hubbard, Joanna Macy and fellow evolutionaries, we are in for a shift of consciousness beyond our imagination.
  • If you listen to Ray Kurzweil and the singularitarians we are in for another type of incomprehensible shift where man and machine will merge (very soon).
  • If you listen to Michel Bauwens and the P2P people, we will collaborate globally on an unprecedented scale, in networked living arrangements, which transcend organisations, governance and financial models as we know them today.

I listen to all these people. Who do you listen to?

I guess that at the end of the day these four archetypal scenarios are all about hope. To give us hope and something to live for.

Four Scenarios for Humanity Based on Rolling Stones Guitarist Keith Richards’ Life

1972

Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones is known as a rock’n’roll survivor. Unlike mythologized stars like Janis, Jimi, Jim, Kurt and Amy, who all died young, Keith is still with us. And not only that: He’s had an amazingly eventful and crazy life with several near-death experiences. Over the years, sensationalist music journalists, fans and other close observers have speculated on his self-destruction many times, but surprisingly Keith is still with us. With us on the global stages, touring the world with an old Fender Telecaster and a cheeky grin on his lips.

Sometimes I think of our planet as being a bit like Keith. A survivor that has been through remarkable things: Ice ages, supervolcano eruptions, asteroid impacts and so on. And now it seems like good old Earth is up for another big challenge: The Anthropocene – this era where the clever, fast, ruthless organisms called humans geo-engineer and hack their way into the planet.

So what are some plausible scenarios for us humans on this planet? Well, here are four of them based on some of the eras in the Keith Richards’ life:

 

1. Mischievous Lad

Keith 1965 (CC BY-SA 2.0 – Kevin Delaney)

The Rolling Stones formed in London in 1962. In the swinging 60s London, there was a naive belief that rhythm & blues and rock & roll could change the world. And it actually did. Keith and his merry band of musicians built on the old American rhythm and blues tradition, and turned it into something of their own. Together with other young mischievous lads like The Beatles and The Who they took the world by storm and global domination ensued.

But long West End nights at places like The Marquee Club were often followed by early morning flights to gigs in other countries. This lifestyle required stimulation beyond natural and legal highs. Amphetamines and other drugs were needed to keep playing and partying.

***

In the Mischievous Lad future we’ll all keep on playing the game. We’ll keep on churning out hit songs, like there is no tomorrow. We’ll go on never-ending global tours because the show must go on. Just as Keith and his fellow 60s musician friends were fuelled by “uppers”, the planetary citizens in this future will be fuelled by various drugs and medications to keep us going.

 

2. Elegantly Wasted

Keith 1972 (CC BY-SA 2.0 Dina Regine)

In the late 60s and early 70s Keith Richards turned into an enigmatic, globetrotting counter-culture hero. Like other elegantly wasted aristocrats, successful artists and rich debauched heirs, The Rolling Stones set up camp on the French Riviera for the summer. In 1971, Keith reigned like a king in the Stones’ rented villa at Villefranche-sûr-Mer outside of Nice. Here, surrounded by his friends, he waterskied and entertained princes, writers and mannequins by day, drank bourbon and recorded incredible music by night. He could do whatever he wanted to do. However, the British tax authorities, various drug dealers, former girlfriends and others were on his back.

***

In the Elegantly Wasted future we will have lots of fun, since we will do what we like to do. We won’t have any money or material wealth but we will have lots of friends. The space we inhabit will look very different, where most things are derelict and overgrown with plants and scattered with strange technological gadgets. Essential societal institutions like hospitals and fire departments will still function. Many of us will die on the way to this future but those who survive will thrive.

3. Heroin Casualty

Keith 1982 (CC BY-SA 3.0, Gorupdebesanez)

The elegantly wasted Keith sunk deeper down during the 70s, and in the 80s many counted him out as his severe heroin habit got in the way of his creativity and life. He was rumoured to have replaced all his blood at a special clinic in Switzerland because it was so toxic and could kill him from within (!) He was emaciated, dark and gloomy – a ghostly shell of his former gloriously, elegantly wasted self. The cheeky grin was gone.

