Recapping Houston Foresight at WFS 2014

The Houston Foresight Community was once again well-represented at the WFS/AFP annual summer meetings. This time it was Orlando on the perimeter of Disney from July 10-13.

There is too much to include in one post, so we’ll start with the overview and fill in some details in upcoming posts.

APF Pro Development

The APF had its Pro Development Day at a very cool space (as usual) called Purple, Rock, Scissors. The event was a sellout, which is certainly rewarding to see, as the Pro Dev days have become must-do’s for professional futurists. And this one did not disappoint, despite having to compete with the high bar of last year’s “Professionalization” meeting in Chicago. There were three sessions and each was truly outstanding:

  • Research engagement with Mike Courtney: Mike is the founder of Aperio Insights, and a great friend of the Houston Foresight Program. He showed us the ins and outs of compelling research and survey design, with some real useful insights on what they can and cannot do. Practical stuff we all we felt we could use.
  • Digital engagement with Michael Parler: Michael is the VP of Purple, Rock, Scissors, our host for the day. He talked us through cutting edge digital strategies that futurists can use to attract and retain clients. His handout on “connecting” the various social media will all participate in is priceless. I am working on the checklist for our Program right now.
  • Immersive engagement with Trevor Haldenby: Trevor founded The Mission Business and has a background in theater. By this point in the day we’d all felt like we had a great day and got more than our money’s worth, and then “blam” we go over the top with an incredible session in which he described his techniques for creating immersive living scenarios, using actors, participants, live events, etc.

Really, an incredible day! Kudos to the Pro Dev team!

WFS Best of Houston

Our 14th “Best of Houston” session was another smashing success. We enjoy featuring our best student work and it’s always a popular session at the conference. Below are the session titles and links to their slides. In an upcoming post, we’ll provide links to videos of the presentation. For now, we have links to the slides:

APF Annual Reception and Awards Presentation 

The APF announced its 2014 Most Significant Futures Works Awards on Saturday evening. Good news for Houston as that text you all know and love: Teaching about the Future, was this year’s first prize winner (more on this later):

Winners: Category 1 Advance the methodology and practice of foresight and futures studies

Winner: Category 2 Analyze a significant future issue

WFS Poster Session

On Saturday night, we had a power trio of poster presentations featuring a faculty, alum, and student. Those of us at the APF Reception were able to catch the end of the lively session.

  • Alexandra Whittington (faculty) “The Future of Infant Feeding  2025”
  • Jim Lee (alum)  “Investing in Emerging Technologies”
  • Nicole Trapp (Student) “Challenging Assumptions in Reading Education & Language”

WFS Student Presentation: “Age of Stagnation”

On Sunday, three students, Kate Burgess-Macintosh, Laura Schlehuber, and Jason Swanson (well, he is now an alum) presented the results from research they did as part of an internship with Stephen Aguilar-Milan of EUFO (European Futures Observatory). Stephen was unable to make the meeting, so the students were on their own. And they did an amazing job with what was a pretty deep topic. This was very sophisticated analysis, but presented in a way that the audience got it. It led to a very lively Q&A, which is the mark of a great session. The slides for “Age of Stagnation:”

All Houston Foresight Participants

Check out the PDFs below for a list of UH participants and their sessions:

List of participants by name

It was a great weekend. Start saving your pennies and be sure to join us next year from July 24-26 in San Francisco.  Andy Hines


Alum Pam McConathy Schied Published in QRCA Views

practicing foresight2012 Alum Pam McConathy Schied had an article “Practicing Strategic Foresight in an Era of Hyper Change” published in the Summer 2014 Issue of QRCA Views. Where better to turn for insight on this topic than our own Dr Bishop?

Pam and Dr. Bishop provide the QRCA (Qualitative Research Consultants Association) with some evidence for the need for foresight and some tips on how to introduce it in their practice.

In the piece, Bishop observed that: “the future is more than anticipating what the world will do,” says Bishop. “We are players in our own stories; we shape our own future to some extent… the forces thundering toward us are not definitive. We have power, too. If the last few decades have taught us anything, it is that we cannot simply wait for the future to happen before we respond to it.”

Great to see this tag team spreading the word about the future — keep up the good work.  Andy Hines

Student Needs 2025+: Future Skills

A key theme we identified in exploring emerging student needs out to 2025 is that while we might have interesting debates at what skills would be most important, a “constant” would be the need for re-skilling. We won’t some day identify the “correct” or ultimate set of skills — it’s a moving target that evolves with the rest of student life. Re-skilling is a given and getting good at re-skilling is, well, a skill :-). Students will continually build their portfolio of skills, capabilities, and experience over their lifetime.

In a world where re-skilling is continuous, developing foresight about emerging skills makes good practical sense. In our research we came across lists of futures skills and job titles (really developing this is a whole project in itself). We were forwarded a terrific infographic on ten future skills in 2020 ( Not only is the visual really cool, but the content was solid as well (not always the case!).

