Graphic of the Houston Foresight Scanning Proces

Our design expert on the Houston Foresight team, student Maria Romero, is at it again. After doing a beautiful job with updating the Framework Foresight process and cone, she turned her attention to our scanning process. The history of “our scanning process” merits a few comments. For years we have been teaching scanning with a minimal structure or process, noting the “arti-ness” of it (more art than science). It was always a bit unsatisfactory to get to that point, so a few years ago, I started looking for ways to bring more process and structure to our scanning. As always, we did the beta with students., and tinkered and adjusted, and maybe a year or so ago, I feel like we came up with a pretty solid process. Scanning Process

The quick-and-dirty explanation. We organized the scanning process into three steps: finding, collecting, and analyzing.

  • Finding involves the tools, sources, and terms for identifying the signals of change, i.e.,  scanning hits.
  • Collecting is about how to capture the hits. The old-fashioned spreadsheet is still an option, but we have been using cloud-based libraries. Our favorite is Diigo. They allow a team of remote folks (which is pretty much how every team works these days) to tag hits to a common library. Super-convenient!
  • Analyzing can be done at three levels (1) a simple triage (2) more detailed evaluation using two or three criteria, such as novelty, impact, credibility and (3) a much more involved multi-criteria and weighted index (for the true evaluation fanatics)

The graphic shows a couple of outputs — the “strong” signals of change feed the baseline forecast, and the “weak signals” provide ideas and inspiration for the alternative futures.

A tip of our collective hat to Maria for such a wonderful representation. Andy Hines

Exploring the Future…with MISC

The bonds are strengthening between foresight and design. We recently received our first physical shipment of beautiful new magazines as part of the Houston Foresight Program’s collaboration with MISCMISC is published by Idea Couture…. “where design meets business, inGame-Changer-Coversight meets foresight, and empathy meets economics.” One of our alums, Emily Empel, the co-head of futures, joined the firm a few years ago after spending time with Disney, and raves about the combined power of foresight and design (and she instigated the program’s collaboration with the magazine). We are listed as a co-publisher along with KAOSPILOT (a “hybrid business and design school for entrepreneurship, creativity, and innovation), CEDIM (takes a design, innovation and business approach to education), and OCAD (Strategic Foresight and Innovation). What an amazing set of collaborators!

Our first contribution is coming out in the Spring “gamechanger” issue: “Exploring the future of Anything and Everything.” It’s a two-pager that introduces readers to our program and our core approach of Framework Foresight, and highlights four recent student framework projects. The layout is quite elegant. I’d say more but I can’t give away the story before the issue is out!

I recently used the image of my tv hero Agent Dale Cooper of Twin Peaks to note synchronicity, or when multiple signals from different places are telling you something. I just got back from hearing a dissertation on the role of scenarios in foresight and design from newly minted Dr. Danila Zindato who visited with us last Fall….at a design school in Italy (more on that later) and a few months ago I wrote about future-friendly design in the new PDMA product handbook. And, well, for years many professional futurist colleagues have been exploring design and foresight together. I suppose sometimes the signals get louder! Andy Hines

Recent alum Omar Sahi joins The Futures Company

omar_sahiCongratulations to recent alum Omar Sahi (scroll down to see his photo and bio) on being hired as an analyst at The Futures Company.  He was brought on board after serving as an intern for three months. The Futures Company is growing its foresight practice, and this is a really prime gig!

Omar graduated last year. He was a terrific student, and served as my GA (grad assistant) and was also recognized as the 3rd place winner of the APF’s Annual Student Recognition Program for his forecast on “The Future of News Media.” He also presented his work at our “Best of Houston” World Future Society session last year.

It is great to see Omar continuing his work in foresight with a well-respected foresight consultancy. Well done, Omar!

Congrats to Spring 2016 Grads

spring 2016 gradsCongratulations to our Spring 2016 graduates: Omeke Aliko, Jason Crabtree, and Jeffrey McKown. It is a happy and sad moment for me to see a student closing one chapter and opening the next.

