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:
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!