Reflections on how we future from the future: Strategic Foresight Presentation CMTC 2015

One year ago I delivered an invited presentation about strategic foresight, here is an update. What has changed for me as a futurist and as a manager, what has changed for the CMTC community one year later? 

Last year I had the honor of being invited to present at the 2015 Christa McAuliffe Technology Conference in New Hampshire for an audience of educators aka heroes. I presented about methods for applying Strategic Foresight (the tools of futures studies).

I believe that we have an obligation to approach our futures strategically to ensure the best outcomes for those we are accountable to.

Here are my slides from the talk


This presentation followed the major methods of conducting Futures Research:

  • Insight: Research conditions of the current coherent era & stakeholder analysis.
  • Hindsight: Research discrete milestones & key characteristics of the past era.
  • Establish expected “Baseline” Future: Projections, trends, the current era extrapolated. This normative future is not the most likely to play out because of complexity. This is where foresight begins. 
  • Futuring Alternative Futures: Scan for indicators of change leading to different outcomes. Multiple plausible futures because each path contains uncertainties.
  • Preferred Future: Visioning the aspirational image of your future among the alternatives.
  • Designing: Prototypes etc to achieve this goal.
  • Adapting: Strategy. 


I would now guide one institution through the process and let their journey and findings tell a story and test/revise the methods. Futures work is not about talking heads. My professional philosophy of foresight is to empower through asking questions and share competencies to build a culture of foresight. In one section included in the slides we crafted a live mind map to frame the major changes and together scan the ecosystem. The entire strategic futures process can and should be that communal. 

I would now add stakeholder and salience mapping to consider the needs and pressures of all partners, boards, students, parents, government bodies, regulations, etc. We include these players as sources of external change as well as researching their own futures as we co-evolve in an interdependent system. 

I now with additional training could add:

  • Systems dynamics to account for the complex interrelationships internal and external to our organizations.
  • Traditional Strategic Planning with additional future-oriented methods.
  • Statistical Forescasting. 
  • Economic Analysis. 
  • Ethical Reasoning. 
  • Probabilistic Planning and Management. 
  • Design Thinking: I balance these systematic methods with Design Thinking as a guide through the process while emphasizing strategy elsewhere.

With these methods we have the analytical, the creative, the people-centered, and the strategic methods for investigating and guiding our organizations’ futures. These are techniques that I have learned in my graduate study within a Master of Science in Foresight through the University of Houston as well as through an Executive MBA program at SFSU. My approach to strategic foresight is built upon my years of experience as a Librarian: accountable to the information, beholden to a value-based mission, expertise in the landscape of data as well as the formulation of questions. Questions are key. Questions to get to and through problems. 

As a future-oriented manager my mission is to help us foresee and prepare for the futures, not tell it. Thank you deeply for having me be involved in the CMTC conference and to the wonderful teachers whom I met. I deeply appreciate your work.

 – Joe Murphy, from Librarian to Futurist Manager

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