In a FuturePod podcast recently, I was asked about how my career in the foresight field has emerged, stalled and shifted over time. That set me thinking about what I’ve been doing and what I’ve learned over these past 20 years. Here are some things that I have come to believe, and that I will take with me as my work continues to evolve.
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I'm in Cairns in North Queensland for the annual Tertiary Education Management Conference - about 800 managers are here, so it will be good to catch up with old friends. I haven't worked in the sector for 7 years now, but I try and stay in touch by coming to the conference and since my PhD is on the future of university management, I figured it would be useful to immerse myself in a contained environment with the people who manage! That said, after looking at the program properly, I began to reflect on why there were so few sessions I wanted to attend. The sessions themselves are fine, and there are some good keynote speakers, although I still wonder why the conference has moved away from strong tertiary education speakers to the more motivational, speaker circuit type - the latter group, in my experience, tend to speak well but present the same sort of talk. Work hard, work with others, follow your dream...
Apart from that gripe, I'm not casting aspersions on the conference - it's a good one, and an annual meeting point for managers in the sector. As the saying goes, it's not the conference, it's me. I think my mind has moved.
That's probably not surprising since my work is now foresight and not university management, but it's always a little sad when you realise you have mentally and emotionally left some of your past behind, particularly when you've spent almost 30 years of your life in that past. It's often said that once you 'get' foresight, there's not turning back and that's true of any shift in how you think.
I live in the future space now, not the today space and this only really dawned on me when I read the program. There was a lot about change and the occasional mention of the future, but the sessions were all about today. And after attending a few now, this initial observation was proven correct for me. I am sitting in the conference as an outsider, with no real connection to the people in the room except for my past. And that's never enough. I'm not part of their future now.
That's okay, I chose to leave the sector and head in a different direction. Until now, I could be at the conference and find meaning, but the path that has always brought me here has reached a divergence point, a fork in the road.
I will be following the foresight path and farewell the conference path. My PhD will mean there is still a connection over the next few years at least, as managers are one of my target groups for participants. But I'll be a researcher, not a participant. My mind has moved to a different space now.