Using Strategic Foresight in Disaster Preparedness

I have just started a new series are Prepare with Foresight about what strategic foresight is and how it can be applied to contingency planning and disaster preparedness.

What is the most important tool in your survival kit? Is it the tins of food, the can opener, the gun, the bullets, the gas lamp? Your most important tool for surviving a disaster is the same as for thriving in a safe, modern world: your brain. However, that tool is only as useful as the whetstone with which you sharpen it. The full name of this website is ‘Prepared with Foresight’, but to date, most of the posts have been about preparation and less about foresight. So, let me introduce you to the most important tool in my own mental toolbox, strategic foresight.

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Learn more from your future than you do from your past

Verne Wheelwright is a pioneer in using foresight for personal development. The same methods that corporations and governments have used for the past decade are just as relevant for personal use as they are for shaping macro futures.

Many self help authors want readers to connect to their future selves, but none of them offer any practical tools for doing so. Such authors look too narrowly at the future to guide readers into visualizing multiple, plausible futures, and readers often give up or lose faith when their actual future turns out differently than they expected.

Wheelwright takes a different, less mystical approach with his award winning self-help book, It’s Your Future…Make it a Good One. He also offers some free downloads on his website which I strongly recommend, but the book provides readers with the perspective necessary to understand what these free resources are all about.

Most people view the future as either a hazy, cryptic event or a technological utopia. Neither of these views are true much less practical. The future is unpredictable, especially at a personal level. But the future can be forecasted into multiple scenarios to help organizations and (now thanks to Wheelwright) individuals steer their personal lives in a direction to achieve their goals no matter how the future plays out.

If you run your own business, no mater what size, this is the most important book you could read for your business success. As a business owner, your personal life is the rudder that steers your business, and to achieve success you need to align your personal future with the future of your company. Wheelwright even has a book coming out soon about applying these techniques to small and medium sized businesses.

Methods for learning about the future have been in use by businesses for decades, but the process was simply too complex for most individuals. The Personal Futures Network introduces some new, easily understood approaches that will help you to think and plan like a futurist. You will be able learn about and plan for your personal futures.

Think like a futurist? What does that really mean, think like a futurist? Well, each futurist may have some different thoughts, but generally futurists think about longer term futures, usually 10 or more years ahead. Futurists believe that the future is not predetermined, but that several futures are possible. If several futures are possible, then one of those futures may be better than the others, or a “preferred” future. Very important; futurists believe that individuals or groups can take actions in the present that will help determine the future.

That brief paragraph helps explain why most futurists don’t make predictions about the future, but rather suggest multiple possible futures, often in the form of “scenarios” or stories about the future.

The above quote was taken from Wheelwright’s homepage. The whole website is dedicated to helping readers understand how to look at the future in an effective and practical way. Read the book and begin learning more from your future than from you do from your past.

Common Mistakes When Thinking About the Future

I have written before about how unprofessional it is for journalists and bloggers to say, “it may sound like science fiction but….” This statement is a reflection of the popular disdain for science fiction and of anyone who looks at the future. After the decades of journalists writing about science fiction predicting that which is now mundane, why does this perception of science fiction and indeed the future persist? Clearly many people make mistakes when thinking about the future. Below is Sara Robinson’s list of ten:

ad Futura

A friend and I have decided to try starting a more intensive blogging site. ad Futura is intended to be a foresight magazine for the masses–popular foresight in the same meaning as Popular Mechanics or Popular Science. ad Futura is taken from the latin to mean “to the future.” We actually borrowed the often quoted ad astra which means “to the stars,” but our future does not lie in the stars alone. We have many changes ahead, and society needs to be prepared for change. Please follow us as we attempt a foresight outreach to the hoi polloi. http://adfutura.wordpress.com/

Senses working overtime commentary

Virtual reality is extending beyond the headset as researchers tap into all five senses to find new ways to immerse users in electronic experiences. When these technologies converge, users will have complete immersion in virtual worlds bringing viable solutions for businesses with improved collaboration and development; for health with pain management and physical rehabilitation; for training and education; and for social media and entertainment.

via Senses working overtime from Shaping Tomorrow.

The dream of virtual reality has yet to be fully realized, but we are beginning to see greater progress toward the full immersion of all five senses into the digital world. One of my favorite developments is ScentScape, a digital device marketed as a gaming accessory which generates smells using scent cartridges. I have yet to see any convincing articles saying how many units have been sold or how receptive gamers are to the device, but they have some interesting ideas about consumers might use the device. First, there may be official scents for certain games, but also users could design their own custom scents for user generated maps or whole games which could then be emailed and generated by someone else’s device. Considering the passion some gamers have to developing their own games, maps, and apps, I think is quite plausible some would also want to capture or simply choose the right scent for their development.

Virtual immersion is not quite here, but the steps toward it are being made. The really interesting question is: what applications will these innovations find before they converge on full immersion? Click the link above to read the full article and view the sources which detail the current innovations.