Learning from the future
SSEE Visiting Fellow, Dr Robert Burke, looked at the ways we can learn from the futures, in a seminar at the Smith School in May 2012.
Seminar Summary: Essentially futures thinking and strategy development is about organisational and societal transformation. It involves an emphasis by individuals and organisations to think about the future and realize what new values, virtues and goals are needed for a better world. What kind of world do you want to live and work in? One futures working definition is: the science, art and ethics of negotiating and creating alternative societies and the ideas and meanings that govern them (Professor Sohail Inayatullah). The business case for futures theory and methodologies is that the futures tools and methodologies not only are challenging conventional business assumptions but they are also challenging the worldviews, myths and metaphors that created these assumptions in the first place. This is the link to the cultural immunity to change. This allows new thinking, whilst not necessarily an easy experience, to emerge which holds tremendous potential for forward thinking organisations to significantly increase their innovation through dialogue to co-evolve a desired emerging future as it occurs in the here-and-now as the ‘new’ strategy. This can be achieved as the approach to anticipatory action learning brings the context of futures studies that covers an empirical approach of predictions, an interpretive approach of understanding, ways of knowing and perspectives, a critical approach based on a philosophical and psychological platform and an action research approach through doing now what is meaningful and of purpose for our future. The role of leadership is to create preferred futures by providing direction, protection and order. This always involves change, which always involves people, and always involves the future, and because of this always inevitably involves working with the anxiety change creates. However, anxiety need not be an inhibitor. It can be productive. This seminar looked at ways we can learn from the future, as it emerges in the present, as a way of navigating anxiety productively in order to initiate change.
Speaker Biography: Robert is a Programme Director and futurist in residence at Melbourne Business School, Mt Eliza executive education. Rob has been a CEO/Managing Director for international companies, a consultant, and a student. He has worked in Australia, USA, Asia and the UK. He has broad corporate clients and he is a regular speaker at conferences and has authored articles on business and futures. Robert’s key focus is leadership within a futures context. He challenges managers to think outside of the known, and to consider alternative perspectives for reconsidering the purpose of organisations, and how senior managers might create more dignified and sustainable outcomes for their organisations and for our broader society.