Futurists share common methods, including intuitive and expert opinion, trend analysis, the Delphi method, scenario planning, time-series extrapolation and computer modeling. More info can be found at forecasting principles.
“Since the future has not yet happened, futurists have had to develop a number of different methodologies for studying the future. These methodologies range from quantitative, left brain methods to visionary, creative, intuitive right brain methods, and various combinations inbetween. Some of the more prominent futures methodologies include the following:
- Trend Extrapolation: Projects past trends into the future, for some given period of time. Assumes that the future will in some way be an extension of past trends.
- Dynamic Systems Analysis and Computer Modelling: Shows how various variables in different areas interact with each other, within a whole systems context, over time.
- Simulations and Games: An attempt to take certain variables from “reality” in some area and create a computer model or game situation in which one can see how those variables might interact with each other over time. Computers or humans (as role players) or both can be involved.
- Cross Impact Analysis: Shows how choices concerning one variable interact with choices concerning another variable, providing a table of all possible combinations of choices for each variable, and showing which combinations are viable and which not.
- Technological Forecasting: An attempt to forecast what technological breakthroughs and developments are most likely to occur in future and when they are likely to occur. In an age in which technology is a major driving force for change, such as today, keeping on top of the latest developments in technology is essential–especially if one works in the high technology area today.
- Technological Impact Assessment: Looks at how new technologies are likely to impact on society or the environment.
- Environmental Impact Assessment: Looks at how new developments in some area will impact on the environment. Often required today, before new building plans can be approved.
- Social Impact Assessment: Looks at how new developments in some area will impact on society or on some community.
- Delphi Polls of Experts–on Either Probable or Preferable Futures: Poll experts in some area on what events they think are most probable (or preferable) and when they are most likely to occur; also the reasons for their answers. Summarize results; give to experts; ask them to take poll again. If they think other people’s reasons for their answers are better, they ‘can’ change their answer the second time; or the third time they take the poll. Gives good results re: experts views of what’s likely to occur in future. More about the Delphi Technique
- Futures Wheels: A group brainstorming technique to quickly determine what some of the first, second, and third order consequences might be, ‘if’ some event were to occur in the future–either for the first time, or if something were to either decrease or increase in value in future. Everything follows from this event put in the center of the futures wheel.
- Scenarios: A possible sequence of events that ‘could’ happen in the future, based on certain initial conditions or assumptions and what could follow from that. Futurists often construct at least two or three different scenarios about the future in some area, believing that different alternative futures are possible. Examples include: best case, worst case, most probable case, and other type scenarios.
- Intuition & Intuitive Forecasting: A right brain ‘a ha’ experience, in which you suddenly ‘know’ something to be true, or you suddenly see patterns and relationships between things that you didn’t see before. Good artists, scientists, corporate executives, and leaders in any area all tend to be intuitive.
- Experiments in Alternative Lifestyles: One of the best ways to find out if alternative values can work is to try them out in practice. Those new “fads” or alternative lifestyles that work, and respond to some social need, often see themselves becoming more mainstream with time.
- Social Action to Change the Future: People willing to join together with others to educate people on some issue and to work for meaningful change often find that their efforts ‘can’ effect and help to change the future.
- Short, Medium, and Long Range Planning: Futurists look at planning in short, medium, and long range terms. [See Earl Joseph's five different time periods for looking at change and the future.]
- Relevance Trees: A way to map out the sequence of events, and in what order, that are necessary to get from where you are now to where you want to be as your end goal by some future date.
- CERT/CPM Analysis: A method for doing complex planning of great numbers of people and subcontractors working on some large project, such as the space program. Indeed, this methodology was first developed for use by NASA in planning how to get to the moon. “