***

Too much excess, wild weather and apocalyptic events make way for the Heroin Casualty future – a scenario, which feels like sleeping on a damp mattress in a dark and gloomy basement. The Heroin Casualty future is a bit like those dystopian zombie futures we’ve seen in the movies, but where the narrator has a constant flu with accompanying phlegmy cough. Our vital infrastructures have collapsed. All is dark and the streets are full of lethal threats and diseases. The global society in the Heroin Casualty scenario is all but resilient, as all systems are out and only the faintest of reserves remain. A virus outbreak could end all life.

 

4. Captain Jack Sparrow’s Dad

Keith 2008 (CC BY 3.0, Siebbi)

 

Keith survived the cold, lethal period. And from the 90s and onwards he’s taken on a crazy, colourful and unpredictable character: The role as Captain Jack Sparrow’s dad in the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Johnny Depp, who plays the charismatic captain, is friends with Keith, and when asked if he wanted to star in the sequels, Richards said yes. He had always considered himself a pirate, so why not?

Captain Jack Sparrow’s dad was once the most feared pirate in the world, so is highly respected and feared by all the pirates in the Brethren Court. He was once the Pirate Lord of Madagascar but later resigned to become the Keeper of the Pirate Code, the Pirata Codex, which he keeps with him at Shipwreck Cove.

***

The Captain Jack Sparrow’s Dad future is similar to the Pirate future, which is propagated by many thinkers and hackers around the world today. A global, transparent future based on direct democracy, where all is open and free, as pioneered by The Pirate Bay and various European pirate parties.

Captain Jack Sparrow’s dad is however different from the regular Pirate future. This future is older, wiser but slightly erratic and nutty. The Captain Jack Sparrow’s dad future has been to hell and back, but on the way it went through a fundamental paradigm shift. It is something of a wise fool with its youthful cheeky grin intact, but with strange beads and braids in the hair.

——————

Keith Richards is still alive and a fifth scenario for the future of humanity will be added to this list when we have identified it. Or as Keith himself puts it:

“I don’t want to see my old friend Lucifer just yet. He’s the guy I’m gonna see, isn’t it? I’m not going to the Other Place, let’s face it.”

 

***

With apologies to Jim Dator for (ab)using his four Alternative Futures archetypes.

Test yourself: Male happiness – Suffering Sultans of Swing…

Screen Shot 2014-05-10 at 6.36.43 PM

BACKGROUND

Inspired by Daniel Levinson’s “The Seasons of a Man’s Life”, I am working on a framework for male development with a complementing psychometric test I call “Suffering Sultans of Swing”. The beauty of the test is that the only material needed is headphones and access to the song “Sultans of Swing” by Dire Straits.

Before you read the rest of this post, take some minutes and test yourself by listening to the song here:

So all men out there…

Did you listen to the whole song?

Or did you turn it off before the end?

In any case, if you would tell me a) your age and b) at exactly what point you turned off the song, my “Suffering Sultans of Swing” test would reveal a lot to me about your life and its future.

METHODOLOGY

The purpose of this research was to find out whether there is a correlation between a man’s happiness and his like of Dire Straits’ song “Sultans of Swing”.

In a study based on individual listening sessions in a state-of-the-art music studio in Frankfurt am Main (with a vintage German amplification system), I surveyed 300.000 men. These men, flown in from all over the world, had various cultural backgrounds and income levels, and were aged from three to 93.

RESULTS

photo

 

The study clearly shows a correlation between male contentment and how long they managed to listen to Sultans of Swing without turning it off. I identified five phases or stages, which are clearly defined as seen in the graph below. The interesting observation is that the length a man can listen to the song changes dramatically depending on age. From the extreme 20-something who couldn’t bear the song for more than a couple of seconds, to the child, dad and deaf male, who listened to the whole song without reaching for the off-button.

Here are some comments from participants in each group, which nicely illustrates each stage.

1. HAPPY DANCING CHILD (Peak at 3 years)
“BAM-BAM-BAM. NAH-NAH-NAH”

2. CYNICAL 20-SOMETHING (Peak at 23 years)
“WTF! I’m outta here!”

3. DAD ROCK PHASE (Peak at 43 years)
“Genuinely one of my favourite songs..Mark is an absolute king when it comes to licks and riffs, and this song is just the epitome of coolness. The fact that he also did a version of this with Eric Clapton just blows my mind too, since they’re two of my absolute inspirations for playing/learning guitar..”

