Category Archives: Miscellaneous

They Accepted Me!

Planet EarthNo, neither Harvard nor Oxford have accepted me for any of their Ph.D. programs.  So, no announcement there.  What I can announce is my acceptance into the World Futures Studies Federation (WFSF).  It is not housed on the Starship Enterprise. The WFSF, founded in 1973, is an organization whose mission is to promote futures education and research.  It constitutes a global network of practicing futurists, researchers, teachers, scholars and activists.

The cool part for someone as elitist as me is that there are fewer than 300 members.  Applicants must have contributed to the field, conducted research, and provide convincing evidence that they can provide value to the organization.  I documented my ability to make coffee.  They also must be invited by at least two other members.  Not to worry – I didn’t tell them that my real motivation was to have an excuse to travel to conferences in exotic locations and look scholarly.

Scheel to Contribute to Study

In 2001 I gave a speech at the annual conference of the World Future Society.  I proclaimed the need to establish an organization of professional futurists – something that had never been done.  Not unexpectedly, it set off a number of intellectual wildfires.

In spite of the controversy, the next year I and a couple of colleagues from graduate school established the Association of Professional Futurists.  Just to assure that nobody became too comfortable, I then proclaimed that to truly be considered professionals, futurists should not only hold a post-graduate degree in the field but be licensed or certified much like an architect, electrician or interior designer.  It was not well received.

Now, a decade later, I have been asked by Jay E. Gary to participate in a Delphi study – a series of surveys by a select number of “experts” in order to achieve consensus about future possibilities.  Dr. Gary is Assistant Professor at the Regent University School of Business & Leadership and Program Director at the Master of Arts program in Strategic Foresight.

The study is being conducted in partnership with the European Business School which is considered one of the best business schools in Germany.  It will last for 60 days with 100 futurists from around the world deliberating on the subjects of career development and professional certification of futurists.  The study has 15 projections that participants weigh in terms of expectational probability.  Dr. Gary has asked me to critique the projections prior to the launch of the study.  I will share the results with you when the study has been completed.  I know you are about to wet yourself with excitement!

Futurist Wendell Bell Receives Laurel Award

pic   I think anyone who honors me by following this blog has intellectual heroes.  Many of mine date back to grad school.  One of them was Wendell Bell.

Bell is one of those people who makes me feel like a slacker.  Among many scholarly accomplishments he co-edited The Sociology of the Future, authored Foundations of Futures Studies, and recently Memories of the Future, a memoir.

Last week he received a 2011 Laurel Award from the Foresight Network (of which I am a member) for his outstanding service to futures thinking.  Past award winners include Buckminster Fuller, Alvin Toffler, and H.G. Wells.

Wendell Bell, you are in good company and from this admirer – congratulations.

Unique Internship Available

Two years ago I let you know about an opportunity to earn a certificate in strategic foresight.  Yes, it’s been a long time since I last wrote.  My negligence is a long-story – probably at least a two-beer chat.

Well, have I got a new great deal for you!  Actually, it’s directed to you who may have a bright, motivated college-age kid, friend, employee, or relative who wants to help save the world.  Or, perhaps more realistically, build up the kind of experience that may actually result in gainful employment.

The gig is a summer internship at the Institute for the Future from June 25 – Aug 3.  The Institute is in Palo Alto and I can attest to the quality of this organization.  But wait, there’s more!  It pays $3000.

Watch Out for this Guy

If you have not heard of Fernando Flores, you probably will.  He is a dangerous genius who may dramatically impact the future of management.  Some are saying that what Peter Drucker did for organizations, Flores is doing for individuals.  In a Fast Company article it is said that “Before Peter Drucker, there was no science of management.  Before Fernando Flores, there was no science of organizational transformation.  Flores has defined the terrain, drawn the maps, created the language – and built the rocket ship to take you there.”