Omeke, a former football player at Rice (yes, all kind of backgrounds!), brought great enthusiasm to the program. He balanced a challenging “day job” as a teacher with classes. He assisted me in work for the APF that supported the development of a foresight competency model and a foresight ecosystem map. Jason was very active throughout his time in the program, always eager to volunteer for extra-curricular activities. As a brand new student, he joined me for an afternoon workshop and ably facilitated a breakout group (I knew then he was going to be just fine). He did our first internship with UNICEF, getting us off on the right foot with them. He was part of our team that helped out with the HISD Urban Debate League. And to cap it off, he earned a six-month internship with Disney! Jeffrey came to us as an already established HR professional with the goal of enhancing his thinking and tool kit. Like Omeke, he was able to balance the program with his demanding day job, and move the program rather quickly. I appreciated how often he was able to bring his work experience to the classroom and see linkages to what we were teaching to what he was doing.

We hope – no, make that expect! — that each will stay involved with the foresight community as they take their next steps! Andy Hines

The Future of  Energy with Alum Garry Golden

Alum Garry Golden recently published his first TechCrunch article looking at micro fuel cells and scenario of refueling portable devices. It includes what he dubs a playful scenario timeline looking at ways the idea of ‘refueling’ (not recharging) might unfold in US at least: Garry golden

Leaping from buzz from Burning Man, Apple shifting supply chain focus, China + Intel joining hands in solid state energy conversion devices, Time magazine ‘Cordless Christmas’, and then Amazon-Walmart getting into retail fuel business. 

He observes that the idea of retail-shelf based portable fuels and refueling devices is “something I’ve been banging the drum on for more than a decade and makes the case for a rational, logical evolution of manufacturing, product design benefits, natural market drivers and social good as making a stronger case for putting clean fuels on retail shelves and cutting the cord.  Fuel conversion beats stored charges is my MO [mode of operation].”

For folks interested in future of energy issues — a few other hings to share.

Keep up the good work, Garry!                                                                                                                                                                                           –Andy Hines

Summer Internships for Foresight Students

Crabtree_JasonJason Crabtree will become resident futurist for the Workforce Planning, Analytics & Insights department at Disney Parks & Resorts in Orlando this summer as part of their paid professional internship program. While there he will be focusing on the challenges and risks associated with the future of employment in order to better support business decisions specific to workforce issues and talent management strategies. In addition to this exciting professional opportunity, he looks forward to making the most of his time in Florida. With Cape Canaveral, the Florida Keys, and the Everglades all close by and the Bahamas and Cuba only a boat ride away, he should have plenty to keep him busy!

lummisBen Lummis spent the Spring semester as an intern for the Policy Planning Unit in the Data and Research division at UNICEF, and it was just extended through his graduation from the foresight program this August. His focus is to further develop the organization’s foresight knowledge base with methodologies for youth and suggestions for application to particular age groups and regions around the world. UNICEF truly has a global impact” Lummis says. “Their passion for youth issues exemplified by extensive reporting and encompassing groundwork is a daily inspiration.”

johann speakingJohann Schutte will be interning at UCB, a multinational bio-pharmaceutical company with headquarters in Brussels, Belgium. He will work with the Atlanta operation, which has recently established an internal foresight capability. He will assist with environmental scanning on a wide range of topics, as well as working on a few specific topics. In addition to research and analysis, he will also do some workshop design and facilitation

Spring Gathering 2016 – What Happened

Our annual Spring Gathering is always a great time for students, faculty, alumni and friends to get together and network, socialize and learn from one another. This past weekend was a grand experience!


KemahOn Friday night we had dinner at the Cadillac Bar & Grill on the Kemah boardwalk and sat on the deck while old and new reunited around Mexican food and margaritas. Afterwards some brave souls, led by Admiral Andy, took on the “Boardwalk Bullet” – a wooden and quite rickety rollercoaster providing an awesome, yet fleeting, view on the surrounding area.

