Foresight In Organisations Archives

February 8, 2007

"Over The Horizon" Post-Mortems

Fred Kaplan's regular column "War Stories" for Slate Magazine became a weekly read for me during postgraduate studies at Monash University's School of Political & Social Inquiry. From his doctoral dissertation The Wizards of Armageddon (1983) to his analysis of the Bush Administration's defence policies Kaplan understood the human dimension of policymakers and the cycles of strategic thinking in US governments and think-tanks.

Kaplan's dissection of the Bush Administration's defence budget in February 2007 ends with the following observation:

This is all a game of funny money to begin with. We could hardly afford any of these things, vital or not, if the Chinese stopped underwriting our debt. It's a bit much, under the circumstances, to spend tens of billions of dollars on threats that some analysts foresee 20 years beyond the horizon and that are, at most, hypothetical even then.

Kaplan's critique raises an important problem for the new generation of Strategic Foresight practitoners.

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February 9, 2007

The Things They Never Teach You At School…

I've always been rude to my undergraduate lecturers by saying I got an education in spite of being at university. But that's not quite true with my postgraduate studies. There are, however, a whole host of things they never mentioned that are critical to the success of any foresight practitioner.

Of all the fundamental skills for a futurist, one that hasn't gotten the attention it deserves IMO (well, at least in my case;) is the art of facilitation. So often foresight processes involve in-depth interviews, small group processes and large group facilitation. Now, facilitation doesn't always mean b*oody butches paper and f**ing post-it notes. Although they are really handy. Facilitation can also mean what Dr Richard Hames calls knowledge design (to get a taste, see his blog here). Here, the emphasis is on the knowledge generation process of both individuals and groups.

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February 11, 2007

Swinburne Masters of Strategic Foresight alumnus David Geddes has co-spearheaded a new Web 2.0 initiative: the digital media marketplace

Geddes, and business partners Andrew Kelley and Simone Govic, have a digital business model that adopts lessons from eBay and differentiates from other user-generated content platforms such as MySpace and YouTube: The Age notes "Uploaders are able to set their own prices, and receive 90 per cent of all revenue generated "after cost"." One sign of's success beyond the YouTube model is the distribution deal it signed with Adelaide production company Kojo to distribute its films. Inside Magazine and ArtsHub have also favourably covered the digital media marketplace.

Prior to launching, Geddes and Kelley worked at Telstra Research Laboratories, and Geddes has served on the board of Open Channel, the digital media production cooperative. This transition illustrates the broader shift from innovation in "Big Science" institutions to entrepreneurial firms with small teams. The digital media marketplace platform was built using Agile Alliance principles.

March 24, 2007

Futuristic NASA Think Tank To Be Closed Down

New Scientist reports here that NASA is very likely to shutdown its Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) in order to save US$4 million in budget cuts. The budget cuts are due to US Congress legislation to tighten NASA's overall budget, cost overruns on the space shuttle's replacement, and NASA chief Mike Griffin's prioritisation of space exploration over science research programs. This isn't a new trend: I wrote about it over 9 years ago for the late 21C Magazine on NASA's institutional problems that contributed to the Challenger fateful "launch decision" in 1986.

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April 24, 2007

Meaning Making, Politics and Strategy

I had the rare fortune of interviewing for a job the other week (as I have almost always been asked to do things, or bid or put proposals). Unfortunately there was only one moment when I managed to jolt the interviews – a great way to know you have their attention. Asked about the importance of strategy documents, I said I consider them basically useless.

Their value, I proposed, rests only in capturing and reminding people of the meaning making that has already occurred amongst those generating the strategy. The important part is the meaning making process, as like it or not, a) strategy needs to be understood and shared by those implementing it for it to actually be followed and b) strategy needs to be a living, dynamic management of overall direction, that responds to an ever more complex operating environment, something a very dead document can never do. Blindly following a document that you might not understand or that you don't agree fits the changing context for the organisation is the opposite of strategic thinking and action: it invites only petty political plays and overall, strategic blindness on behalf of the organisation.

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May 6, 2007

Asimov's Seldon Crisis As A Model For Life Transitions

In his science fiction trilogy Foundation (1951-53) author Isaac Asimov uses a deus ex machina called a Seldon Crisis to explore how uncertainty and exogenous shocks can affect long-range planning. Asimov’s series dealt with this at the “macrohistorical” level of galactic empires, civilisations and the attempts by a Toynbee-like “creative minority” to prevent or shorten a new Dark Ages.

Yet the Seldon Crisis can also be applied to the lifecycles of organisations and personal lives.

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June 14, 2007

Swinburne 2015

Swinburne University's Vice-Chancellor Ian Young has released a discussion paper, Swinburne 2015:

I encourage people to read this paper and discuss the proposals within it with their local manager, Dean or Head of School. I also welcome email comments from staff. Over the next few months, I intend to discuss these proposals widely within the University and obtain input from staff and students, which will enable us to refine and develop the proposals within this paper.

This should be an exciting time for the University as we define our
future and consider what we wish to achieve.

I look forward to your input.

How does Swinburne 2015 rate as a discussion paper on the probable future for a higher education institution? What "alternative futures" could Swinburne explore?

Quality Management Resources

For the past 2 months I've been in a quality management role at Australia's Swinburne University. Here I've started to gather some online resources on quality and its relationship to process, project and risk management; benchmarking; internal audits; and other methodologies.

July 2, 2007

From Blog to Broadsheet

Two of our writers here at Futuristics have had opinion pieces published recently in Victoria's Age newspaper. Josh Floyd today draws an adroit and principle based line to argue for a social morality foundation to developing Australia's carbon trading system, while Stephen McGrail (following up January, February and April opinion pieces) leveraged comments made by Dalai Lama in his recent visit to explore the implications of 'enlightened self-interest' for business strategies appropriate to the 21st Century.

Both articles are worth noting for the progressive yet pragmatic approach they take to address the complexity of responding to humanity's sustainability challenge. From my vantage point, albeit a biased one for several reasons, it's great to see the fruits of Swinburne's strategic foresight program beginning to be more publicly displayed. Whether it’s the course or the people it attracts, or a combination of both, there's hope in them there hills;)

September 30, 2007

Ben Eltham on Micro-Entrepreneurs, Risk & Strategy

I recently caught up with Ben Eltham, founder of the Straight Out Of Brisbane (SOOB) festival, and one of the cultural creatives I met at This Is Not Art (TINA) in Newcastle. Eltham is in Melbourne to work on the Melbourne Fringe Festival and with the new independent think-tank the Center for Policy Development. You might have read Eltham's articles in Artshub, Crikey and New Mathilda.

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This page contains an archive of all entries posted to Futuristics in the Foresight In Organisations category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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