The role of the futurist as a leader

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When I was in Amsterdam recently for client engagements I also gave a keynote to the Dutch Future Society about the role of the futurist.

It was a fascinating evening. Given the audience of futurists and those well engaged with the future, my presentation went further out than usual, and the ensuing conversation went beyond that, to issues including the nature of humanity, the ethics of the future, and more.

After the event I was interviewed by Stephan Verveen. The interview, embedded below, covers quite a few of the points raised during the evening.

Freija van Duijne, President of the Dutch Future Society, also wrote a nice post The role of a futurist, keynote by Ross Dawson which summarized my presentation. She noted:

The role of a futurist as a leader

A futurist’s aim is to encourage leadership on all levels. That is, helping people to think in a rich and structured way about tomorrow in order to act to day. Futurists are involved in sense making, giving people the ability to deal with information. Everyone is overwhelmed by the infinity of signals. Futurists help people to open their minds and think of things that they did not think before.

A vital point here is that the role of the futurist is not to provide outsourced thinking about the future.

The role of the futurist is to help everyone to become their own futurist, to think more broadly, to be open to different ideas, to stimulate and provoke into taking useful action.

We are at a critical juncture in human history, when actions we take – or do not take – today will shape our collective future to an extraordinary degree. The future is not predetermined. By understanding the nature of change we can act to create a better future.

Futurists, in grappling with these issues more than most, have a responsibility to help others to think forward and understand the potential impact of their actions.

In fact, in that all of us need to be our own futurists, we all have a responsibility not just to think about the future and how we will act. We also need to help others to think forward and in turn to act better today.

  • Rochelle Spencer

    I like this concept, Ross. What can a layperson do to think and act more like a futurist? What steps should we take? How can we create a better future?

  • Thanks Rochelle, this is a topic I am focusing on a lot at the moment, I think there’s a book’s worth of material in there, however I still need to turn the ideas into a book 🙂

  • All major changes have been done by futurists.