Everyone thinks of changing the world,
but no one thinks of changing himself
(Leo Tolstoy)

What competences could be considered fit-for-the-future?

A couple of months ago, beFORE project team (futureoriented.eu) launched an investigation to identify competences of a future-oriented individual. Altogether we gathered, clustered, and analysed more than 1000 records of competences.  The data sources were: scientific and popular press articles, books, the content of thematically relevant degrees, courses, and programmes. As a result of our research we singled out a set of twelve competences (Fig. 1), which are needed to deal with future-oriented tasks. Each of these competences relates to a subset of particular foresight competences, which will ensure future orientation of the e-learning course that we aim to build.

Fig. 1. The competences and their definitions

In the next step, our team launched an online survey to investigate, which of the twelve competences, are considered the most important by the three target groups (Academics, Entrepreneurs, Students) in the time frame of 10 – 15 years ahead.

General overview of the results from the survey

The research sample consisted of 346 respondents; rather evenly representing:

  • Working population (academics: 21%, business representatives: 24%) and
  • Studying community (university students: 55%).

Fig. 2. The results of the survey – overall ranking

“Adaptability/Flexibility”; “Critical thinking”; “Thinking creatively”; “Analysing data or information”, “Developing objectives and strategies”, “Making decisions and solving problems”; were the six, highest ranked competences out of the twelve assessed in the survey (concerning all target groups as well as all ranking questions both, referring to present and future). Whereas, the lower ranked competences included: “Influencing others”, “Systems Analysis”, “Problem Sensitivity”, “Interpreting the meaning of information to others”, “Reflexive capacity” and “Inductive reasoning”.

Worth emphasizing is also the fact, that the consortium had expected more diverse response patterns between the target groups, but subsequent survey results showed that the needs were rather unified (Fig. 3).

Fig. 3. The results of the ranking across target groups

The level of individual foresight awareness and organizational foresight maturity

The results of the survey revealed not only target groups’ preferences in relation to particular, previously defined set of competences, but also such aspects as general attitude to the future, organizational foresight maturity, readiness to establish own company  in the future, or the level of foresight awareness, to name just a few.

The surveyed population assessed their level of foresight awareness or futures literacy using 5-point scale: from the least  to the most advanced (1-novice; 5-expert).

  • 70% admit that they are novices or beginners when it comes to the understanding of the concept of foresight/futures literacy.
  • 19% consider themselves competent in practicing foresight.
  • 11% claim to have a deep or authoritative understanding of the methods of anticipation.

In addition to the above question, business representatives were asked to assess their organizational foresight maturity[1]. The results were the following:

  • 31% indicated Level 1. Foresight activities are not or are rarely held and result in only a coincidental relationship to planning activities and resulting execution.
  • 33% indicated Level 2. Foresight projects are on the annual calendar for an organization. The process and the results trickle through the organization and unevenly become part of the future of the organization.
  • 14% indicated Level 3. Foresight activities are regularly on the agenda for all levels of management. The results of these activities play an important role in deciding and executing the future agreed upon for the organization.
  • 16% indicated Level 4. Foresight activities and discussions of the future are a considered part of planning activities of the organization. The organization effectively and consistently executes to deliver the plan for the future.
  • 6% indicated Level 5. The organization is recognized by peers as being able to envision a vibrant future and then effectively enlist all its members to engage and live their collective vision.

Discussing the results of the survey

When comparing the lists of additional competences proposed by the target groups through open-ended questions in two points in time (now and in approximately 15 years’ time) the following conclusions can be drawn:

  • People were largely positive and open-minded when thinking about possible skills, which could facilitate their professional lives.
  • Competences related to technical or field-specific knowledge and skills were rather absent from the suggested items.
  • At the same time when asked about future job titles, rather traditional professional roles were proposed (managers, CEOs, company owners, researchers).
  • All three groups associated future competences with better self-management; self-awareness; people-orientation and co-operation; openness (for other disciplines, cultures); failure and stress tolerance, passion, courage, motivation, change management.

The reasons for the orientation of all target groups towards more ‘human-centred’ values and ethical competences could be explained as follows:

  • Eight out of the twelve competences that the survey was focused on regarded more functional, task-oriented competences (“analytical thinking”, “critical thinking”, “developing strategies”, “making decisions”, “solving problems”, “data analysis”) combined with original thinking and acting (“thinking creatively” and “adaptability/flexibility”). When asked about selecting the five key choices, respondents needed to prioritize and instinctively they might have been picking the professional ones leaving the soft competences behind.
  • The four competences that in the intention of the survey authors were describing psychological traits and relations with others (“reflexive capacity”, “problem sensitivity”, “influencing others”, “interpreting the meaning of information to others”) could have been misunderstood by the respondents or could have accidentally underlined the specific aspects relevant for foresight and futures studies communities’ type of thinking. Consequently, the respondents omitted them and suggested alternatives, which in fact may have been equivalents of those (at least to some extent).
  • When asked open questions related to the future, the respondents were in fact answering the question “what person I would like to become in the future” and it appeared that individuals who took part in the survey placed personal goals, values, beliefs, motivations among the main constituents of their professional development and personal growth.

Implications of the survey results for beFORE e-learning programme development

The results of the survey constitute one of the essential elements guiding the consortium in the process of creating e-learning courses within the next phases of the project. In a view emerging from the results of the survey, that is:

  • The relatively low level of ‘Foresight awareness’ and
  • Similar competence choices across the different target groups,

it seems reasonable to the project consortium to offer a basic course and accompanying, advanced thematic courses, which could be of interest to any of the target groups’ representatives. Both basic, and advanced courses could fall into the four module framework:

  • Module 1: An overview of the field and bringing in the perspective of personal futures;
  • Module 2: Rationale behind foresight, areas of its application, outcomes, impacts and risks;
  • Module 3: Methods / Tools needed to work with the abstract ideas of futures / uncertainty;
  • Module 4: Communicating the results to various audiences and stimulating agency.

The course will be piloting in 2019. Please visit our website: futureoriented.eu to find out more about the course and our #beFORE project.

[1] The available scale was a 5-point one and it was based on the Foresight Maturity Model (FMM) introduced by Terry Grim in 2009. The original FMM survey is composed of several dozen questions, which map out the strategy building processes of an organization and it is recommended that a number of key employees in the organization undertake it, which should guarantee that the general, one digit Foresight Maturity result is the closest to reality. Given the orientation of the beFORE survey (assessment of individual foresight competences and identification of educational needs) and resulting limitations (time); it needs to be noted that the respondents from businesses were asked one general question regarding their organizational foresight maturity.