Foresight Professionals 2030: A Delphi

After 2 years, and 3 rounds of peer review, my landmark global Delphi for 2030 has been published. See the URL link to: Gary, J. E., & von der Gracht, H. A. (2015, August). The future of foresight professionals: Results from a global  Delphi study. Futures, 71, 132-145.

Abstract: How will foresight practice evolve into the next decade and beyond? How might its supply and demand factors self-organize? In 2012 a real-time Delphi study, entitled, “The Certification of Professional Futurists 2030,” was conducted among 142 experts from 29 countries to debate the forces that might diminish or enhance futures work. http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2015.03.005

Highlights:

  • Reviews how futurists have compared their work to recognized professions.
  • Offers a framework to weigh the pros and cons of formalizing a foresight profession.
  • Summarizes a real-time Delphi survey on 14 projections among 142 experts.
  • Evaluates driving factors and three scenarios to professionalize foresight practice.
  • Explains why the certification of futurists by 2030 was deemed least likely.

The study consisted of 14 projections out to the year 2030, ranging from whether the global futures field might “employ a viable form of certification for professional futurists,” to whether it might “share a common accepted understanding of futures assumptions, theory, methods, knowledge, and ethics.” Panelists identified themselves with various futures associations.

This article presents the findings, including where there is dissent and consensus in the futures field over the likelihood, impact and desirability of the professionalisation of its practice. Further scale development using factor analysis, ordered by the theory of competitive advantage, produced a scenario model of three market forces: assimilation, academicisation, or certification. The third force of professional certification by 2030 was deemed least likely and less desirable. This wide ranging survey therefore offers the futures field a common conversation protocol to rethink how it might redesign its value chain and differentiate itself against other professions.

Keywords: Foresight, Profession, Delphi, Scenario, Certification, Strategy

Outline:
1. Introduction
2. Literature Review
2.1. Growth and role of professions
2.2. Foresight profession
2.3. Competitive disadvantage
3. Methodology
3.1. From traditional to real-time Delphi
3.2. Development of projections
3.3. Selection of experts
3.4. Procedure for respondents
3.5. Analysis methods
4. Results
4.1. Results of Delphi survey
4.2. Evaluation of differences
4.3. Delphi-based scenario development
4.3.1. Assimilation-the expected future
4.3.2. Academicisation-the alternative future
4.3.3. Certification-the surprise future
5. Discussion and Conclusions
Acknowledgements
References

Many articles in have offered a nuanced look at the futures field, the skills of futurists, or the capacities of future ready organisations. Others have explored the boundaries of strategic foresight as a disciplinary matrix. Some have issued a call for a Code of Ethics or professional standards of work. Others have focused on what foresight professionals do, or whether they should organize as a profession. This study sought to fill a research gap in this regard to understand the forces that might shape futures work, by conducting an extensive survey of academic, applied, and industry-based futurists.

Here is a summary chart of the first of 14 projections for 2030, that inquired whether these experts felt that by 2030 the futures field might establish a viable certification pathway for professional futurists.

2030: Professional Certification

References:
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[35] T. Gordon, A. Pease, RT Delphi: An efficient,”round-less” almost real time Delphi method, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 73 (2006) 321-333.
[36] T. Gnatzy, J. Warth, H. von der Gracht, I.-L. Darkow, Validating an Innovative Real-Time Delphi Approach-A methodological comparison between real-time and conventional Delphi studies, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 78 (2011) 1681-1694.
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[40] J.M. Corbin, A. Strauss, Grounded theory research: Procedures, canons, and evaluative criteria, Qualitative sociology, 13 (1990) 3-21.
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Authors:
Dr. Jay E. Gary is director of PeakFutures and its Center for Professional Development in Tulsa, OK, USA. His research interests include foresight assessments for managers, professional foresight competencies and global leadership. His articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals, including Futures and the Journal of Futures Studies.

Dr. Heiko A. von der Gracht is a Post-doctoral Researcher at Friedrich-Alexander-University Erlangen-Nuremberg, Chair of Supply Chain Management, Germany, and Head of the Think Tank for Futures Management at the Institute of Corporate Education e. V. (incore), which is supported and sponsored by KPMG in Germany. His research interests encompass corporate foresight, the Delphi and scenario techniques, foresight skills and education, and quality standards in futures research. His works have been published in several books and peer-reviewed journals, including Technological Forecasting & Social Change, Futures, Foresight, and the European Journal of Futures Research.

NOTE: Dr. von der Gracht and I thank all those who participated in this study. This paper will be published in Futures journal under a Special Issue: “Ethical Issues in Futures Studies” in 2015-2016. We will be making presentations on this study over the next 24 months, both online and at major conferences of futures associations. If you participated in this study, a copy of the “in-press” paper will be emailed to you in the Summer of 2015.

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