For the whole of Saturday we were in for a special treat as Mike and Quyen Courtney accommodated us in a wonderful house on the Marina in Kemah. Not only the venue, but also the food matched the awesome content of the day!


1. KnowledgeWorks: Meet Blockchain and its implications for education

We had a day packed with futures content starting out with Alumni Katie King, Jason Swanson and Mike Courtney (Aperio Insights) sharing with us the potential of Blockchain technology for education. They presented a forecast entitled “Learning on the Block: Can Smart Transactional Models Power Personalized Learning?” which is a KnowledgeWorks  and Aperio Insights collaboration.

This team also had the task of introducing us to Blockchain which uses a fascinating encryption technology system to protect data. This technology has potential applications in many fields beyond the well-known Bitcoin system. Basically, the Blockchain is a ledger which utilizes a distributed verification method, rests on distributed authority (embedded in the network itself), is totally pseudonymous, and provocatively, provides a trust-less environment. Ironically, because it is trustless, the Blockchain can be trusted! Blockchain makes self-managing institutions possible, facilitating smart contracts which are trustworthy and secure.

After introducing the basic concept of Blockchain, they shared different scenarios based on the uncertainties of hierarchical vs. distributed authority and mainstream vs. non-mainstream adoption of Blockchain, and explored the various implications.

Teacher2. Teachur, the Blockchain and Decentralized Education

Closely connected to the theme from KnowledgeWorks, we had Josh Stanley and Ben Blair of Teachur discuss their experience using the Blockchain to certify the mastery of educational objectives. Teachur hosts a dynamic repository for learning objectives, assessment and pedagogy, and pathways to master anything, drawing from its community to open source all instruction and assessment and enables curated, personalized learning pathways to anyone.

There was a general sense that education in the future might be more decentralized, much more customized and stripped of many redundant layers of educational bureaucracy hampering access to quality education for many. 

3. System Solutions for Poverty in the United States (the Kaufmanns)

MorganWe also had the Kauffman family share a systems approach to tackling the wicked problem of poverty. The inspiration came from their earlier work on “Project Interlock.” Morgan and his dad, Draper, have been working on this for a couple of years and if all goes well, will see their book on this topic published sometime next year! (Some of you might recognize Draper as the author of “Systems One: An Introduction to Systems Thinking” and Kaufmann’s Rules often used in Systems Theory classes). Needless to say, as Systems Thinkers, the Kaufmanns made fascinating and even some provocative suggestions not only related to tax, but impacting most of the STEEP categories. Some of the solutions were actually quite simple compared to present practices, and we hope together with Draper and Morgan, that their work will at the very least get a promising conversation going!

4. An online visit from Oxford (Wendy Schultz)

DiscussionCloser to the end, we had Wendy Schultz join us online, presenting the research she is doing on Blockchain Futures. She uses the Sensemaker software to collect “a broad range of stories about possible uses of Blockchain and how those uses could transform society, the economy, governance, and other aspect of life.”

She gave us the opportunity to participate, discussing our stories in groups before submitting them. If interested, you are more than welcome and encouraged to participate here.


Our Presenters

Spring Gathering 2016 was a fascinating event and a great way to meet those sharing our passion for the future. Thank you, once again, to everyone who contributed! We hope to see y’all again next year in Houston, Texas.

Posted in Event Foresight Houston Futures News Talks by johann schutte. 1 Comment

Meet Richard “Kaipo” Lum: Our New Advanced Strategies Instructor

Richard PhotoWe just started our Spring 2016 Advanced Strategies Class with a new instructor!

Dr Richard “Kaipo” Lum will be leading this Class in which students get to connect what they learn about strategic planning with real clients outside the classroom hands-on.

