Thinking About the Future: Guidelines for Strategic Foresight (2nd edition), by Andy Hines and Peter Bishop

Reviewed by Tom Schumacher, Envision board member

Without exception, our Strategic Foresight workshop graduates find themselves thinking more about the future. The question is how to engage others and communicate the results in a way that moves toward a preferred future. The answer can likely be found in Thinking About the Future, a book by Andy Hines and Peter Bishop, University of Houston Foresight faculty members.

The book is a Swiss Army knife of strategic foresight, providing guidance through six phases of the Strategic Foresight process:

  1. Framing
  2. Scanning
  3. Forecasting
  4. Visioning
  5. Planning
  6. Acting

The book is not an explicit methodology text, but a guidebook on how to apply the various tools and techniques within each step. Whether an executive, educator, consultant or analyst, Thinking About the Future is a well that can be drawn from to tailor a successful Foresight journey.

For example, the first section (Framing) is heavily weighted toward setting expectations and project scope and establishing a balanced team to take on the challenge. To assist in that objective, the authors provide 21 framing guidelines, which can be chosen and applied to best fit the circumstances and needs of the organization. Each guideline throughout the book starts with its rationale, followed by key steps to execute the guideline and the benefits of successful execution. Additional perspective is provided with an example of how the guideline was successfully or unsuccessfully applied in a real-life situation, and each guideline closes with a list of related reading resources.

Thinking About the Future concludes with a seventh chapter that brings the entire process into focus. It proceeds systematically through the six steps, separating them into two groups of three steps each. Framing, scanning and forecasting provide the baseline map, including the domain definition, current state, key stakeholders and plausible futures. The final three steps of visioning, planning and acting are the “What are we going to do about it?” steps that can influence which future eventually occurs. While the first steps are interesting, the value of strategic foresight arises from the translation into decisions and actions to influence or adapt to the uncertainties of the future.

This book has a well-earned place on the bookshelf of any serious foresight practitioner. It’s the go-to guide we use at Envision Greater Green Bay in our workshops, signals teams and consulting engagements to make the most of our strategic foresight efforts. We urge all workshop graduates to add this book to their resource library. Be sure to get the second edition, which has valuable updated examples and references. Enjoy!

Checking in: How’s your Foresight Work Going?

We recently invited another group of Strategic Foresight graduates to get together over coffee, with Garry Golden on hand virtually, for an informal chat about what’s working, what’s difficult, and how folks are feeling about things. The most recent group met at Copper State Brewing Co.

Click here for complete story.

Horizons newsletter by Envision

Click here for the November 2022 Horizons Newsletter by Envision. Board member Heidi Selberg comments on the social safety net and social mobility in the US, Board member and Executive Director of Wello Natalie Bomstad enlightens us on the results of the 2021 Wello Community Health and Well-Being survey, Board President Phil Hauck offers new perspectives on managing health care costs, and our fall 2022 Strategic Foresight cohort is introduced.

Wello Reports on the Status of our Health

Natalie Bomstad, Board Member Envision Greater Green Bay and Executive Director of Wello

The future of Greater Green Bay is directly tied to the people who call it home. Wello’s Community Health and Well-Being survey provides a snapshot of the people in Brown County, Wisconsin and how they experience all the things that impact their health and well-being including their physical health, mental health, social connections and the environments they live, work, learn, pray and play in. This data, in turn, informs local action to ensure policies, practices, and systems equitably support the current and future health and well-being of our residents. 

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New Perspective – More Options

Phil Hauck, Board President Envision Greater Green Bay

We often fail to recognize many of our options. Sometimes simply looking at a subject from a different perspective can shape a better future because more options become evident. Innovations usually don’t come from within the “system,” but from people frustrated with it. Healthcare and health insurance provide a good example. The cost of the “sick care system” has been a problem for decades, always increasing at rates well beyond average. So, development of a sick care system that actually decreases in cost will probably come from an outside perspective.

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The Mantra of Individual Responsibility – holding us back?

Heidi Selberg, Board Member Envision Greater Green Bay

Research on upward mobility shows that other western countries have greater rates of upward mobility than the United States.  This is often attributed to those countries’ policies of offering more plentiful social supports.  Further, it’s often asserted that the culture of personal responsibility and self-reliance in the United States is a significant barrier to providing the kinds of social supports present in other countries. 

A front-page article in the Sunday, October 9, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel outlines this argument through a healthcare lens.  It’s surprising to see this position outlined in a major daily newspaper–one that is the largest and considered to be the most influential newspaper in Wisconsin.  Healthcare reporter Guy Bolton and reporting intern Alexa Jurado discuss the impact of constrained resources on health. They note the difference in public support for high-tech treatments versus the cost of providing safe and stable housing, and the growing view of healthcare leaders that more needs to be done to provide social supports. Read the full article here.

Update from our Chief of Police

Phil Hauck, Envision Greater Green Bay Board President

Green Bay’s new police chief, Chris Davis, reported for duty just one year ago, and he’s already enrolled in our program at Envision to learn the tools, skills and mindset of Strategic Foresight. So we invited him to speak to our Envision board in October. Here are some of the main points of his presentation I thought you’d find interesting.

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Women in the Workplace 2022

Women leaders are switching jobs at the highest rates we’ve ever seen, and ambitious young women are prepared to do the same. To make meaningful and sustainable progress toward gender equality, companies need to go beyond table stakes. That’s according to the latest Women in the Workplace report from McKinsey, in partnership with LeanIn.Org. Click here for the complete report.

We Can Weather the Storm

When Hurricane Ian decimated the west coast of the Florida peninsula in late September 2022, virtually wiping out Ft. Meyers, the community called Babcock Ranch, to its immediate north, came through with hardly a scratch. How could that be? Apparently the community was designed for success – by former Green Bay Packer lineman, Syd Kitson of Kitson and Partners! It was meant to accommodate Florida’s climate and ecosystem, offering some forward-thinking features:

  • indigenous plants and natural waterways for drainage 
  • built 25 to 30 feet above sea level to help mitigate flooding from storm surges  
  • sustainable water and sewage systems 
  • all electric and phone lines buried 

Interviewed on 60 Minutes, Kitson said, “We are the first solar-powered town in America. We have a solar field that’s 150 megawatts.” The solar field “features a massive solar array of 700,000 panels, built by Florida Power and Light. Those panels withstood Ian’s brutal beating.

“There’s a lot of water, but you don’t see a single panel that’s been dislodged. And there was quite a bit of wind that came through here over the last few days,” Kitson reported. “Gusts of over 150, and it did not take a single panel out of here, which is really just remarkable.”

Babcock Ranch community was planned to be the first solar-powered city in the country, expecting to have the world’s largest solar power array when completed. Commercial buildings and homes were designed to be energy efficient and constructed to the standards of the Florida Green Building Coalition. A tech center with an emphasis on research and development for clean energy was a key feature at Babcock Ranch from the outset.

The message is clear: Instead of climate denial, Syd Kitson has capitalized on climate change in his development. Now, through proof of his success, he has the opportunity to maximize his growth on real estate development – a huge win for him and his home owners, whose equity increased nearly overnight due to his foresight in development. This is a prime example of a foresight strategy – out of the box early.

Learn more here: Babcock Branch Real Estate  and “Babcock Ranch: Solar-powered “hurricane-proof” town takes direct hit from Hurricane Ian, never loses electricity