4. NOISE-HATING GRUMP (Peak at 63)
“TURN IT OFF! TURN IT OFF! WHAT IS THIS NOISE?

5. DEAF AND HAPPY (Peak at 93)
“BAM-BAM-BAM. NAH-NAH-NAH

***

Gloss

gloss

 

“The thing I hate the most about advertising is that it attracts all the bright, creative and ambitious young people, leaving us mainly with the slow and self-obsessed to become our artists. Modern art is a disaster area. Never in the field of human history has so much been used by so many to say so little.”
― Banksy

 

A couple of years ago I had a very nice conversation in Melbourne with Richard Slaughter, one of the giants of futures studies. We talked about foresight, Melbourne street art, post-conventional leadership and many other things. He advised me/us to do two things;

  1. Create infrastructure which builds social foresight.
  2. Identify and highlight absurdities, which need to be challenged.

The first is something I try to do in my main two projects at the moment, Superherospaces and Enkel.

The second is something I haven’t paid much attention to since I talked to Richard. Of course I identify and highlight absurdities here in my blog, but I don’t actively work to do it. Perhaps that’s the role of this blog….?

Richard especially mentioned one such absurdity, which seemed to be of great concern to him; the glossy magazines which come with our major newspapers on Saturdays and Sundays. The weekend lifestyle magazines, full of ads which aim to perpetuate the unsustainable lifestyle of the developed world: The clean, airbrushed perfect lifestyle, which doesn’t exist.

Today, we in the developed world understand this. We know that these images are as true as Santa Claus. We have learnt that this glossy life only exists in Vanity Fair articles and George Clooney films. We know that it has nothing to do with reality and that gloss doesn’t equal happiness, but rather Sertraline, divorce and addiction.

But the issue is that we’ve made the developing world believe that gloss means happiness. We have inspired China, Brazil, India and other countries, which are slowly pulling themselves out of poverty to head into gloss. This is why we see the Chinese line up outside the Louis Vuitton and Prada shops in London, NYC, Paris and Tokyo.

They want to become glossy.

***

A form of societal changemaking which fascinates me now, is the concept of  ‘systems acupuncture’. This approach involves to identify and intervene through systemic pressure points or critical spots in society. Instead of massive incremental change, or radical violent change, this rather builds on small, smart actions, directed towards sensitive areas.

One of these so-called “societal acupoints” is advertising, which the people behind non-profit organisation Adbusters realised years ago. They are probably the advocates and activists sticking the sharpest acupuncture needles into the advertising industry today.

But there are others.

  • The blog Zen Habits recently suggested that “the biggest obstacle to a wonderfully minimalist life is advertising”.
  • Lei Cidade Limpa is a 2006 law in the city Sao Paolo, which  prohibits advertising such as that of outdoor posters.
  • Commercial Alert is a non-profit that opposes advertising to children and the commercialization of culture, education, and government.

The challenge for these organisations and lawmakers is that we humans love gloss. We love George Clooney, Vanity Fair articles, beautiful people, old Bugattis, Rolex watches and Riva boats.

But that doesn’t mean we need them on our breakfast table on Saturday and Sunday mornings.

I don’t think we in the developed world need advertising any longer. We’re past that.

In fact no one in the world needs advertising I guess.

So let’s think about how we can change things to pay people who work in the ad industry to make art and comedy instead.

I’m sure Banksy and Richard Slaughter would like that.

Five reasons for rapid blogging

laser

laser

Phew! This May experiment is over.

One month ago I posted some thoughts on cleanin out my ideas closet.The purpose with this challenge to myself was to get rid of my huge ‘to-blog-list’ over one month, instead of slowly posting when I “had time” to do it.

I did get rid of most of the items on my list. But of course this exercise in rapid blogging made me have other, new ideas, which are now on my list for future posts. So, some items were crossed out while others were added – to put ideas out of our inner sphere and into the world is a never-ending quest. But I think it’s very important that we do it and stop keeping ideas to ourselves. Here are some reasons why:

1. Vulnerability

The earlier you share an idea, the more vulnerable you feel. And feeling vulnerable is good as we know from Brene Brown’s TED talk The Power of Vulnerability.

2. Trust

The earlier you share an idea, the more you let others into your mind and give them access to your self. This will hopefully break down some barriers and lead to trust.

3. Support

The earlier you share an idea, the earlier others can help you.

4. Share

The earlier you share an idea, the earlier others can steal and remix your ideas, which is good.

