What is Thinking Futures?
Thinking Futures has had a couple of iterations since 2007 as I learned more about where I can add value to strategy development in organisations. I am still learning but one thing is clear - there needs to be a fundamental shift in thinking about the future if we are to be able to make sense of the transition from today's economic, political and social systems to the still emerging future system that we are grappling to understand today.
From a rather conventional consultancy in 2007, Thinking Futures today is a globally recognised collaborative foresight practice that works with people to create futures ready organisations. I focus on both the mindset that underpins thinking about the future and foresight infused processes - both are essential if we and our organisations are to transition to the new world that is emerging.
Thinking Futures is me, Maree Conway. It's my experience, my knowledge and my reputation that I share here. It's me who you work with. Find out more about the story of Thinking Futures here, what I do and why I do it.
Established in 2007, Thinking Futures emerged from the work I did using foresight in universities from 1999 to 2007. Being asked by the Vice-Chancellor at Swinburne University to 'do' foresight in 1999 sent me on a journey that started with me as a foresight novice and led to changing my 28 year career as a university manager to one as a foresight professional.
I now work with people who want to think beyond the status quo, who are open to the future and who are ready to think in multiples and imagine possible futures.
Why I do this work: Three points in time
I first starting using foresight because I was told to use it by my boss in 1999. The more I used it, the more it changed my life. The first point when I realised the power of foresight was when I understood and accepted that we are responsible for future generations. Accepting that requires that we bring the future into our conversations and thinking today. Every decision we make coalesces to create global impact over time, to send something downstream into the future. Future generations matter and we have to be good ancestors today.
The second point was when I realised I'd escaped the confines of my mindset to be more accepting of alternative viewpoints. I realised that reality is constructed by how we individually and collective make sense of it and derive meaning for our work. My interpretation is right for me, but it's not necessarily - and probably rarely is - right for everyone else. And that's the way it should be. We need diversity of views about reality if we are to make our futures better.
The third point was when I understood - really understood - that change starts from within. Our world faces some major challenges today and we can talk about possible solutions all we want. All of them will probably require us to change how we think and live if we are to contribute in positive ways to the transition space in which we now find ourselves as a civilisation. We all need the ability to let go of our deeply held ideas about how the world 'should be' today to ensure collective, positive and sustainable futures can emerge.
There is always more than we see on the surface of our realities so we need to capacity to be curious, to move beyond accepting what we see at face value, to understand that our views of the future are not the only ones, and nor are they necessarily the 'right' ones. Our minds are like icebergs - we draw on the tip of the iceberg to make sense of the world but underneath is this complex mesh of assumptions, beliefs, values, ideas, fears, hopes and biases that together shape how we perceive reality. This mesh space is where the biggest change we have to make needs to happen - changing how we think about the future.
The Thinking Futures logo reflects my commitment to changing the way we think about the future. Developed by Evolution7, the Thinking Futures logo is about challenging perspective and perception.
The dual cube illusion ‘pops’ in and out, symbolising the need to recognise there are often many perspectives to an issue, and that we need to take the time to stop and consider how those perspectives drive our thinking before we make critical strategic decisions.
How I think about my work
Fundamentally, I am the Thinking Futures brand. My mindset shapes that brand so you need to know a little about that before you decide how I can help you with conversations about the future.
I respect people and their beliefs about today and the future, their organisations and their lives. I can't know those beliefs unless you tell me about them which is why an inclusive, collaborative approach underpins how I work with you. I value respect, trust and honesty and seek to demonstrate these in my work every day.
I dislike the walk in, walk out nature of conventional consultancies. As a result, I don't being pre-packaged solutions with me. I work with individuals and small groups to help them surface and develop their foresight agency, the foundation for thinking about the future. This can involve:
thinking about mindsets, assumptions and cognitive bias,
developing skills to identify change that matters for your organisation's future,
learning how to create alternative futures for your organisation to escape today's bounded, linear, business as usual future, and
building pathways to the future to inform decision making and action today.
Our conversations will ensure we build your capacity to deal with your wicked problems, the strategic dilemmas you grapple with every day. I am collaborative, flexible and informal in my approach and work hard to make what I do practical, professional and personalised.
How I do that in practice
I start not with process but with people, with you. I start by respecting your knowledge, expertise and experience, your organisation's past and present.
I provide advice, resources and support for you as you build your capacity to think about the future beyond the status quo, to be ready for the future instead of reacting to it.
The result? A longer term perspective to underpin your decision making and to build pathways to your future.