Recapping the 2015 Houston Foresight Spring Gathering

Photo from Jim Breaux

Photo from Jim Breaux

The annual Houston Foresight Spring Gathering On April 17 and 18 was the perfect mix of fun, networking and learning — our brains hurt, but in a good way! (See flyer for overview and agenda for the weekend.) We started out Friday evening at Goode’s Taqueria for some food and margaritas and then band of hearty souls braved a torrential downpour and flash flooding to continue the party with some hookah at Byzantio.

The group reconvened Saturday to spend a day with alum John Smart. He spoke to us on “Technology Acceleration” and essentially provided a sneak preview of a summer elective he is teaching for us (also called “Technology Acceleration.” [See slides here])

Graphic from John Smart

A foundational concept of the day is John’s concept of “Evo Devo” -evolutionary development-. Indeed, Social Change students would recognize that we cover each separately — John has blended them together. While evolution presents unique options and choices, development is driven by predictable “intrinsic” trends, such as:

  • Accelerating intelligence, Interdependence, and immunity (resilience) in global socio-technological systems
  • Increased technological autonomy
  • Increased intimacy of human-machine and physical digital interface


Graphic from John Smart

He observed that the future is an interplay of the Evo and Devo — of uncertainty and predictability. Those in the Houston Foresight program would recognize the “predictable/probable” piece as corresponding to the baseline and the uncertainty pieces corresponding to the alternatives.

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The Futures Company is hiring!

It’s always good to know the organizations are looking for futurists! A few of my former colleagues are at The Futures Company now and they are working on building up the foresight practice. The asked me to make sure the Houston foresight community was aware of the positions. There positions can be found by following the link — from internships to advisory services (supporting syndicated research) and consulting team as well. Here’s the link:

Alum Anne Boysen on Generations and Research

Anne Boysen

Anne Boysen

Alum Anne Boysen recently talked to student in the World Futures class on the topic of Generational Foresight: Sifting our Way to Generational Insights (Presentation Generations lecture UH). She notes that this was her sixth presentation on the topic in the last month – a very popular theme these days. Her message to students was, however, to be beware of some suspect work out there on the generations topic, e.g., watch out for the “click-bakes” from Buzzfeed. She focused her talk on “the real social science research stuff.” Many doing generational research take a linear view, but futurist can provide a more nuanced understanding mixing in scanning with social science research.

It is useful to start from the foundation of “what makes people tick”:

  • Genetic differences
  • Spatial differences, e.g., geography
  • Temporal differences

It is important to be aware that there are many influences or effects on individuals:

  • Period effects—everyone is affected similarly
  • Lifecycle effect – going to school, having a family, having kids
  • Cohort effects — Generations are about a cohort effect – it affects each generation differently

She talked about how surveys/focus groups to support generational findings are often not properly done; had a nice half-dozen points on common survey problems, such as confirmation bias (getting results that support the stakeholder’s mission) or biased generational narrative (larger generations typically get more press), or leading questions (“Would you rather save the world or make lots of money?”)

She foresaw that kids would rebel against over-sharing on Facebook, and would look to “hide,” for instance with Snapchat. Actually Snapchat could be an indicator for growing privacy concerns among kids….because it goes away. She feels that kids have very complicated views on privacy depending on the situation and circumstances.

Among the many interesting points she raised:

  • Xer’s were often described by what they were not – how they were not the boomers, rather than who they were. They didn’t really define themselves.
  • Over-sharenting” is when parents share everything about their children on social media.
  • A move to “resilience parenting” that provides kids more opportunities to learn on their own, as a reaction to being overly protective.
  • The greater use of images, leading to the “emoji sentence.”

It was a terrific learning experience for the students that also strengthen our foresight community. Our thanks to Anne for sharing with us.

Andy Hines

Faculty Jim Breaux the New Chair of APF Student Recognition Program


Faculty Jim Breaux the New Chair of APF Student Recognition Program

As many of you know the APF runs a very successful Student Recognition Program to recognize the work of students from PhD, undergraduate and graduate programs around the world.

