The role of a futurist is to help people gain perspective and transcend boundaries


Yesterday I was interviewed by fellow futurist Eric Garland for a podcast series which was also featured on the World Future Society website. You can listen to the podcast on those sites or below (note that I have had some problems with the plug-in).

Our discussion ranged across global demographics, shifts in manufacturing, robotics, and far more. What I thought was worth pulling out of the conversation were my comments on the role of futurists and futures thinking.

The first point is that I am completely comfortable with the term futurist, even if some perceive it as lacking credibility. I’ve long been meaning to write about my views on the word ‘futurist’. I’ll be back soon on that point.

I doubt many would disagree that most people and organizations are not well prepared for the future, and do not spend enough time and resources considering what could impact them and how to respond. However you describe the role, there is clearly value in helping people to think usefully about the future. Some have the skills, studies, experience, and communication abilities to do that well.

The most important single aspect of thinking about the future is that the future transcends boundaries. Whatever domain you are considering, be it a company, an industry, or a geographical region, the key issue is how its boundaries will change and what new will come from outside. However limited the scope of your interest, you need to consider almost everything, across society, technology, business, and the evolution of humanity.

When people ask me what is my background that prepared me for being a futurist, my response is ‘varied’. I worked across six distinct careers in several countries before engaging in my current path.

As Eric notes, I am not an Australian futurist, I am a global futurist who happens to live in Australia. As a number of people have commented, notably Global Business Network co-founder Napier Collyns, living in Australia (combined with extensive travel) has proven to be an excellent vantage point to view the world evolving, in particular gaining perspective and insights into the world’s regions and geopolitical shifts.

For a futurist it is uniquely valuable to come from outside the given system, be it in personal background, industry experience, or geographical location. That of course must be seasoned with extensive experience with the tools and methodologies of thinking effectively about the future.

From those foundations, a futurist is well equipped to help people and organizations to gain perspective and transcend boundaries. And from that, to help them make better decisions that will drive future success.

Here is the complete podcast.