We can’t help but keep scanning in this space — we’ll keep sharing! Andy Hines

Important Work Skills for 2020

UH Foresight Community at WorldFuture 2014

This year, around 22 current students, faculty, and alumni from the University of Houston’s Foresight community will be speaking at the World Future Society’s annual forum WorldFuture 2014: What If, which is just a few weeks away!

Our speakers’ topics range from economics, leisure, learning, public health, to design and innovation. It’s great to see our community so well represented at this biggest annual gathering of futurists.

Check out the PDFs below for a list of UH participants and their sessions:

List of participants by name

List of participants by time

Andy Hines

Student Needs 2025+ in APF Compass

Those of you who’ve been following our work on Student Needs 2025+ might be interested to know that our work was featured as part of the APF’s latest Special Issue on Education. Kudos to editor Andrew Curry for assembling this great material.

Contents list, in page order:

* Hardin Tibbs, on the changing university learning system: beyond the “industrial” university

* Sara Robinson, on the trends shaping the context of (US) higher education

* Bryan Alexander, who started this particular hare running, on the trends in US higher education

* David Birch, on degrees, badges, and the rise of “social hacking”

* Katie King on the Student Needs 2025 project

* Andrew Curry on using the Long Now’s pace layer as a tool to imagine the future of the university

* Cindy Frewen on visions of the future campus

* Wendy Schultz and Richard Lum on a unique schools’ scenarios project that built scenarios from theories of social change

* Anne Boysen reviews a book on parenting and learning in the digital age.

Here’s our piece, amazingly crafted by Katie King.

Cultivate personal brands. Ask questions that artificial intelligence can understand. Hack your way into effective activism. In the year 2025, students will need to be skillful in these areas, according to an assembly of researchers in the University of Houston Foresight program who, on behalf of the Lumina Foundation, are working to answer a simple question: could changes in student needs alter what higher education will provide by 2025 and beyond?

Student Needs 2025+ is a six-month project in which twenty University of Houston faculty, alumni, and students are using Houston’s Framework Foresight[1] process to produce forecasts of future student needs and identify the implications and issues they suggest for higher education. The teams are exploring how students will be living, learning, working, playing, connecting, and participating in the future.

Andy Hines, coordinator of the Masters in Foresight program and project lead, says most studies about the future of higher education have a limited focus just on learning. He believes that looking at all aspects of student life and using the team’s expertise in foresight and futures tools will uncover connections and trends that higher education doesn’t normally see.

“We know that Lumina has a handle on the future of higher education, especially from the point of view of the institutions,” he says. “But what about the students and their needs? Could they be much different a dozen years from now? That’s the question we’re exploring, and, unlike most studies looking at higher education, we’re 100% focused on the student rather than the institution.”

Lumina is a leading higher education foundation with a goal of raising higher educational attainment levels from 40% today to 60% in 2025. They commissioned the Houston Foresight program to conduct this research because “Strategic foresight is what leaders should spend most of their time doing,” says Kiko Suarez, the foundation’s Vice President of Communications and Innovation.

“Lumina is determined to help the United States reach Goal 2025, and firmly believes in providing thought leadership in the field of post-secondary education attainment through strategic foresight.”

The research teams recently presented at the Foresight program’s Spring Gathering, and shared preliminary findings to about 30 alumni and students.

After seeing the scenarios, Hines was struck by how lines between the six categories will blur in the future. For instance, “Play is a recurring theme in all six domains. It’s changing from a stand-alone, structured activity to being a part of everything.” He says the trends show that “we don’t go play a game, because it’s all a game.”

He also noted the emergence of a strong recurring theme: “Technology is moving from an accessory to being an essential component woven in the fabric of student life,” he says. “It will be so integrated that students will have a hard time imagining life without it.”

Scan hits, analysis, and interviews with the researchers can be found on the Houston Foresight blog (, Twitter feed (@houstonforesight), and at #studentneeds2025.


[1] A. Hines & P. Bishop, “Framework foresight: Exploring futures the Houston way,” Futures, Volume 51, July 2013, Pages 31–49.

Yu wins 1st Prize in APF Student Recognition Program – Undergraduate

Congratulations to UH student Benjamin Yu on winning First Prize in the Association of Professional Futurists “Student Recognition Program” undergraduate category. Benjamin was a student of mine in the “Impact of Modern Technology on Society” class that is more or less an undergraduate version of our World Futures class. He did an outstanding Framework Forecast on “The Future of Digital Storage.  He will receive a prize of a one-year Student Membership in APF.