This program was originally started by Houston Foresight alum Verne Wheelwright several years ago.  For the last three years Elizabeth Rudd has been Chairperson of the program, assisted by alum Jim Mathews as co-chair who coordinated the judging for the program annually.

During that time the program expanded to:

  • Adding undergraduate entries
  • Creating a new category to accommodate new media formats) (videos. I-book entries and design portfolios).

Assisting Jim as chair will be Charles Brass, who will coordinate the judging.  The transition is underway with this year’s judging currently in progress.

Foresight Students Ideate with ExxonMobil and Imaginatik

As part of our continuing efforts to provide as much real-world experience as possible for Foresight students, students in World Futures class were visited by a team from ExxonMobil being guided through a futures-oriented ideation session by the innovation services firm Imaginatik.

Imaginatik proposed the session to help the team from ExxonMobil open up their minds to future innovation opportunities by talking to Foresight students about the future.

Students came to class with a provocative (newspaper) headline of the world in 2040 and described how it was different from today.

2040 Headlines

· The New, New Deal: Ten Is the New Forty (work week)· Tobacco Free World by 2040

· Wearables

· Nano for Cancer Cure

· The People are the Cities (people as nodes in smart city networks)

· Antigravity and Hovering Technology for Transportation

· Manufacturing Comes Alive (biological inputs)

· Floating Cities…(on water as a response to climate change/flooding)

· Orbital Solar Power  · Household Waste Taxation

· Landfills Obsolete

· Translating Consciousness into Physical Objects Individualized Learning (using mentorship networks)

· Robots Help Elderly in Nursing Homes

· Major Changes in World Economic System Challenges Political Order

· Nicaragua Still Struggles with Access to Clean Water

· No Need to Vote – Smart Cities Anticipate Needs


These headlines and their descriptions were used for facilitating deeper conversations around topics of interest for the client.

Imginatik closed the session by asking students what was needed to guide the transition to the futures that the students had envisioned. The students centered on three themes:

  • A sense of optimism (we can build our preferred future)
  • Greater awareness of the future (among the public)
  • Positive image of the future (to guide what we do in the present)

It was good experience for the students and the client seemed to get the kinds of provocative thinking they were looking for. I hope we can do more of these kinds of sessions. Andy Hines

Sara Robinson: “All politics is about the future”

On March 12th, Sara Robinson, Futurist and journalist focused on the American political and cultural landscape, visited World Futures students to talk about those things she’s learned to look at when she looks at politics.

She started the lecture with a revealing truth:

All politics is about the future

She explained that all politics end up at what is our collective preferred future and how best to achieve it. Including the decision making on who’s in and who’s out, or more importantly, who get to decide how to share the budget.

Robinson continued her lecture adding that the greater degrees of coordination and complexity, the greater is the tendency to lead to more goods to be delivered.

After this introduction she presented her six rules of thumb on how to look into a political system and uncover it’s structure and behavior:

  1. The complexity of the system/society: For example, when tribal order begins to breakdown at some point and democracy emerges as the system continues to get more complex. The main reason is that complexity of the system eventually breaks it and a new order needs to emerge. Spiral dynamics is a useful model to understand this approach.
  2. Do people trust their government: The lack of trust in their government would make it harder to legitimized and support its decisions. Is the case of the unification of Europe, where there’s not enough trust between all the participants governments to make political decisions. Also, Robinson has noted that there is a cyclical element to trust.
  3. Do participant share identity and common vision of the future: This one is some how related to trust but between the people and if they feel like they belong to that system/society. One issue here is that the Internet has cut into our shared civic culture, bringing values from other cultures into ours. For example, America has had periods of division but then it reunites again: revolution, civil war, new deal/ww2, and now at this point again with factions with widely divergent viewpoints. A crisis will happen that requires us to come together, and we’ll need to drop everything and come back together, maybe climate change could be the driver.
  4. Social mobility: Democracy requires a broad-based middle class to survive, but we see a hollowing out of the middle
  5. What is the source of wealth: who controls it and how sustainable is it? The need to look at the sustainability of the source of wealth it’s a clue to political stability — for this point she recommends Thomas Homer-Dixon’s The Upside of Down.
  6. Who in society uses force and do they use it fairly with good rules: Because if not, that may suggest potential for revolution or other serious problems. Examples for the US include WikiLeaks and Ferguson recent events. Gun control is still an ongoing debate around this issue.