Richard is an academically trained futurist and holds a PhD in Political Science from the University of Hawai‘i’s Alternative Futures Program. Over the years he has accumulated broad experience in both foresight work and strategic planning. His previous consulting work includes government clients such as the European Commission, the UK government and the US Department of Defence as well as corporate clients such as Grant Thornton, IBM and PepsiCo. Not only has he published various research articles in journals such as Futures and Journal of Future Studies, but also recently released his new book: “Steps to the Future: A Quick and Clean Guide to Creating Foresight.”  He is also the founder and CEO of Vison Foresight Strategy LLC and is actively involved in strategy planning and futures thinking.

Lum Book

He is currently situated in Hawaii and also conducts the course live from there (a fact that makes us only a little jealous)! This reinforces the truly global nature of the Houston Foresight Program as we have had students joining us in class online and in real-time from many countries around the globe such as Brazil, Germany and South Africa. We are elated to be able to span the globe with our program offering and bring both students and teachers together over vast distances as we think about the future.

Richard, we extend a warm Houston welcome! We are excited to have you teach us…

Book Release by Graduate Student Craig Perry

CraigBookWe are proud to announce the book release of one of our very own students: “Never Leave an Airman Behind: How the Air Force Faltered and Failed in the Wake of the Lackland Sex Scandal” written by Craig Perry.

Craig did his undergraduate studies in History at Brown University, and while on active duty in the Air Force, completed a graduate degree in European Studies at St. Petersburg State University in Russia as an Olmsted Scholar. He is currently doing his Masters in Foresight here in Houston focusing on the future of international relations and the military.

The book not only deals with the future of the Air Force, but includes Craig’s personal accounts and interpretation of them – and that is what makes it so interesting! Craig was one of half a dozen Air Force officers who were specially chosen to take command of Air Force Basic Military Training squadrons in 2013 after several instructors were implicated in crimes of a sexual nature the previous year.  It soon became clear to the team that many of the reforms implemented in the wake of the scandal were producing unintended consequences. However, the chain of command wasn’t interested in constructive feedback. Craig shares the story of his last years in uniform, and the implications of what the media called his “curious case” for the future of the Air Force.

In ouCraigr Foresight course Craig previously focused his attention on the Future of NATO and more recently on the European Union. He has also published a paper entitled “The New Space Race: Competition for Lunar Resources.

As he now adds foresight to his background in history, politics, international relations and European Studies, Craig is an example of someone who integrated foresight with other disciplines and by so doing demonstrates the value of futures thinking.

Craig will soon head off to a new job in the UK and continue to pursue his Foresight studies online. We wish him all the best both on the reception of his book and his work in the future.

Posted in Event Futurists in Media Student Work by johann schutte. No Comments

Futurists in Media Q1 2016 Update

Futurist in the media logoJust tallied up the Q1 stats for FIM. Our Google Alert search identified 184 articles focused on “futurists.” Our analysis suggested 77 of these were “fresh” mentions (22 were repeated on multiple days) of relevance to foresight and professional futurists, that is, not about the art movement or band. Our media savvy friend Jack Uldrich came in at 13 mentions this quarter. Ray Kurzweil of Google came close to Uldrich this quarter as his public speeches continue to draw the attention of media outlets. So, 77 mentions in 90 days is less than one fresh mention a day — the public is not being overwhelmed by futurists!

Sheryl Connelly of Ford is almost mentioned more frequently than most. It’s interesting that both Kurzweil and Connelly are organizational futurists (though Kurzweil certainly made his name well before Google). Another name that pops up is Brian David Johnson, who just left Intel (and recently was interviewed by one of our students). It may be that their organizational affiliations are lending them credibility, perhaps when compared to a consulting futurist part of a firm with less name recognition?

As usual, only a few mentions of futurists who are members of APF. After three semesters of scanning, it is abundantly clear that APF’s professional futurists are not registering prominently in the media. Granted the search strategy is catching high-profile public events and conferences, and certainly won’t capture a proprietary consulting project. But nor is it catching the many, many public speaking and events that APF-affiliated futurists are giving.

On a personal note, there was one mention of the Houston Foresight Program’s week-long certificate program. And that suggests we could do a better job of promoting our events! Andy Hines