Our graduate entrants this year were:

  • Kurt Callaway: “Harvesting of Space Resources”
  • Mackenzie Dickson: “The Future of Schools”
  • Ricardo Vera: “Why Coal Consumption Keeps Rising”


We’re already getting to work on next year’s contest! Andy Hines


Saluting our Spring 2014 Graduates: Jim and Jason

Congratulations to our Spring 2014 graduates: Jim Breaux and Jason Swanson. It is always fulfilling to see students graduate, but I think we all feel a tinge of sadness at losing these guys as students. From the teaching/admin side, it’s such a pleasure to have students get really involved, going beyond just the classroom, to showing up at extra-curricular activities, whether it’s our Spring Gathering, the WFS or APF events. Jim and Jason were always there and with a great attitude and energy. The first time I met Jim, for instance, was at McAlister’s Deli, to grab a bite before a presentation by Ray Kurzweil. I had interacted with Jason many times virtually, before he came to a Spring Gathering and visited with us in person and revealed some impressive body art. Perhaps most remarkable of all was that they both had demanding full-time jobs, but their enthusiasm for the future pushed them to get the most of the program.

Jim Breaux

Jim Breaux

Jason Swanson

Jason Swanson

The best news is that typically active students become active alums and stay involved in the community. We’ll see both of them at the WFS conference this summer. And Jim will be teaching an undergrad class this fall, taking over for another alum, Garry Golden (thanks to Garry for tutoring Jim last semester and keeping it in the family!). Andy Hines

Alum Chris Moore on Big Data & Big Data Analytics

Alum Chris Moore (Class of  2005) has an article “Big Data & Big Data Analytics” in the March issue of Phalanx (The Journal of National Security Analysis). Chris has been a campaign analyst with Campaign Analyst at United States Air Force for the last five years.

Moore and his co-authors explore the potential of Big Data in the MORS (Military Operations Research Symposium) and the DoD (Department of Defense) community. They believe that “The ability to use Big Data provides the DoD with an unprecedented and extremely powerful capability.” They go on to suggest applications ranging from budget creation, early warning systems, to force optimization. The article notes the cultural challenges to adoption, in particular emphasizing that patience is necessary as early returns from the investment are likely to be intangible.

It’s nice to see our alums contributing forward-thinking across a wide range of sectors! Andy Hines

Student Karl Irish to be Published

karl irish photoCurrent foresight student Karl Irish has had his article, “Trends Affecting the Future of Home Health Care”, accepted for publication in the October issue of Home Healthcare Nurse.

Karl, a Licensed Vocational Nurse for 20 years, has spent a few semesters researching the futures of health, exercise and healthcare for various graduate classes. This article came about as an assignment in our Proseminar class, where Dr. Hines asked us to write to a pitch letter to a publication to get our foresight research published. Karl was the one student who actually wrote up an article for submission.

His article touches on the aging Baby Boomer population and how their healthcare needs in the coming years will both overwhelm the forecasted number of doctors and nurses in the field and greatly increase the percentage of GDP spend on healthcare. So what’s happening that can curb these growing trends? Karl brings up three potential solutions: the disease management deliver model, a shift from the treatment of chronic diseases to proactive monitoring to manage chronic diseases; home healthcare with increasingly better educated nurses that are able to care for patients with complex chronic diseases; and telehealth.

Keep an eye out for the article for all the details.

Did I mention that per Dr. Hines, publication of our article results in an automatic A for the assignment? Let’s get Karl’s grade updated!

Congrats Karl!

Keith Orndoff Published in SupportWorld

SWorndoffCongrats to one of our alum, Keith Orndoff (’97) whose article “A Brilliant Technical Revolution”: Technical Service and Support in the Useful Future is in the May/June issue of SupportWorld, the Help Desk Institute’s industry journal.

In the article, Keith discusses how in the era of Big Data, tech and tech analytics will play huge roles in the near future of customer service and technical support.  He covers electronic virtual assistants, predictive analytics and complex data mining, natural language processing and text analytics (sentiment analysis), and the awesomeness that is cognitive computing.

Having worked in a call center for a year, I found his implications for sentiment analysis in customer service particularly fascinating. Sentiment analysis is, “A linguistic analysis technique where a body of text is examined to characterize the tonality of the document.”

According to Keith:

“The potential of sentiment analysis is staggering. Imagine being able to apply an automated semantic analytics tool to a chat transcript or a call recording and immediately know how happy that customer was (on a scale of 1–10) by the end of that interaction, using text and tone analysis—no customer satisfaction survey needed here! After only a few exchanges with a customer, you could generate a personality profile that will tell you the best way to deal with that individual in the future. Such tools could also be used in the opposite direction: your technicians’ past interactions could be used to create profiles that would allow you to match an individual customer with the technician most likely to have the most positive interaction with that customer.”

I would have given my eye teeth as a customer service rep to have a profile telling me the best way to help a specific customer and the perfect technician to match him to. Not to mention the time and frustration such profiles could have saved everyone in the service department!

To check out the rest of Keith’s article, you have to register here (it’s free!) and the article is located here.  Great job Keith, and I’m looking forward to reading your scenarios in the next issue!