There was a vigorous Q&A the climaxed an excellent lecture. We are grateful to Sara as an alum giving back to the program – thank you!

Countdown to Technology Acceleration

It’s hard to believe that we’re just a shade under four weeks away from the Spring Gathering, featuring “Technology Acceleration” on Saturday April 18.

So, out-of-towners, time to make your reservations if you haven’t already. For hotel, we’re suggesting the UH Hilton, which provides convenient access to our social meeting spots and is a short walk from the conference in the Cameron Building on the UH campus.

For those who like to read ahead, the conference leader, alum John Smart, recommends Leadership of Tech Change, which includes a technology brief exploring possible, probable, and preferable futures – what “could”, “will” and “should” happen, in ten key technology foresight areas.

The conference will provide us an opportunity to really dive into the technological advances that will be shaping our future and discuss their implications with futurist colleagues – a mix of students, alums, faculty, and prospects (and do feel free to bring a guest).

Of course, we’ll do dinner and margaritas at Goode’s Tacqueria, followed by a visit to a local Hookah place on Friday — and close the weekend with a pool party/BBQ at Andy’s on Saturday night after the conference. See all the details and agenda here: Houston Foresight 2015 Gathering Flyer.

Please RSVP (or ask questions) to Hines

Next Foresight Certificate Course: May 11-15, 2015 in Houston

Our next certificate course will be held at the UH Hilton in Houston, Texas from May 11-15th 2015.


The UH certificate in Foresight is in its seventh year of twice-annual seminars held at the University of Houston in January and May each year. We are also offering the certificate course at the Destree Institute from May 25-29 in Brussels, Belgium, which we have been doing since 2012. The number of professional certificate graduates has reached nearly400 individuals and continues to grow.

The program is a 5-day, project-based, face-to-face workshop. Participants will learn to anticipate disruptive change and work towards the creation of transformational change in order to influence the future of their organizations, companies and communities.

Participants receive a professional certificate and four (4) CEUs (Continuing Education Units) from the University of Houston for attending the seminar. Students can also obtain a separate departmental certificate of achievement if they complete a foresight project after program delivery.

Our certificate seminars are limited to 30 students, which allows for optimal class time, small group work, and networking opportunities.

A detailed agenda, and an curriculum outline for the course can be found here.

Cost: $3000

Early registration is strongly recommended. All previous sessions have sold out weeks before the session.
Click here to register

Hotel Reservations
​Hilton University (conveniently located on the University of Houston Campus, 5 min walk to venue) – 1-832-531-6300
Conference rate code is “FORE” for rate starting at $159  (must be reserved by April 20, 2015)
Hotel Information and Reservations

For information about registration, transportation, accommodations or other questions, please email Alexandra Whittington or contact Dr. Andy Hines,  (832-367-5575 )

Alumi April Koury at Fast Future

We’re very proud of announcing that April Koury, alumnus and former GA of the program, has just started to work at Fast Future. And she’s sharing a little bit about her work and advices for current students with us.

Quote1I’m thrilled to be working with a futurist and speaker as prominent as Rohit. My job currently involves a lot of social media management – I’ll be designing a new website for Fast Future, I’m running/fixing up the company’s Facebook & Google+ pages, I’m pulling together all of Rohit’s interviews & speaking engagements on a YouTube channel, uploading all of the company’s presentations & reports on SlideShare, and best of all, I’m constantly scanning for interesting hits to tweet about (follow us @fastfuture).

As the research assistant, when client jobs come in I’m responsible for a lot of scanning, researching, dreaming up implications, and writing for presentations and publication. Additionally, Rohit and I are co-authoring the introduction to ‘FutureShape – The Best ofQuote2 Futures Thinking’, a collaborative book comprising of 60 futurists that have written short articles on a broad range of futures topics, due for publication in June 2015.

