Futurists Are Different

By Coates, Joseph F. | Research-Technology Management, November-December 2004 | Go to article overview

Futurists Are Different


Coates, Joseph F., Research-Technology Management


Doubts about the usefulness of futurists used to be rampant but are now merely common. Dismissive questions include: Aren't they just like other consultants? What special insights can we gain from them?

Like the vulgar T-shirts of a few years ago, however, futurists really do do it differently--and to your advantage!

Most corporate business planning covers the next three to five years, with the planners concentrating on progress in implementation and impending revisions of the plan. That's a tall order, and doesn't allow much time for the consideration of the 10- to 30-year future.

The big business consultancies specialize in reorganizing the client for greater effectiveness and efficiency over the next five years or so--useful, laudable, but hardly futuristic. Most other business consultants specialize in some relatively small aspect of the business. That specialization can be most useful if the business is stable, but whose business is, these days?

The futurist consultant is not likely to replace any internal staff, but rather will complement their thinking to help assure the survival and thrival in these increasingly complex and fast changing times. "How Futurists Differ," next page, compares futurist and conventional business thinking.

For a more specific taste of longer-term thinking, check these web sites:

* The Arlington Institute, http://www.arlingtoninstitute.org

* Kurzweil's newsletter, http://www.kurzweilai.net

* The Shaping Tomorrow newsletter, http://www.sharingtomorrow.com

* Or the author's, www.josephcoates.com

And for more details on exploring the future, see my latest article in RTM "Coming to Grips with the Future," Sept.-Oct. 2004, pp. 23-32, along with other articles in that issue's special report on "Predicting the Unpredictable. …

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