5. Innovation

The earlier you share an idea, the more you learn and get used to releasing things into the world that are not perfect. As my good friend Juan says; “perfection is the enemy of innovation”. This experiment has taught me that it’s ok to release half-baked ideas early.

6. Speed

I write faster after this month. I don’t know why. Perhaps it’s because I have learned to write without thinking so much (too much thinking is not good for writing). Perhaps it’s because I didn’t have time to care much about what others thought as I wrote faster than normal.

***

Some other learnings from this experiment:

  • I started with the intention to post once a day, but this was too hard. This was inspired by a similar challenge that some friends of mine participated in a couple of years ago. Apparently they didn’t manage to post every day either. It is quite ok in the beginning, but after a couple of weeks it’s hard with work, family, weekends and life in general. You need a break some days. So therefore – if I’ll ever do this again – I’ll rather aim for 30 posts in one month. I published 22 posts this time, which I’m happy with for a first time.
  • The stats and social media attention I got for some of the posts were much bigger than for others. The big hit during the month was Serendipity is the New Black – a post I had no idea would be popular. There were many other posts, which I found more original and interesting myself, and had thought would generate more hits. This is good to know for my future activities.

***

To summarize, I can recommend this experiment. My ‘ideas closet’ is cleaner and my mind is clearer than a month ago.

Now I will try to be quiet for a month.

Cars

Obsolete Model: The Car
New Model: The Human

***

 

Obsolete Model: The Car

burninrubber4

“The spirit of generosity already threatened by the horse, evaporated entirely with the motor car.”

- Bruce Chatwin in his Patagonia notebook

***

I’m about to buy a car. And I don’t like it. I wish I didn’t have to.

I’ve had an issue with cars for a long time now. I don’t remember disliking them as a kid or teenager, so I can’t see any hidden psychological traumas that I have oppressed. In my 20s, I thought cars were great for getting to the French or Austrian Alps to snowboard. My friends and I always had some old rubbish car for that reason. But I don’t remember ever liking cars. They were more of a tool for getting far away from boring university studies.

I have owned cars a few times, but have always had problems with them. One lost the exhaust pipe in the Moroccan desert, one caught on fire on a French Autoroute, and one was stolen in East London. And I’ve always disliked buying and selling cars. Cars are very expensive to most people and the large sums of money, which change hands in these transactions create mistrust between all parts that are involved.

But these days my issue with cars is not with my own car or other peoples’ cars. It’s with cars in general. The car.

I think we can now declare the car an obsolete model which needs to be replaced. Why? Well, let’s look at a couple of things.

Costs:

  • Cars pollute
  • Cars kill playing children and insecure teenagers
  • Cars lead to unhealthy behaviour (sitting down in a metal bubble instead of walking)
  • Cars are expensive and terrible investments
  • Cars are inefficient as a means of transport in urban areas
  • Cars lead to road rage

Benefits:

  • Cars can take me anywhere quickly once outside a city centre.
  • Cars give me freedom
  • Some cars are beautiful
  • It’s fun to drive too fast with a car
  • My car is a place which I like as I’m on my own there. It’s my temple. A place for reflection.

And so on… We all know these things. A cost-benefit analysis would perhaps be more favorable to cars in remote areas, but in urban areas there is no reason for cars.

New model: The Human

A recent report I read said that human drivers will disappear within a generation. I was a bit disappointed. I had hoped that they will disappear before that. But most people agree that self-driving cars will transform our lives when they come.

I’m curious to see whether self-driving vehicles will solve my problems and still give me the benefits with cars, mentioned in the cost/benefit analysis above.

Let’s list everything  again and see if the self-driving car will change life for the better:

Cost/benefit Change Comment
Cars pollute + Won’t be solved, the self-driving car will still pollute, but much fuel will be saved.
Cars lead to unhealthy behaviour (sitting down in a metal bubble instead of walking) 0 Won’t be solved. We’ll still get fatter and move less.
Cars are inefficient as a means of transport in urban areas. + Won’t be solved. Yes, there will be less congestion, but cities will still be packed with cars.
Cars kill playing children and insecure teenagers +++ This will be solved! Self-driving cars cannot kill children or teenage drivers.
Cars are expensive and terrible investments 0 No change (but at least insurance costs will go down)
Cars lead to road rage +++ Will be solved! We will relax with a book or DVD instead of raging against our fellow machines and motorists.
Cars can take me anywhere quickly once outside a city centre. 0 No change.
Cars give me freedom 0 Same. Future Jack Keroac’s can now even write as they “keep on rolling under the stars”.
Some cars are beautiful 0 No change. Some cars will still be beautiful.
It’s fun to drive too fast with a car This will not be possible any more. Hoons and revheads will disappear and have to get their testosterone levels balanced elsewhere.
My car is a place which I like as I’m on my own there. It’s my temple. A place for reflection. 0 No change. My car will still be a place for reflection.

