Futures-Inspired Quotes – A Developing List

“I’m smart enough to know I’m dumb.”  Richard Feynman

“Keep being what people aren’t ready for.”  Emma Magenta

“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.”  Richard Feynman

“Any useful statement about the future should at first seem ridiculous.”  Jim Dator

“I see a time of seven generations when all the colors of mankind will gather under the sacred tree of life and the whole earth will be one circle again.”  Crazy Horse

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”  Alvin Toffler

“The future started yesterday, and we’re already late.”  John Egend

“Things are getting better and better, and worse and worse, faster and faster.”  Tom Atlee

“Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.”

― Arundhati Roy

“Prediction is very difficult, especially if it is about the future.” Niels Bohr

“Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children.” Sitting Bull

“Fail to dream about the future, and you forfeit your role in its creation.” Max Elder

““We believe it is our right and our responsibility to write ourselves into the future.” Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown

“Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future.” Elie Wiesel

“The present was an egg laid by the past that had the future inside its shell.” Zora Neale Hurston

“The start to a better world is to believe that it is possible.” Lily Tomlin

“In dealing with the future, it is far more important to be imaginative than to be right.” Alvin Toffler

“My interest is in the future, because I’m going to spend the rest of my life there.” Charles Kettering

“Envisioning and making the future must be a massively public endeavor.” Marina Gorbis

“Hope locates itself in the premise that we don’t know what will happen, and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act.” Rebecca Solnit

“We cannot expand our self, and our collective self, without making holes in our heart. We are stretching our boundaries…it can be painful. Of course there will be rips and tears. When we imagine a better future, we should factor in this constant discomfort.” Kevin Kelly

Leadership and the Future

Thinking about this this morning…these creative ideas from author Bob Johansen really inspire me.   

I like the start of them…but I’m the process of doing some gentle editing based on my social work sensibilities.   I’d love to hear what folks in my social work community think of these and how they might enhance them…? Hive mind!  More to come as this project evolves!!  


Leaders Make the Future Ten New Leadership Skills for an Uncertain World
Bob Johansen


1. Maker Instinct. Ability to exploit your inner drive to build and grow things, as well as connect with others in the making. Leaders need this basic skill to make and remake organizations.

2. Clarity. Ability to see through messes and contradictions to a future that others cannot yet see. Leaders must be clear about what they are making but flexible about how it gets made.

3. Dilemma Flipping. Ability to turn dilemmas – which, unlike problems, cannot be solved into advantages and opportunities.

4. Bio-Empathy. Ability to see things from nature’s point of view, to understand, respect, and learn from its patterns. Nature has it’s own clarity, if only we humans can understand and engage with it.

5. Constructive De-Polarizing. Ability to calm tense situations where differences dominate and communication has broken down – and bring people from divergent cultures toward positive engagement.

6. Quiet Transparency. Ability to be open and authentic about what matters – without being overly self-promoting. If you advertise yourself, you will become a big target.

7. Immersive Learning Ability. Ability to immerse yourself in unfamiliar environment, to learn from them in a first-person way.

8. Rapid Prototyping. Ability to create quick early versions of innovations with the expectation that later success will require early failures. Leaders will need to learn from early setbacks and learn to fail in interesting ways.

9. Smart-Mob Organizing. Ability to create, engage with, and nurture purposeful business or social change networks through intelligent use of electronic media and in-person communication.

10. Commons Creating. Ability to seed, nurture, and grow shared assets that can benefit all players – and allow competition at a higher level. This is the most important future leadership skill and it grows from all the others.
The ability to flip from the frightening VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity) to a hopeful VUCA (vision, understanding, clarity and agility) will be the ultimate dilemma for leaders in the future.

Collecting Definitions of Strategic Foresight – the Core of Futures Work

Strategic foresight is a decades-old discipline that allows us to create functional views of alternative futures and possibilities (Salvatico & Spencer, 2017, p.1)

Foresight competency models include six basic progressive and interrelated sets of intellectual tasks:   framing, scanning, futuring, visioning, designing, and adapting (Hines, Gary, Daheim, & van der Laan, 2017).

Ultimately, the power of foresight lies not in its tools and methods, but in its ability to alter perspectives.  For this reason, strategic foresight is not just useful within strategic planning, but it also provides a new lens through which to reframe all of our outdated, Industrial Age processes that are no longer effective in our VUCA environment (Salvatico & Spencer, 2017, p. 2).

Foresight is a systematic, participatory, future-intelligence-gathering and medium-to long-term vision-building process aimed at present day decisions and mobilizing joint actions. Foresight arises from a convergence of trends underlying recent developments in the fields of ‘policy analysis’, ‘strategic planning’ and ‘future studies’. It brings together key agents of change and various sources of knowledge in order to develop strategic visions and anticipatory intelligence.    (European Commission Research Directorate General: A Practical Guide to Regional Foresight (FOREN), 2001).

The future is not just something that happens to us but something we create every day with the decisions we make (Savatico & Spencer, 2017, p.4).

Strategic foresight calls for a systematic analysis of identifying driving forces of change before developing policies and plans. These efforts are aimed at finding solutions and policy responses that are likely to bring positive outcomes. Hence,
these activities enable better preparedness, because they generate explicit, contestable and flexible sense of the future.   By doing so, old and obsolete imagery of the future (that organizations sometimes hold on to) can be refreshed. New imagery of the future makes it possible to reveal and test assumptions of our understanding of the world. Moreover, insight about the meaning of possible futures also enables the organization to capitalize on opportunities, particularly ones that are in the long-term future that few people are aware of.  New…strategies can emerge from understanding these opportunities (Duijine & Bishop, 2018). 

Strategic foresight, and more specifically, scenario planning, act as an immune system within our organization, allowing us to create multifaceted strategies that are effective no matter which future emerges (Savatico & Spencer, 2017, p. 4).  

Foresight: Acting wisely in the present, with conscious intent to shape a deeply desirable future. This intention requires us to learn to act in light of explicit and adequate anticipations of the full range of ways one’s future context and its implications may develop. Such anticipations must be tested reflexively and even . meta-reflexively.    Strategic: Having to do with establishing, reinforcing or changing the fundamental trajectory of a person or group into and through the future.  Strategic Foresight: Acting with foresight (see above), paying particular attention to trajectory-altering events, forces, threats, opportunities and commitments.  Strategic foresight informs and provides a context for management/policy, just as management/policy provides a context for operations/administration. Strategic foresight is the applied art/science of the pure art/science of futures research (also called futures studies). Strategic foresight is focussed on one’s context. Its purpose is to ensure the continuing relevance of the person/organization in question.   (Nelson & Forsight Canada, 2015).  

Futures in Social Work Presentation at the November 2018 NADD (National Association of Deans and Directors of Schools of Social Work) Meeting

Here’s my presentation from the recent NADD meeting providing a primer on futures thinking and its possible relationship with social work practice, research and education.   Enjoy!