For years the services of futurists were “nice to have.” They had refreshing insights, but a real need for them was not felt. In our age of disruptions, this has changed fundamentally.

Classic futurist books such as Future Shock (1970) by Alvin Toffler or Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100 (2011) by Michio Kaku are fascinating reads. For years, such books were mostly read as glorified science fiction novels, not as a realistic description of the near future.

More recently, the role of futurists has changed. The reason: due to rapidly changing markets, it is more important than ever to anticipate disruptions. Businesses who want to survive need the services of people who know how to predict the future.

3 Disciplines in Which Futurists Are Active

There are 3 disciplines in which futurists play a role today:

  1. Marketing / Sales: This entire field is on the eve of a major disruption. One has to take into account the impact of augmented reality, virtual reality, the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, machine learning, microchipping humans and animals, and new solutions that only a futurist can come up with.
  2. Scenario Planning / Strategy: By thinking innovatively, futurists help identify opportunities and risks.
  3. Human Resources: What skills will your employees need in 5 years? And in 10 years? A futurist can sketch a realistic scenario and link certain skills to it.

Learn to Think Like a Futurist

To anticipate market disruptions, you have to learn to think like a futurist. Futurist Amy Webb advises you to “listen for weak signals at the fringe” of human experience, behavior, and learning, and try to recognize patterns in that data early to spot emerging trends.

If that sounds a little generic, a more practical method she recommends is asking yourself guiding questions. So, take a dive into new technology and ask yourself:

  • Who might be directly impacted if this technology succeeds one way or the other?
  • Who could be incentivized to work against any change? Because they stand to gain something, they stand to lose something.
  • Who might see this technology as just the starting-off point for something else?

A third possible way to spot megatrends is attending our DISRUPTR management game/workshop. This will give you a clear view of how your industry can be disrupted, enables you to fortify your business and save it from possible extinction.

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