Her advice to current students:

  • Be willing to constantly learn and adapt – I’m not just a futurist. In all of my futures positions, I’ve been an assistant, a researcher, a media maven, I’ve learned basic HTML & java to fix websites, I’ve blogged, I’ve worked on presentations for big clients, I’ve set up meetings, I’ve run AdobeConnect and hated its guts.
  • Be patient – Foresight is a small field, so be patient when trying to find a job. I graduated aprilsummer 2014 and I was hired just last week.
  • Use your professors – Not only are they all incredible mentors who teach you how to be a futurist, they’re also great for jobs because they probably know of futurists looking to hire. Keep up the good work in their classes and they’ll be excellent references. Thanks Andy for helping me land this job!
  • And maybe… Learn a little bit about building up a social media presence – getting my current position & my past awesome internship was partly because I had experience with social media management.

You can get to know more about Fast Future’s work using the links below:

Twitter: @FastFuture

YouTube Channel in the ‘Playlists':




Welcome our new Foresight students

On January 2015, eight new students started at the Foresight Program, we would like to give them a warm welcoming and wish them a lot of success on this new stage of their professional lives.

New students Spring 2015

Brenda Chacon is a native San Antonian,  she attended  the University of the Incarnate Word, a private catholic university.  She received her BBA in History. Her favorite historical era is the Civil War. And she currently works for USAA as a Consumer Loan Rep. She is also a very proud mother of  have 5 kids, all adopted oldest one is 34 youngest one is 18.

George Paap -top left- lives in Austin but works in San Antonio. He graduated from the University of California with a degree in Physics. Now he is a Manager on Decision Science Analytics at USAA. He is looking forward to his studies in Foresight as it looks at much longer horizons than are typical in company strategy and will help me identify disruptive opportunities and threats. He plan to move towards a strategy/innovation role within USAA.

Greg Turner -top center- is the President of TurnerDuran Architects, LP, a Houston-based company he founded in 1984. The firm specializes in projects for institutional and corporate clients, and consistently ranks among the top firms in Texas. He has a Bachelor degree in Architecture and Design, and also a Master of Architecture, both from MIT. Greg is a returning UH alumni, he got an MBA degree from Bauer Business School.

Joe Murphy -top right- is a librarian and library futures consultant in the Bay Area with his small Italian Greyhound. Joe was formerly a Science Librarian at Yale University and a Director of Library Futures with a leading library software company (Innovative). This is Joe’s second masters degree, he earned an MLISc from the University of Hawaii and studied Physics as an Undergrad. Joe grew up in NY and has lived in LA, NY, Hawaii, NV, Connecticut. Joe has presented on future directions for libraries around the globe and the US.

Katie King -center- is a proud USC alumna with a degree in journalism. Nowadays she is a middle school English teacher, who is interested in the future of education. Her current interest in that sphere is the future of learning spaces and schedules. She is a native Houstonian who now lives in Humboldt County, CA. This is her first official semester on the program.

Khaliah Johnson -bottom left- is a first year student in the Foresight program. In December of 2014, she received a Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies from the University of Houston. Her concentrations were beverage mgmt. & mktg., global business, PR & advertising, and global & international studies. She is interested in improving the future of the global alcohol market by creating innovative strategies through product and service implementation. She currently works in beverage marketing doing consumer behavior research, and conducts an occasional wine tasting as a blossoming sommelier.

Maria Romero -bottom center- was born on Valencia, Venezuela and move to Caracas to get her bachelor’s degrees in Sociology at Universidad Central de Venezuela, biggest public university of the country and another in Communications at Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, a top private catholic university. She has worked on several fields from multinational consumer goods company to technology and digital advertising startups,  always being related to marketing, strategy and research positions. Currently she is a full time student and the GA for the program.

Will Williamsom -bottom right- currently works as a manual lathe machinist and millwright which is, in essence, an extremely precise metal worker.  He enjoys everything creative about what he do, but he do not want to make a career of it, as it is extremely dangerous work.  His background is in psychology with neuroscience and behavioral analysis focuses.  He would like to move into a career space which might use behavioral analysis and foresight in concert.  He assign a tremendous amount of value to strategic decision making, and I am excited to make the most of this opportunity to culture an understanding of foresight.