What is a futurist? What is this strange profession that dabbles in the future?

It is 2am on a Wednesday morning.

Rob, who is the CEO of a medium-sized tour operator based in California, is awake and incredibly worried.

A thousand and one thoughts are chaotically swirling around Rob’s head at the very same time as he lies awake in bed – staring into the bleak darkness; he’s terribly worried about his business and what future there might be for it, his staff of twelve employees…and himself.

The global coronavirus pandemic has put an abrupt halt to his operations; tour bookings have dried up and there is no way of knowing for sure when his customers will return.

He’s already withdrawn all funds from two bank overdraft facilities and only has the equity in his house left, which he can possibly tap into to make rent, pay his staff a portion of their salaries and cover the monthly instalment on the company van.

He’s short on options – and what makes matters worse is that there is no certainty as to when things, that are outside of his control, might improve.

But Rob’s future, and the future of the business, is not set in stone.

Even though things don’t look very good, there’s no guarantee that the business is facing certain bankruptcy.

The future is certainly not predetermined.

Even though in Rob’s mind, things are pretty much finished – there are always multiple futures that could still possibly unfold from any one point in the present.

What Rob is seriously struggling to do under the conditions of his escalating levels of anxiety, is see the various options that he currently has to choose from.

What he needs is the council of a good futurist.

What is a futurist?

A futurist is somebody who is capable and skilled enough to help Rob see, evaluate, choose and action a plan, or a series of plans, to help him save the business in the short-term; and possibly even use the crisis to redesign his business structure and processes, developing more resilience, so that it can weather similar kinds of disruptions in the longer-term.

Rob’s futurist might be somebody who already works on his team, or may very well be an independent professional consultant who he hires to help and council him through the rough patch.

A great futurist could have an advanced trans-disciplinary qualification in futures studies or foresight from an accredited university, or may have extensive practical experience working at an advanced-strategic level in a variety of businesses and industries.

Futurists are good listeners, but may also make use of a wide-array of tools and frameworks to map their thought-processes and help make sense of the complexity of a project.

But at the heart of it all, futurists are professionals that spend a lot of time and effort researching, understanding, thinking about and modelling, how the future might unfold; as well as what the best possible future could, and should look like.

Futurists are curious, optimistic, very well-read, logical, empathic, humble, creative and are naturally holistic thinkers.

With some quality futures thinking under his belt, Rob is then far-better equipped to make informed, rational choices about the future of his business.

He can then more effectively adopt strategic plans and invest capital and resources that are aimed at a positive future outcome for the organisation; with far less chaos erupting in his mind in the middle of the night.