Yes, the self-driving car will solve some of my issues, but not all of them. We need a better model than the self-driving car. A self-driving car is perhaps what the electric typewriter was to the typewriter; a solution which seemed logical at the time, but didn’t stop the innovation from being disrupted.

I wonder what will disrupt the car in the same way as the car disrupted the horse. I suggest the human.

 

***

This blog post is part of a series, which started with some of my issues.. I call this the irresponsibility series, as my inner conservative tells me that the posts and thoughts here are “utterly, completely irresponsible”. In the series, I discuss obsolete and new models for five things which I have issues with: Democracy, Hard Work, Cars, Heroic (or Dickhead) Entrepreneurship and Settling. This series is based on Buckminster Fuller’s excellent quote, which has inspired many of us;

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality.
To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

***

 

Nine Metaphors for a Futurist

artist

Initially this post was to be called ‘Dress Code for Futurists’. After spending five years with futurists from over the world, I wanted to find out whether there was a particular way to dress for futurists. Doctors, plumbers, history teachers, clowns and other professions have their own dress code, whether it’s prescribed or not. But I haven’t been able to decode the futurist dress code yet.

We futurists are privileged (or at least some are) to work with diverse groups of people. We work with corporate clients, startups, religious groups, community groups, governments and more. Some futurists seem to dress the same no matter who they work with. To them it doesn’t matter how they dress. Some wear a suit, some wear a t-shirt, and some a gimmick like a huge beard, a hat or colorful, big glasses.

In my foresight master’s program, we were often advised to “meet the system where it’s at”, i.e. to adapt ourselves to the context, organisation and people for which we do foresight work. And naturally, the language you use, the clothes you wear, and your general appearance will have impact on your foresight intervention.

Instead of exploring outer appearance such as clothes, I realised that I’ve actually been exploring this idea of general appearance in metaphors over the past year in my APF blog posts…

So, in which forms and shapes can we futurists appear? Here’s a summary of some old and new metaphors, so they can all be found in one place. Hence the title of this post; 9 metaphors for futurists:

1. The Trickster

 


My interest in metaphors for futurists started with the Trickster  – a character found in many myths. Tricksters are often found on the road or at the edge of town, sometimes helping, sometimes hindering people. They have prophetic qualities, but in contrast to other prophets, tricksters steal, cheat and lie to deliver their message.

Futurist as Trickster, is consequently a figure who works between organisations, cultures and paradigms. Larry Ellis writes that the trickster “dabbles in the creation of the world that will be, and provides tools, food, and clothing to the people who will inhabit that world. He may assume an array of contradictory personae in the course of a single narrative, moving from one to the other with the skill of a practiced shape-shifter while tripping on his tail at every turn.”

 

2. The Clown

 

The Clown is related to the Trickster. According to Wikipedia, in Native American mythology, the “Trickster channels the spirit of the Coyote and becomes a sacred Clown character”.

Today we often think of a clown as a clumsy, colorful character performing slap-stick with a red nose and big shoes. Traditionally, he played a quite different role though – the one of a sociological and psychological healer, similar to a priest. In Redeeming Laughter: The Comic Dimension of Human Experience, Peter Berger writes that “It seems plausible that folly and fools, like religion and magic, meet some deeply rooted needs in human society”.

The Clown Futurist can make use of traditional clown techniques to meet clients’ needs. Beyond a funny red nose and a wig there are potentially other things the futurist can learn by studying the history of the clown. Communication skills, engaging clients, and holding up a mirror to society are some of these.

