Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Place of Creativity and of Holistic Foresight

Recently, in writing about Foresight Styles Assessment, I have spent a lot of time explaining why the "Futurist" style differs quantitatively from most of the other five styles which have their own personalities, but are relatable to the massive and statistically validated body of research known as Innovation Diffusion. I am convinced that there is a place of creativity and of holistic foresight that comes together within us that is a part of a genetic gift that we all have to varying degrees. I am convinced that how we relate to the future is highly influenced by that genetic gift.

Evolutionary scientists are learning more every day about the development of our brains. The order of the brains development has been established for decades now. We are just beginning to learn about things like plasticity, the way culture and behavior shape the brain, the way past memories influence what we can imagine the future to be. We are also learning how genetics influences what our brains can be and what they can and cannot do.

Another of the styles that doesn't fit into the innovation diffusion scheme is the "Opportunist". It may feel as if the parts of us that live in the present, that look for what will enhance our lives here and now, the parts that, in our materialistic, achieving society tempt our values towards gain for fame's sake are totally negative. Yet, we see many examples of opportunistic behavior every day and we act on opportunities that we would regret if we didn't take them. Opportunism represents more than just the speed with which we accept an innovation. It goes to the motivation behind our need to live in the present, to use whatever comes along to enhance our survival now without regard to a future time. This is also a part of our brain's architecture. It speaks to survival, at the reptilian brain level, but also in other parts of our brain. If lying will get a hug, praise, acceptance or acknowledgement and those qualities are missing from our lives; naturally we will take the opportunistic road and leave thoughts of the future for others.

That opportunistic behavior can also be of value in a change process was something I came to slowly. As Maslow put it, there is a certain hierarchy of needs and survival is the bottom line. An organization, in which I am a member, recently was on the brink of extinction. It was very hard for the membership (largely academic and all working with some aspect of the future) to keep straight what were the "Opportunist" actions and "Futurist" actions. Fortunately, the group had one person who understood the difference and was willing to take charge.

It feels presumptuous to offer a model of change that is tangent to such a well developed concept as Innovation Diffusion. I still feel strongly that FSA is a more holistic view of change. It can be used to fulfill our need for understanding and learning. FSA can be used as a way to grow ourselves, our communities and our organizations. It is integral to understanding the present and creating the future.