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.
Continue reading ""Over The Horizon" Post-Mortems" »
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.
Continue reading "The Things They Never Teach You At School…" »
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.
Continue reading "Futuristic NASA Think Tank To Be Closed Down" »
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.
Continue reading "Meaning Making, Politics and Strategy" »
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.
Continue reading "Asimov's Seldon Crisis As A Model For Life Transitions" »
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.
Continue reading "Ben Eltham on Micro-Entrepreneurs, Risk & Strategy" »