 

3. The Artist

 

In a post from last year on business models for futurists, I looked briefly at how futurists could model their foresight practice and consulting on the artist/patron model. The Artist Futurist paints, crafts or dreams up beautiful or provocative scenarios; images of the future. The patron-client rewards the artist with money or other support. The artwork will hopefully help the client towards their preferred futures. Sometimes the artwork is too challenging for the client. The colours are too bright or the motif too disturbing. At other times, the artwork is too commercial and derivative to have transformative impact. A good Artist Futurist finds a balance.

 

4. The Outsider

 

Swedish academic Claes Janssen devised an ‘outsider scale‘ in the 1960s and 70s. Here individuals are placed on a scale from 0 to 24 after doing a psychometric test, where 24 is the highest and considered most “outsider”. Most futurists I have tested are far out towards the outsider end on this scale. According to Janssen’s psychological theories, a high outsider score can be good when it is integrated in a person, but challenging when non-integrated. Or simply said; life is easier for the outsider who accepts being an outsider than for one who doesn’t.

Most futurists are outsiders. Organisational futurists are always outsiders. Hines (2005) is more diplomatic and writes that the “inside-outsider must be mobile and not place a high value on having a long-term career in the organisation, because to be most effective you must be willing to commit career suicide on a regular basis.”

This role is at times hard to play, since an outsider never belongs on the inside. Therefore it’s key that the Outsider Futurist finds other communities to which they can belong.

 

5. The Svengali

 

The Svengali is one of the shadow sides of the futurist. From my earlier post:

“According to Wiktionary a Svengali is “one who manipulates or controls another as by some mesmeric or sinister influence; especially a coach, mentor or industry mogul”. Originally a character in George du Maurier’s 1895 novel Trilby, it is now used widely for creepy behind-the-scenes manipulators in the music industry, politics and elsewhere.

The Svengali futurist loves to float above and observe systems, analyse, interpret and anticipate for others. This part of us often gets bored with details, funding and practicalities, and rather step back to the lurking position behind the scene.”

 

6. The Entrepreneur

 

There are two aspects of entrepreneurship that especially intrigue me. One is Schumpeter’s ‘creative destruction’, and the other the notion that entrepreneurs often build structures before they have access to the resources needed to build these. This slightly delusional trait is sometimes described as entrepreneurial risk-taking.

Futurists, like psychologists, are entrepreneurs of the mind. The creative destruction occurs when the futurist works to destroy old ways of thinking in order to create new. And the structures, to which the Entrepreneur Futurist has no access at first, are formed within the clients’ individual or collective mind. A good scenario crafted by  can be a dangerously creative destroyer of old mindsets.

 

7. The Interpreter

 

I explored Futurist as Interpreter here. A quote:

“An interpreter helps people who don’t speak the same language make sense of each other. And in the same way as language is a construct to make sense of the world, a worldview is another construct for sense-making. One role of the futurist is to interpret between worldviews, to help people make sense of other people.

 

8. The Explorer

 

Last year I worked with a large coworking space in Melbourne to crowdsource the future of that community. We used Shackleton’s 1914 expedition to the South Pole as a metaphor for the journey – an exploration to a distant region, with lots of dangers. But with a great team of explorers which feared nothing, and together reached places, which we don’t often reach in our individual explorations.

The futurist always explores the future. And in this metaphor the future is the destination. But a destination that we create ourselves in the sense as John Schaar describes it: “The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths are not to be found, but made. And the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.”

The Explorer Futurist explores and creates the future.

9. The Wanderer

 

This nomadic type of futurist wanders the world of knowledge without knowing where to go. He’s similar to the trickster and explorer archetypes, but without a destination. He is constantly led astray by new fascinating ideas, technologies or articles, and is looking for a home. But he will never find it. This archetype is forever roaming the field of the future.

Historically, this archetype was an integral part of societies, but increasingly the vagrants, flâneurs, nomads and vagabonds disappear from our physical world. Now they only thrive online in their digital wanderings.

To others, the Wanderer Futurist can seem to be lost. But they are not, since they don’t walk to reach a destination. They wander because they love to wander.

***

Phew… That’s it. No more metaphors for now!

 


 

References

All images from Wikimedia Commons

Hines, A 2005, ‘Ten Questions Every Organisational Futurist Should Be Able to Answer’, in Slaughter, RA (ed), The knowledge base of futures studies, 5 vols, CD-ROM, Professional edn, Foresight International, Brisbane.

***

This post was originally written for the Association of Professional Futurists.