Terms, Articles & Resources

Twelve Key Concepts of the Future Forward College 
Presented at the April 2014 Future Forward Conference

1) Trans-disciplinary Thinking

Connecting totally disparate ideas within a futures context. Learning, societal, and business structures are strongly organized in groups, with labels such as “departments,”  “categories,” or “class” (Thank you, Aristotle). While such an organizational system is efficient, it also creates a “silo” effect, where individuals rarely collaborate and may be unaware of developments in other areas of learning, technology, or thought. In the future, making connections will be critically important, and we need the awareness and vision to think in terms of similarities as well as differences across the disciplines, especially as new knowledge emerges requiring a new approach to "dynamic critical thinking."

The highest function of education is to bring about an integrated individual who is capable of dealing with life as a whole. J. Krishnamurti

2) Complex Adaptive Systems (Chaos, Complexity, and Ecology)

The study of how living and nonliving things organize themselves into patterns and interact as systems can help us manage the future. Complexity is highly multidisciplinary and involves scientists in a vast assortment of fields from Biology to Physics. It is also closely related to Fractal Geometry and Chaos Theory.

Chaos/Complexity is a new scientific theory for dealing with systems that are complex, unpredictable, and/or have random events, or, in other words, most of the real world. Natural systems are so complicated that no matter how carefully we measure them, we can't know everything about them. Although measurements can be extremely accurate, they can't be accurate to infinity, and tiny differences/errors in the beginning can lead to gigantic ones later. This is known as the Butterfly Effect, because under the right circumstances, the effect of the fluttering of a butterfly's wings can make the difference in the development or then non-development of a tornado.(So much for ever getting accurate weather predictions.) This shows how even the actions of the smallest creature can have a large effect on the whole. In ecological systems, everything is connected.

3) Adaptive Planning (Rolling the D.I.C.E.)

Rolling the D.I.C.E. (Design, Identify, Connect, Emerge) is an adaptive alternative to traditional strategic planning. It’s useful when making plans in the midst of constant, radical change.

"It doesn't just seem that the world is changing faster and that volatility is greater than it used to be. Both are measurably and demonstrably true, and both emerge from our increasingly connected economy and society. Our institutions, businesses included, have been built for stability, not for change. As connectivity proceeds, business leaders face an imperative to create organizations that can adapt continually and rapidly, to keep pace with shifts in their markets, technologies, and society itself. It is the world of biology that holds the key to meeting that adaptive imperative. Adaptation, the process by which organisms respond to volatility in their environments, has been going on for the past four billion years. As businesses today are struggling with volatility, they can look to nature's example for lessons on adaptation.” Stan Davis and Christopher Myer, It’s Alive: The Coming Convergence of Information, Biology and Business

4) And/Both/ Parallel Process, Ping-Pong Effects

When designing a system of parallel processes for systemic transformation, it is important to realize that key elements of the ability for new ideas to emerge will be determined by how many people and ideas outside an organization and community are connected into the thinking and action of local change efforts so that external “ping-pong” effects are created to build collaborative efforts for introducing local citizens to emerging weak signals and transformational thinking, and helping to evolve totally new ideas as a part of a national/international network of people and organizations. Rick Smyre, President, Center for Communities of the Future

5) Identifying Emerging Weak Signals

“Weak Signals are precursors to full-blown trends at some later stage.” Elina Hiltunen (Finland).  

Weak signals are emerging ideas, inventions, discoveries and innovations that are not yet trends, but have the potential to impact local areas within 3-5 years. Weak signals can inform any process through which learning geared at coping with and perhaps creating the future is taking place. How do you identify weak signals that lead to the next big thing? 

“There’s no substitute for being in the habit of looking for ideas and working with them once they’re found. Perhaps the mother of these habits is to simply be interested in the world around you—and attentive to its varied possibilities."  Andy Boynton, Dean, Boston College Carroll School of Management.