Why do I think he is a dangerious genius?  Rembember Werner Erhard and his Erhard Seminars Training (est) courses?  These began in 1971.  By 1988 one million people had attended this cult-like, human potential “training.”  But by 1990 he experienced a high personal burn rate.  His family turned on him, the IRS came after him and his company fizzled out.  He psychologically messed up a lot of people, i.e., his followers.

Fernando Flores certainly has street cred.  He was the finance minister of Chilean president Salvador Allenda which resulted in spending three years as a political prisoner.  He has a Ph.D from UC-Berkeley (his thesis, written in 1979, was Management and Communication in the Office of the Future), and he has founded two successul companies.  He is worth $40 million dollars.

Any thoughtful student of the future, or even the present, no doubt senses at least some need for organizational and personal transformation.  The dynamics of the future will demand it.  So I have taken note of an observer stating in the current issue of strategy+business that in every conversation, Flores focuses on “inventing the future that is possible for him and the human being he is talking to.  He’s always had ambitions for other people that are bigger than their own.”  I like that.  He has said that when you find yourself in seemingly untenable situations you don’t need solutions, you need transformation.  I like that, too.  “Hope is the raw material of losers,” I’m still thinking on.  But you have to kind of like a guy who occassionally goes out and buys $1,000 worth of books and the rearranges his work schedule to give himself time to read them.  I like that idea.  A lot.

His next big idea?  To combine social media, politics and human potential to create “pluralistic networks.”  That sounds like something to watch out for.

I’m Losing My Intellectual Heroes

We all know that one of the first signs that you’re getting old is when your friends begin dying.  My father, at 90 years of age, used to tell me that he felt like the official pall bearer at his church.

I received some news today that made me realize that time does take its toll in different ways at different stages in one’s life.  I just realized that my intellectual heroes are dying.  Russell Ackoff has died at 90.  “Cantankerous Russ” was a cool guy.  He was a pioneer of systems thinking and organizational design long before it gained today’s popularity.  To really get to know this man and his work go to the Ackoff Collaboratory for Advancement of the Systems Approach.  Whenever I read one of his 31 books I made sure I had a hi-lighter close at hand.

Another recently fallen one is Robert Spinrad, a former director of the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC).  He was 77 and known for enouraging innovation and creativity among his fellow engineering researchers.  He could even bring together scientists and corporate executives, sort of a modern-day mind mash-up.  For years I thought it would be cool to work at PARC.

Guys like Ackoff and Spinrad never gained the notoriety of a Peter Drucker.  But they plowed a lot of ground and I am indebted to them.  On behalf of my generation – thanks for the hi-lights gentlemen.

Keep Your Head in the Clouds

Consider:  Students in rooms with high ceilings do better on tasks where they have to see relationships between things and think abstractly, while those under low ceilings excel at detail oriented work.

This “high ceiling finding” was recently discovered through a study undertaken by the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management.  With high ceilings, the participants in the study more easily saw relationships between different pieces of information, and focused on the similarities between things as opposed to points of differences.  The inverse was found true in the case of lower ceiling height.  The lower ceiling caused the students to process information in a more detailed fashion.  So, in general, they processed more freely with higher ceilings and processed in a more focused and detailed way in lower ceilings.

Consider: A positive mood enhances efforts to attain future well-being, encourages broader and flexible thinking, and increases openness to information.

This “positive mood finding” is based on a study recently reported in the Journal of Consumer Research.  The most sweeping conclusion is that a positive mood can increase our ability to understand the big picture.  The authors explain that being in a good mood allows you to step back emotionally, to distance yourself from the situation.  Those in a positive mood not only adopt higher-order future golas but work harder toward attaining them, the researchers concluded.

If there is validity to this research, architects, executives and essentially anyone who values their ability to think should take notice.  If you are working on a long-range strategy make sure you remain in a good, positive frame of mind and seek expansive physical environments.  Perhaps this is why we use the phrase “blue-sky thinking” and “you have your head in the clouds.”  On the other hand, if you have detailed work to do, such as accounting, stay in a good mood but head for the basement.  Evidently, you will do your best work there.  Personally, I prefer to keep my head in the clouds.