Also called futurologists, these are thinkers who specialise in futurology, the study of the future. They attempt to use science, psychology, social science, history, and many other disciplines to make informed predictions about the potential nature of the future. These predictions tend to concern themselves with what will happen in the future technologically as well as socially.
Futurologists study the events of the past and present, looking for patterns and clues as to what might occur in the future. The theory is that human nature has essentially remained the same for thousands of years. Because of that homogeneity, thinkers can observe patterns from the past to predict the future. Human beings act predictably based on situations, so if one fully understands a situation at present, he or she can predict a subsequent action in the future.
They are not only concerned with human action and interaction, though. Futurologists look at the possibilities for the future of life on earth. Patterns of climate change, population migration, species proliferation, and so on can help someone make an educated estimate about what the future holds.
The term “futurist” is usually reserved for thought leaders in a field, those who engage in multiple scholarly disciplines and schools of thought. These thought leaders advise companies, NGOs, governments, charities, teams, and other organisations how to move forward into the future. They advise on ideas such as emerging markets, social trends, environmental issues, coming global trouble, and so on.
Sometimes called future research or foresight, this is the discipline that concerns itself with a few broad ideas. These broad ideas are typically called the Three Ps and the One W. The “Three Ps” are “possible, probable, and preferable.” This refers to possible futures based on a series of analyses, the most probable futures based on the conditions, and the most preferable future for the concerned parties. Organisations can use these three different vectors of analysis to aid them as they plan for the future; however, they should keep in mind the One W. The One W of futurology is the “wildcard.” Wildcards are events that are low in probability but high in potential impact. An example of a wild card would be a large-scale war in a region of the world that did not appear poised for war.
Because these events can only be ranked as to their level of uncertainty, the future studies field involves managing risks and uncertainty. Organisations consider how much uncertainty they are comfortable with and how much they are willing to risk.
When you are looking to grow your business, optimise your NGO, or give your sports team a competitive advantage, you would do well to look into future studies. The future is an idea that sometimes feels like it’s pulled straight out of a science-fiction movie, but it is simply the place in front. You are headed into the future; in fact, by the time you finish reading this sentence, you will be in what is currently the future. Since you and your organisation are headed into uncertainty, it only makes sense to try to reduce the amount of uncertainty.