6) Master Capacity Builder (Transformational Leadership)

Transformational Leadership, otherwise known as Master Capacity Builder, is focused on the concept of building “capacities” for transformational thinking and action that help leaders shift their understanding of how to deal with emerging issues, never before experienced, within the context of a new paradigm or what is called a “futures context.” Mark Waterhouse, Past President, American Economic Development Council; and Senior Fellow, Center for Communities of the Future

 Key Concepts Demonstrated by and through the Game

7) Gamification

The application of typical elements of game playing (e.g., point scoring, competition with others, rules of play) to other areas of activity as an educational, planning, or marketing technique to encourage engagement with concepts, products or services: gamification is exciting because it promises to make the hard stuff in life fun.” Adapted from the Oxford English Dictionary

“. . . I do believe the concept of gamification will continue to penetrate every aspect of our lives. Gamification will even shape our interactions with government. Crowdsourcing and other incentivized models for engagement will drive public participation programs for public issues (policy design, the planning of public space, etc.).” Daren C. Brabham, assistant professor, School of Journalism & Mass Communication, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

8) Virtual Reality

Virtual Reality (VR) becomes a substantial and ubiquitous technology and subsequently penetrates applications for education, learning and training. In addition to multimedia, VR places the user in a three-dimensional environment. The user feels ‘in the middle of another environment’. Most of the VR systems allow the user to travel and navigate. More promising for learning purposes is to let the user manipulate objects and experience the consequences. Augmented reality occurs when the user faces the real world, but on top of that, the VR environment superimposes a computer-generated message in order to assist the user to perform the right operations. Educational VR systems seem to be a natural extension of computer-based simulations nowadays. The basic approach is to allow students to explore and discover the fundamental laws in a new environment and domain. "The ultimate dream is to merge the real world and the virtual world into a totally seamless experience." (PhotoSynth project) The next step is going to be development of more open systems, where content can be moved across platforms and where separate worlds can be linked (for example a room in a virtual building can be simulated on a private server using different simulation software, but would still be accessible for the people walking in the virtual city). Open source may play a role there. Eventually virtual reality worlds will integrate into a global Metaverse running on a distributed grid. The step after that will be the integration of these worlds with input/output technologies, such as VR goggles and brain-computer interfaces. By then most of the people will spend a significant part of their lives in virtual reality (playing, communicating, working, having sex). Eventually, uploading will make feasible a full migration into virtual reality, while robotic bodies will make the reverse possible.

9) Unlearning

In a time of great change, what has been considered truth is no longer valid in many cases. The capacity to “unlearn” what has worked in the past, is one of the greatest needs of modern man and woman. It is important to realize that “efficient unlearning” requires a quiet confidence, maturity and true humbleness to create the proper environment.  Consider the following poem by an 11th century monk mentioned in Jack Uldrich’s book, Unlearning 101.

When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world.

I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.

When I found I couldn't change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn't change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.

Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.

10) Self-Directed Learning

“Learning what we want, when we want it – shifting away from a prescribed course agendas to ones that are hyper-individualized, self-selected, and scheduled at times that sync well with the student will dramatically change levels of motivation and participation. Since each student comes with their own unique mixture of skills, desires, and preferences, the sooner a student can focus in on the traits and talents they excel at, the quicker they will be able to find a meaningful direction for themselves.” Thomas Frey, DaVinci Institute, Louisville, CO

11) Interdependency

Probably the most important ongoing historical transition is the shift from the core idea of “independence” to the idea of “interdependence.” In linear thinking, one looks for the best practice or one best idea. In non-linear, systemic thinking, there is a need to look to identify how multiple factors interconnect. Thus, it is important to understand the shift, in this time of immense change, from the core concept of independence to one of interdependence. One of the key impacts of this is to transform the education system to help students learn how to understand context and how to look for connections in knowledge and ideas that are just emerging.

12) Transformational Leadership (Transformational Coaches)

There is no greater need in a Future Forward College or for a “community transformation” than to have Master Capacity Builders who can provide the function and facilitation of Transformational Coaches. The capacities to help people see the need to shift their thinking into new paradigms; to design parallel processes to move transformational thinking ahead in systemic ways; to ask appropriate questions; to connect disparate ideas, people, processes and projects; to spot and utilize access points … all of these are key to the future vitality and dynamic sustainability of organizations and communities in a time of constant change. There are four stages of personal transformation and five stages of community transformation. Without transformational coaches who are able to mentor others during times of challenge, effective transformation cannot occur. It is this need for Transformational Leadership that is the basis for the creation and development of a Future Forward College. 


 

Resources
Futures Magazine: http://www.futuresmag.com/
World Futures Society: http://www.wfs.org/