How Futurists Predict the Future - A Guide to Strategic Planning and Forecasting

how futurists predict the future

Our world is constantly changing, and the future holds many unknowns. Predicting the unknowns and peering into the future for possible events and trends is what futurism is all about. And those who dedicate themselves to it are futurists – primarily those with a forward-thinking mindset inclined towards improving the present. With an uncanny ability to perform trend analysis, futurists help drive innovation and modernism while keeping an eye out for opportunities.

Throughout history, we’ve witnessed an abundance of transformations – not only in technology but in our mode of conduct as well. For example, the way we interact with distant people is completely revolutionized and seems effortless, our communication demeanor has shifted – digitalized with the help of social media apps, as a result of technological disruption.

The innovation fallout is constant and will remain so, especially in today’s digital-driven world. Speed would clutch more speed; algorithms would become smarter; clicks would become thoughts, and the future would become clearer. However, this is just a paradigm shift –a prototypical view of the possibilities. But even so, let’s focus on its driving forces. 

Driving Forces: The Creator and The Realizer 

Initially, there are two types of people who steer innovation for use. Let’s think of them as “The Creator” and “The Realizer.” Together they propel the revolution to become a success while being forward thinkers. The creator refers to the creative and innovative individuals who come up with new ideas and inventions. These people are constantly seeking new ways to solve problems and meet the needs of the future. 

The realizers, however, are the individuals who embrace the creators’ ideas – people who see the potential in the creators’ work, tend to embrace and refine those ideas into marketable goods and services, which we call breakthroughs. 

For instance, when Satoshi Nakamoto invented the blockchain technology, he was the creator who first came up with this innovation. Nevertheless, it was the realizers – the companies and individuals who adopted and implemented the technology – who made it possible for the invention to be used by people worldwide. Without the realizer, the creator’s ideas and inventions would remain nothing more than ideas. 

Both are the driving forces working together to bring new and improved technologies, products, and services to the world, lashing growth and improvement to our lives. 

Becoming disruptive and seeing change before it happens… 

How Futurists Predict the Future: Strategic Planning and Forecasting 

As a futurist, it is essential to have a solid understanding of strategic planning and forecasting techniques. Strategic planning involves analyzing current trends and using that information to make informed decisions about the future of an organization or business. Forecasting involves predictions about future events or trends based on past data and current information. 

Strategic planning and forecasting are crucial for identifying potential opportunities and challenges in the future and help develop strategies to address them. They are also important for helping organizations stay ahead of the competition and remain relevant in an ever-changing world. 

Emerging Technologies and Innovation 

Emerging technologies and innovation are key areas of focus for futurists. As technology continues to evolve and advance exponentially, futurists must stay updated on the latest technologies and their potential impacts. This includes everything from artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things to renewable energy and biotechnology. 

By focusing on emerging technologies and their potential applications, futurists can help organizations stay ahead of the curve and take advantage of new opportunities. They can also help organizations navigate the challenges of adopting new technologies and find ways to use them to their advantage. 

Trend Forecasting: Just How 

Staying on top of trends is crucial for success, but where do you start? The Futures Today Institute has developed a 7-step trend forecasting funnel that helps you identify weak signals and map their trajectories into tech trends. Following this structured process ensures that every stone is turned in your trend-forecasting journey. 

The steps include: 

  • Frame: Define your goal and time horizon, set your sights on the future, and consider the people affected by your predictions – mostly stakeholders. 
  • Diverge: Observe a multitude of topics from the broadest sources, collect as much as you can, and listen for weak signals at the fringe. And don’t be afraid to go beyond the mainstream and look for gems of information. 
  • Analyze: Backtrack. Check if you have any gaps, rarity, or deterring factors in the previous steps. Then, perform an in-depth analysis to look for hidden errors. 
  • Clarify: Make sure the trends you’ve identified are intersecting with your industry or affect it. If so, ensure it’s affecting all parts, not a few.  
  • Calculate: Determine the pace/velocity and curve of change both internally and externally for your organization. 
  • Plan: Outline potential future scenarios that would likely impact the industry and plan ways on how to stay relevant. 
  • Action: Create a plan for achieving future goals by working backward from the desired outcome. Identify strategic actions that connect the future to your present. 

Often, businesses embrace disruptions at the cost of time, energy, and hard-learned lessons. Now is the time to move past the disruptive ripples and stay agile and applicable at the earliest. Use this funnel above to guide your strategic planning process and stay ahead of the curve in your industry. 

Foresight Methodology and Future Studies 

Futurists often use various techniques and tools to predict the future and identify trends and opportunities effectively. These can include scenario planning, which involves creating multiple possible futures and examining the potential outcomes of each scenario. Other techniques include strategic foresight, which involves using a systematic approach to identify and analyze future trends, and future studies, which involve researching better to understand future events’ potential impacts.  

Futurist Ethics 

As futurists play a crucial role in shaping the future, it is important for them to adhere to ethical principles and consider the potential impacts of their predictions and recommendations. Considering the potential consequences for different groups and stakeholders, as well as the ethical implications of emerging technologies define Futurist ethics. 

Exploring the Challenges of Predictions 

We must assert that predicting the future is an inherently difficult task, and no one can do it with 100% accuracy. Even with access to vast amounts of data and advanced analytics tools, it is impossible to predict future events and trends with absolute certainty. 

That being said, you may use various techniques and tools to anticipate future trends and developments. This entails using data analytics to identify patterns and predict future market trends or using scenario planning to explore different possible futures and the potential outcomes of each scenario. 

While it is impossible to predict the future accurately, many companies like Google use data and analytics to make informed predictions and prepare for a range of potential future designs. 

Seeing the Change Before It Happens: An Intuition 

To sum it up, while you may have all the potential dots connected, aligned for the future – you must also have an intuition that helps you put things together. The ability to trust your instincts is essential for any successful futurist. It may help you trust your gut and make judgements based on your extensive knowledge of the world. 

As the great futurist Arthur C. Clarke once said, ‘The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.’ And let’s face it –that is how we got here in the first place, haven’t we? 

Blog Author

Shanzeh Shunaid

Shanzeh Shunaid

Shanzeh is the CEO of SMB Services. A specialist in delivering sustainable solutions to those in need, she enjoys working on building startups from grass root levels. When not strategizing for core competency, Shanzeh shares her invaluable insights on the industry with our readers.