Making Foresight Natural: Embracing the Biological, Psychological, and Sacred Dynamics of Futuring for a World In Need.
In his recent book entitled The Invention of Tomorrow, psychologist and professor Thomas Suddendorf had this to say about the biological and evolutionary foundations of foresight in humans.
“The data we do have are converging on a view that predictive processes are part and parcel of how brains function across the animal kingdom. We have seen that brains use prediction not only to anticipate the future but to learn from the past and perceive the present. Brains are model makers, intimately familiar with their surroundings in a way that enables navigation towards states that maximize flourishing and away from those that threaten peril. But many of the abilities that we have encountered in this chapter — weaving a narrative about possible futures, having emotional reactions about potential events, learning about future possibilities purely in the mind’s eye, building a sense of self through time, even becoming aware of one’s own mortality — may well be the distinct purview of the brain of our peculiar species… Foresight was a prime mover in human evolution. The precise forces bringing about each of the critical steps in this journey are not easily established, but scientists are unearthing more and more evidence about how exactly our ancestors discovered the fourth dimension (i.e. foresight, addition. mine).” The Invention of Tomorrow, pp. 87, 146
In these passages are the crux of Suddendorf’s message: humans evolved, and are continuing to evolve, a “fourth dimension” — the biological, psychological, and sacred capability of foresight. Such an assertion holds foundational and far-reaching implications for the concept, development, and practice of foresight and futures thinking. What if foresight is much more than a set of tools to provide solutions that protect and strengthen the present-day actions of our mechanistic and linear structures, or even a post-disciplinary methodology to be taught and learned as a means to challenge the viability, longevity, or validity of those same structures? What if, instead, foresight’s inherent and evolutionary capability — pulled from the organic, natural, and transformative unfolding of living systems — is something that we should be unlocking, intuiting, and even grokking — the very act of embracing as a fundamental aspect of our species and the cosmos at-large? (If the word grok is unfamiliar to you, it is well worth your time to grasp its more nuanced meaning, especially in the context of seeing foresight as a trait rather than simply a discipline. A neologism created by sci-fi author Robert Heinlein in his novel Stranger in a Strange Land, “to grok” means much more than understanding or grasping; it means to know something “so thoroughly that you merge with it and it merges with you… that the observer becomes a part of the observed — to merge, blend, intermarry.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grok)
As our readers may know, the team at TFSX (formerly Kedge and The Future School) developed the Natural Foresight® Framework many years ago as the way for organizations, governments, and social developers to embody, apply, and implement a deeper philosophy that aligns with the biological, psychological, and sacred dynamics of foresight & futures thinking (i.e. natural, innate, organic, and evolutionary). This deeper philosophy or mind shift that we call Holoptic Foresight Dynamics® is defined as “the cooperative evolutionary perception of emerging novelty that cultivates the co-creation of transformational realities.” This long-standing research and work has been the basis of all of our client engagements, training programs, advisory services, and thought leadership over the years, even when it wasn’t obvious — many times, individuals and groups just knew that there was something more vibrant, creative, and liberating happening when we worked together.
We believe, not only in terms of research, but also in terms of experience and practice over many years, that the best way for people and organizations to embrace and implement impactful and lasting foresight is by unlocking their individual and collective natural ability — biological, psychological, and sacred — to imagine, provoke, nurture, and transform the future. Of course, this is ultimately meant to manifest in the future-empowered actions that they take today — in the present — that lead to them to “think transformationally, act transitionally” rather than to “think exponentially, act incrementally.” Such an approach takes us beyond a purview of foresight as a means to navigate the volatility, uncertainty, turbulence, and anxiousness within our dominant systems, to an application of foresight & futures thinking as a way to discover our interconnected possibilities, our transitions to higher order purpose, and our breakthroughs to meaningful change. In other words, we’ve held the belief in a world whose operations are abductive, liminal, interconnected, vibrant, and emergent (ALIVE) for decades, and it has informed our work ever since. This philosophy serves as the backdrop of every client engagement and, as stated earlier, is enabled by our Natural Foresight® Framework that provides practical processes, pathways, methods, and tools to implement a Holoptic (HFD) and ALIVE future.
Surprisingly (or sadly, not surprisingly), I realize that this can be an unsettling, uncomfortable, or unfamiliar perspective for many because, just like the metaphor presented in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption,” not everyone wants to be set free from prison after having been raised there for many years. The controlled cadence, the physical and mental barriers, the rationed scarcity, the vertical morality and rules, the well-defined hierarchy, and the relentless unchanging environment can all be an experience of incredible comfort, a place we recognize, a design in which we feel that we belong, a reality we’ve become acclimated to, a space with which we identify, a situation where we at least know how to exist if we play by the rules. However, no one outside of the confines of what constitutes a prison would ever think that it’s ok to live there, that life can actually thrive there, that the greatest potential and possibilities flow from there. This doesn’t mean that we don’t believe in meeting people where they are before gently aiding in the unlocking of their innate ability to “move beyond.” However, meeting people where they are doesn’t mean leaving them there or appeasing their desire to remain as they are. By its very nature, foresight and futures thinking — and life itself — challenges “what is” with “what if?”
In reality, viewing the world through an ALIVE lens is the only way we will be successful (in the deepest sense of the word) as foresight practitioners, organizational leaders, strategists, innovators, policy-makers, designers, entrepreneurs, social developers, and world builders. Moving away from an Anthropocene into a Symbiocene requires a biological, psychological, and sacred perspective in our foresight & futures thinking work. Why? When we leave out the interconnected, vibrant, and emergent qualities of life in favor of only serving dominant systems of productivity, efficiency, and hyper-monetization, we fail to recognize the large-scale inter-generational processes that produce life-giving nurture and transformation. Without this, we continue to regurgitate the same problems (or worse) that we are trying to solve today. What futures are we implementing through our biased desired outcomes fashioned by systems that only worked in a previous era, or never really worked for humanity and living systems at all?
As we lean into the cooperative nature of evolution (vs. the competitive metaphor emphasized in our dominant narratives), then our naturally biological, psychological, and sacred ability for “chronesthesia” — mental time travel for foresight & futures thinking — can become much more accepted and commonplace throughout all of humanity and living systems. Such a view and practice has a profound impact on our foresight efforts, aligning humanity with its natural foresight ability (as opposed to something that’s only for a select few or a practice that is unnatural for what we deem to be a “fight and flight” species); transitioning foresight efforts from trends to emerging landscapes of change; reframing our efforts towards transformational foresight (a natural reality in all living things); and creating a greater evolutionary perception of anticipatory imagination — a shift away from “futuring to the problem” to “futuring to transformation.”
Speaking of transformation…
TFSX is excited to announce our next Transformations of Natural Foresight® Retreat taking place September 16–19, 2024 at the beautiful Tops’l Farm in Waldoboro, Maine, USA.
This retreat is unlike any other foresight & futures thinking event you will attend! At Transformations, we promote an internal, personal transformation in each of us and an evolution of the field of foresight.
During these 3 days, participants will engage in collective and collaborative dialogues, spaces, and experiences that are meant to promote the cooperative evolutionary perception of emerging novelty that fosters the co-creation of transformational realities across cultures and society.
At Transformations, we are unlocking healthy individuated and collective “inner futures” — the future entering into us in order to transform itself in us long before it happens — as a means to address our global metacrisis through regenerative, broad-based, prosperous, liberatory, and consciousness elevating foresight.
To learn more, please visit the Transformations of Natural Foresight information and registration page at https://tfsx.com/learning-events/transformations-of-natural-foresight-2024/