The most common question I’m asked is, “You’re a futurist? What is that?” Here’s my attempt to break it down in everyday terms. If you still have questions, contact us!

What do futurists do?

Professional futurists think deeply about what’s coming to help clients prepare for multiple, plausible futures. Ultimately, we help clients shape the future they want.

Most of our clients think in 10-year horizons. Some more, some less.

Wait, you said futures with an ‘s’ as the end, plural?

Yes, professional futurists speak in terms of futures. …


Rebecca Ryan and her team host free webinars to help you imagine brighter futures. Be the first to know when new sessions are added by subscribing to our newsletter.

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It’s Alive! Autonomous Public Transit + Future Cities

Friday, Nov. 20 at 1 pm Eastern/10 am Pacific

Coproduced with the Alliance for Innovation

Flying cars!

Not so fast.

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A passenger gets out of a May Mobility autonomous vehicle in Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2019.

The City of Grand Rapids, Michigan has been testing AVs (autonomous vehicles, AKA driverless cars) since 2019. Join Transportation Analyst Ken Miguel-Capriano and the Alliance for Innovation’s Joel Carnes to talk about Grand Rapids’ award-winning program and the future of autonomous transit.

Register here: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZwodOusqz8rH9LUXRRr6rQQRubY1gbTJzLB

From the Counties’ Seat: A Conversation about the Future of Public Health, Social Justice, and Public Safety

Friday, Dec. 04 at 3 pm Eastern/Noon…


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A sigh of relief.

That’s what I felt when I was getting my Certificate in Strategic Foresight from the University of Houston. During a Q&A with Andy Hines, a student asked, “How much news should I read?”

Hines replied, “Maybe once a week.”

My whole body relaxed. Here’s why.

Ever since the interwebs, I sensed that keeping up with the news was a losing battle. I noticed that “keeping up with the news” took my attention away from the deeper issues I was most interested in, and consuming online news was not making me smarter. …


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^^That photo up there? It’s the largest radio telescope ever built, more than 30 football fields large. Why am I showing you this signal-hunting device with 5–10X more potential to discover alien civilizations? Because I have a question:

What signals are you picking up?

Your ability to detect signals is critical to making sense of what’s going on around you.

And your ability to make sense is critical to anticipating and imagining better futures.

And that’s your job as a futurist, visionary, leader, and change agent.

How do you do develop your radar?

We’ll get to that. First, let’s remember what a signal is because that’s what our radar is trying to pick up. …


Overcome groupthink, challenge assumptions, question the unquestionable

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6 red chess pieces on a chessboard

You’ve been there.

It’s the end of a two-day offsite retreat. Your task was to develop a new 5-year roadmap. But as morning became lunch and the afternoon turned into happy hour, hope waned. You hadn’t heard any new ideas. Maybe Day 2 would be different.

It wasn’t. The loudest voices at the office were the loudest voices here. The pain-in-the-ass who always asks the hard questions was heard…and then politely ignored.

Now you’re in the last hour. Just 60 minutes to go. As the facilitator recaps the strategy and clarifies next actions, you get the sickening feeling that all of this was a charade. There’s nothing in this plan that surprises or excites you. You didn’t learn anything, your participation was rote, and the exciting stuff was delivered by outsiders — SMEs, consultants, industry pundits — who came, shared slides, and left. …


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See the red dots in the map ^^ up there? They show that the North Pole is moving.

The Daily Mail reported in Dec. 2019: Earth’s magnetic north is shifting at an ‘unprecedented’ rate of 30 miles a year — throwing satellite positioning data and navigation systems off course.

Can you identify? Have your organization’s market position or strategic direction been thrown off course?

I believe the technical term is “goat rodeo.” {Profanity warning}:

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In the past month I’ve heard:

  • City staff ask, “Should we do strategic planning or just wait for the next election and start planning with the new crop of council members?” …


Author’s note: An earlier version of this appears at the Institute for Zen Leadership’s website here.

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“Where are the women in Zen?” she asked at the end of our weekend retreat.

She and I — and about a dozen others, mostly women — had been training intensively in Zen and somatics for four days. Our retreat was led by a man and supported by a female co-teacher. Two of us (both women) prepared all the meals. The only other man who attended the retreat also owned the land that we were using for training.

Where were the women? Her question was sincere. With so many of us attending, why weren’t more of us leading? At a deeper level, I suspect she wanted to know if there was place for her in Zen, beyond a support role. She was accomplished in her day job and had a lot to offer the tiny community we’d created that weekend. …


How might we go beyond “back to normal” after this pandemic? In this post we share ideas inspired by Rebecca’s conversation with Dr. Peter Bishop and a community of over 130 participants to discuss brighter futures (video). Dr. Bishop is founder and Executive Director of Teach the Future. Previously he led the University of Houston Master’s in Foresight program for 30 years. In addition to being Rebecca’s teacher, he has also served as faculty member at Futurist Camp.

Peter: Let’s set the stage. Disruption is a technical term in the futures field. It’s a sudden change that has the potential to, and often does, have enormous consequences. The impact is often only visible in hindsight. In contrast, trends also create change but they are slower and take place over long periods of time. In the long run, trends can be as significant as disruptions. Disruptions since the 1970s include the Vietnam War in the US, the Arab oil embargo, Watergate, hyperinflation, and other developments — all the way through the fall of the Soviet Union, emergence of the Internet, various wars, 9/11 attacks, and the 2007–09 Great Recession. …


My work boots. I started wearing them each day during the Great Recession, a reminder that we had hard work to do.

Things are starting to get real, aren’t they? We’ve lost more people than Vietnam, projections aren’t reassuring, and the economic aftershocks are, well, shocking.

Have you freaked out yet?

Last week, I hit a patch of mental black ice. (If you’re not from the north, “black ice” is a thin sheet of invisible ice. Imagine playing a video game and your controller suddenly stops working. It’s like that, except you’re driving an actual car. On ice. Without control of the steering wheel or brakes.)

A great antidote to being scared is to do some planning.

If you’re wondering, “How does a futurist plan for this mess?”, here’s an answer. I drafted a two-year, how-we’ll-get-through-COVID plan for my company and shared it with my team this afternoon. Below, I share the main sections. I hope this can help you get your poop in a group, calm down, and get focused on the big job we have ahead of us. Let me know if this helps, or if there’s anything else I can provide that would be helpful. …


Times of crisis dramatically shift the Overton Window: things that were once unthinkable are now sensible, even popular.

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WHAT IS THE OVERTON WINDOW?

The Overton Window is used to grade ideas on a scale from “unthinkable” to “popular.” It’s widely used by politicians, for example:

HOW CAN THE OVERTON WINDOW HELP ME?

Visionaries and change makers naturally think outside the box. …

About

Rebecca Ryan, APF

Passionate about better futures. Futurist, economist, Zen priest. This is where I workshop my ideas. Also: http://eepurl.com/cWJno9 and rebeccaryan.com.

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