Jay Gary1. History and Current Career Path: I began my foresight work in Christian ministry, and doing strategy consulting to nonprofit, public, and private enterprises. After earning my PhD, I supervised over 80 students in doctoral projects, mainly at Regent University. My research has increasingly focused on defining credentials and professional development pathways for futurists, entrepreneurs, and innovators.

In addition to my full time work at ORU, I continue to offer Real-Time Delphi services to private, public and nonprofit clients, who are building alliances, or want to forecast knowledge management or supply chain factors. I also support foresight projects for companies or alliances through workshops, short-courses or facilitation as needed to support larger contracts.

2. Key Foresight Skills: Critical competencies a good foresight practitioner needs include:

1. Scanning: Designing an environmental scanning system, enabling an organization’s strategic
leaders to track patterns of systemic change across trends, events and issues.
2. Forecasting: Creating a baseline forecast of trends for an organization, one that contains alternative futures, uncertainties and wild cards relating to the next decade.
3. Planning: Leading a departmental team to develop strategic plans, which include the mission,
vision and goals appropriately matched to the near-term competitive, customer and industry
4. Scenarios: Leading a scenario learning process for a leadership team that tests their strategy against a range of possible future developments.
5. Leadership: Presenting professional specialization, foresight practices and their values in appropriate media, including but not limited to career portfolios, popular press articles, lectures, and conferences.

Develop your quantitative skills, and understand where to use them. Develop your writing skills, and be able to work on deadline. That includes urgent, end-of-the-day and 48-hour projects. Understand the various types of reports that are needed for decision support, ranging from proof of concept, to competitive intelligence, to strategic audits. APF has developed a multi-level competency map for professionals that includes a level of cross-sector foresight practices, such as: Framing, Scanning, Futuring, Visioning, Designing and Adapting. Each of these competencies has sub-competencies, that link to futures methods. The key challenge for emerging futurists is to understand how to relate these cross-sector foresight practices their sector, organization and managers they work with.

3. Self-Description and Marketing: I am a tenured academic, so professional titles don’t apply as much to me. But when I use them I prefer foresight professional, whether as an analyst, entrepreneur, or consultant. In my world, “Futurist” applies to authors or speakers. I use it when I a booked to speak keynotes at conferences, but on LinkedIn and in my bio, I use it along with other titles, to explain my personal narrative.

In thinking about my personal brand, I always start with “Why,” as Simon Sinek says through his Golden Circle, http://www.startwithwhy.com Before 2004, I built my brand through consultations, high level projects among alliances in my field, and my own writings, including books. I still promote my brand through my personal website and avocation through secondary sites.

4. Nontraditional Foresight and Continuing Education: I recommend APF for professional skills. Fast Company, The Futurist, and other magazines for futures fluency, TED talks, SXSW, etc. I regularly read seven Professional and Academic journals in Futures Studies, all available through library access. For continuing education, anyone with a Masters degree should become an adjunct at any for-profit school, for one course at a time. Besides honing your teaching and presentation skills, one of the biggest benefits is library access to foresight literature. It makes a difference. The literature is 5-10 years ahead in creating foresight practice and theory.

5. Parting Advice: Find an internship if you are in your 20’s. In your 30’s, work within corporations or governments. After your Masters degree or MBA, join a consulting firm that does implementation, planning and foresight, and work your way up to doing foresight that informs the C-suite. To really succeed, you should push yourself to get better in quantitative and qualitative analysis. You must understand research, and be able to use baseline tools, such as Excel, and dedicated forecasting databases, such as Barry Hughes’ International Futures (IF) model, and have good understanding of social and political change, ie. the Molitor 22-Step Model of Change.

On top of that, you must cultivate self-awareness, and the ability to think outside yourself, your background, and your biases. Cultivate a working future fluency in one or two fields, such as technology, education, government, healthcare, and be a master of the issues in that sector. Becoming a foresight professional, not just a part-time practitioner, requires continuous improvement, and working in a high demand job, where you can round out your skills, and learn how to lead. It takes time, but you can do it, if you aim high.

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