I worked in universities for 28 years and left because my foresight switch had been turned on. I wanted to use foresight in my work and I couldn't do that in universities as they existed then.
I launched the University Futures website in 2006 and established Thinking Futures in 2007. My aim was then to work to co-create new ways of thinking in new ways about the future - and to translate that thinking into more meaningful and useful strategy processes for organisations.
Now, with this new version of my site, my aim is to help you ask the right questions about the future and have deep conversations to explore the answers that the multiplicity of emerging futures provide you.
Am I a futurist? No ...
Probably as a result of the reaction from people who should have known better when they heard my new title of Director, Foresight and Planning Unit at Swinburne University, I call myself a foresight practitioner and researcher rather than a futurist. This may seem like semantics, but it's an important point for me. Anyone can call themselves a futurist and many are little more than faux futurists, and I don't particularly want to be associated with 'futurists' who make predictions and provide ready made answers. Many of my colleagues use professional futurist, but for me 'futurist' brings with it connotations of certainty and predictability that are unhelpful if we are to be open to the future (doesn't an image of a crystal ball just pop into your mind when you hear 'futurist'?).
I use the same sort of tools and methods my futurist colleagues use but my aim is not to tell you what I think your future will be (I don't predict), but rather to help you work that our the best action you can take today to be ready for the future. My interpretation of your future doesn't matter to your organisation, only you can identify what matters.
There's a good article about terminology called Futurist, futurologist, foresight practitioner, visionary, foresighteer: what’s in a name? by Vanessa Cartwright on futurist Ross Dawson's website. It's worth a read if you are interested in why we label ourselves as we do.
What I do
My work is all about helping people in organisations re-frame strategic conversations about the future using foresight and integral futures. My aim is to help you build a stronger mindset about the future to ensure you and your organisation can be futures ready so you can achieve the impact you want today and into the future.
I held management positions in universities and TAFE (Technical and Further Education) institutes in Australia for 28 years, starting my career as a Graduate Clerk in a faculty at Griffith University in Brisbane.
I then worked at La Trobe University, Footscray College of TAFE, Chisholm Institute of Technology and Monash University (following a merger), Swinburne University of Technology and finally Victoria University. Read the details in my Resume.
During that career, I managed large faculties and university planning units, and spent a fair bit of time in central governance and student administration units. I designed and led major change processes including organisational restructuring, process and functional reviews, developed and managed university planning and quality frameworks, and worked with staff to develop positive and supportive work cultures.
That career gave me significant experience and expertise in both how organisations work and 'think' and how to develop strategy that is meaningful and futures ready. Based on many years of immersion in strategy processes (some of which I helped to design, review and improve), I have long had a commitment to ensuring participative and inclusive conversations about the future as the starting point for becoming futures ready.
With Thinking Futures, I've been able to translate my understanding of building strategy in the complex, often anarchic and diverse organisations that are universities to other sectors and industries. I focus now on helping people realise the power of their foresight agency in helping them become futures ready. I enjoy working with, and bringing practical outcomes to the work of people who care about their organisation's future in a complex and uncertain world.
Find out more about my work
Some random facts about me
- I grew up in North Queensland and progressively moved south - to Brisbane to go to university and to Melbourne when I got married. We've had two children here and it's home for us.
- We live in an old Victorian terrace house in inner Melbourne. I love this city.
- I drink too much tea, but I don't care. Oh and it's the ordinary black tea, none of these new fangled teas for me.
- I have anxiety as a close friend but I deal with it 99.9% of the time. Ask me about it some time.
- I hate the phone - an intrusive device I believe - and answer it only when I have to. Email is better or even a text message, or a Facebook message, or a Twitter message - you get the idea.
- The previous point should have been a signal that I'm an introvert.
- I love to travel and keep a journal at Maree's Travels, my photos on SmugMug. One big trip a year is my rule and I really like cruising (yes really!). The photo here is a favourite - an interesting bird called the Blue Booby taken in the Galapagos Islands.
- I am doing my PhD on the future of the university as a social institution. Follow my trials and tribulations at Maree's Doctorate. I love doing my PhD - it puts my brain into a different thinking space where the flow comes quickly.
- I am a INTJ and an Enneagram Type 5.
- I love books - fiction (crime fiction - yes really!) and non-fiction (anything that helps me learn how to be a better person in life). I read or listen to books every day. I get stuck in deep dives into what's new though and have to remind myself to come back to reality.
- My two sisters and I are on our own now, and my older sister keeps reminding us of the power of family. A good message.
- I have a small circle of good friends - and that's perfect for me.