Futuring: Anticipating and Exploring Tomorrow

In my February 7th blog, I mentioned that there are eight basic steps to sharpen your futuring skills. As you execute these eight steps, perhaps multitasking along the way, it is important to apply thinking skills. Without the ability to mentally rehearse (i.e., think), it is impossible to envision your future. Although it is impractical to get a 100 percent clear view of the future, it is possible to envision indications of what the future holds. Several years ago, I concluded the following: “What I know often determines what I see. What I see often determines where I will end up.”


In futuring, it is important to convert information into intelligence. Information is readily available and can be so voluminous that people cannot grasp the relationships among the pieces of data to form a conclusion. However, in gathering intelligence about the future, one will explore data, observe emerging or existing patterns, then come to solid conclusions. That will become the intelligence, or knowledge, that one needs to anticipate the future.


Often the future is visible through the analysis of trends. For example, in my hometown on a spring afternoon, several trends may be occurring: drop in barometric pressure, rise in humidity, darkening of the sky during daylight hours, emerging roar from the southwest. Living in Texas, I would quickly assess the trends, note the patterns, and conclude that a tornado or serious storm would be about to happen. Then I would seek shelter. The same principles can be applied to futuring: note the trends, assess the patterns, draw conclusions, then take appropriate actions.

Some strong trends happening now are (1) technology is increasingly the driving force of change; (2) globalization is escalating; (3) the U.S. population is aging; (4) the national debt of the United States is mounting; (5) the green movement is speeding forward; and (6) American diversity is increasing. To anticipate the future, we can assess possible patterns that will arise from the intersection of these trends. Just considering the business category, some probabilities are as follows: Social Security will be strained; increasing jobs will open in the fields of health care, communications technology, biotechnology, green technology, alternative energy, and gerontology; the immediate political climate will shift away from a pro-business emphasis to a pro-social prominence; more offshoring of jobs will take place. Additionally, innovative people will be in demand due to global competition; the U.S. economy will be limiting itself in competitiveness with other countries with a lesser national debt. In order to continue to maintain such a debt, taxes will have to rise. And last but not least in this list, companies will find it more difficult to compete in a more competitive marketplace thus causing more mergers, buyouts, and bankruptcies.

After assessing the likely patterns, you might wish to take action to plan your career and finances to match what lies ahead. You might wish to increase your personal savings. You might always be preparing for your next job while doing the one you presently have. You might also plan for various job interruptions due to lack of corporate marketplace security.

If you work for a nonprofit organization, prepare for a high level of competition for the donor dollar. With general global insecurity becoming the norm and U.S. taxes on the rise, people will be more hesitant to part with their hard-earned money. Additionally, there will be a rise in global nonprofit agencies competing for the donations that were at one time uniquely American.

Of course, you could continue indefinitely by considering other such categories as education, government, the environment, religion, additional areas of the economy, and various social issues. You could envision your retirement needs, sending children to college, potential interruptions to your life due to accident or illness, the impact of economic downturns if you are already retired, and many other probable occurrences. By now, however, I’m sure you are getting the idea of futuring.

When you think in a futuring mode, you lay the groundwork for such action-oriented processes as decision making and problem solving. To sharpen these areas, it is important to refine thinking skills.

More on thinking in the next blog.

© 2009 Carolyn Corbin.

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