As the pandemic unfolded last year and the world of work shifted, we wanted to support our clients in new ways. This led us to explore a range of possibilities to help our clients in their foresight and futures work. From our conversations we developed the idea of the SAMI Futures Cohort and, encouraged by the success of a small pilot meeting, we signed up a small group of interested individuals.
Since last September, this small group of people from different organisations have met, via Zoom, for an hour and a half every two months. Based around futures-oriented techniques and themes identified by the group, such as horizon scanning, engagement of the organisation in foresight work and scenario planning, the sessions have included a mix of short presentations, plenary discussions on both the theme and more specific challenges posed by members of the group.
Feedback has been positive. Individuals have said that the presentations and discussions have given them new ideas and insights into some of the issues and challenges they are facing within their organisations when seeking to encourage and enhance futures thinking. Of particular interest has been the section of the Zoom call where the group shares and discusses some of the challenges they are facing.
These comments have encouraged us to think further about the options we can offer to help people build their futures community and support network.
As a result, we are looking how we can run these Futures Cohort sessions as Action Learning Sets. This process is something developed in the 1960s and 1970s by Reg Revans when he was Professor of Industrial Management at The University of Manchester. The sets are based on the simple principle that he held to be fundamental: the key to better performance lay not with ‘experts’ but with practitioners themselves.
This is derived from his thinking that people learn best when working together to help each other with problems, and then taking answers away and implementing them in the workplace. He recognised that we all have what he termed ‘Programmed Knowledge (P)’ – ie the things we’ve learnt about in order to do our job and then there are the ‘Insightful Questions (Q)’ which are those questions asked of experiences, which when asked at the right time, and considered with care, will yield new insights. Those of you who have worked with a coach or perhaps a boss experienced in coaching techniques will recognise that one or two timely reflective or searching questions can unlock even some of the most seemingly intractable issues.
The Action Learning process has been well documented over the years and has been used by many groups and organisations. It’s based on small groups (5-8 members) working together to solve the real problems that each member of the Action Learning Set brings to the group by focussing on exploring answers to questions like:
- What do we really want to achieve?
- What is stopping us?
- What could we do about it?
- Who has knowledge (P) that we could use?
- Who has an interest in solving the problem?
- Who has the power to get something done?
Some of our initial Futures Cohort group will continue to meet using this process, supported by a facilitator. Nonetheless we believe that this will be helpful for other futures practitioners, so we are looking for other small groups of interested individuals who are willing to experience this process and, through doing so, help both themselves and others become better and more confident futures practitioners. If this is something of interest for you, please contact us at email@example.com
Written by Cathy Dunn, SAMI Principal
Future-prepared firms outperform the average by 33% higher profitability and 200% higher growth. SAMI Consulting brings 30 years of experience delivering foresight, futures and scenario planning – enabling companies and organisations make “robust decisions in uncertain times”. Find out more www.samiconsulting.co.uk.