Futuring: What is it and why engage in it?

“Futuring” is a concept popularised by Edward Cornish (1977, 2004) which describes the process of engaging in creative activities intended to produce visions of the future. I define it as the art of creating solutions before needs arise. The process can be emergent, involving asking questions such as “what if?” or simply telling a story or it can be structured involving purposeful data mining, long research trajectories or experiments. Whichever process used both require action steps in order to yield positive outcomes.

There are various methods to futuring. Popular methods include brainstorming, environmental scanning, the Delphi Model, the ERRC (Eliminate, Reduce, Raise, Create) as used in the Blue Ocean paradigm (Chan Kim and Mauborgne, 2017) visioning and scenario plotting. The process can be individual or collective, participatory or inclusive.

These methods are often anchored by two overarching approaches.  They are the analytical approach and the generative approach. The analytical approach addresses the available evidence that is needed to map the future, such as data and trends. Individuals may engage in forecasting to extrapolate from data that which is likely to happen. The generative approach addresses the kind of future that you want to create. This process is normally done through focussed and consistent inquiry and imagination. It involves pulling talents and teams together to ask compelling questions that can foster risk taking, stimulate learning, change and innovation.

Given the changing landscape, the influx of technology and the current reality of space and distance in our teaching/learning and leadership interfaces, educational professionals are encouraged to engage in generative and analytical futuring in order to design systems that are sustainable and to prepare themselves and their teams to manage change effectively. The activity of futuring prompts innovation and actions not previously thought to be possible.


NCEL’s Success at Futuring

“We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next ten” – Bill Gates.

Global companies engage in futuring to understand how change unfolds in critical parts of the world. They examine the mega trends and then utilise that data to predict changes in customer needs. They share ideas and stories and translate them into strategies and prototypes. The megatrends communicated in the Inquentia Trend Report (2016) that gives a 15-20 year outlook includes: a digital society, aging population, urbanisation, global growth and sustainability. What do these trends tell you about how you are to start shaping your organization and your life?

Approximately three (3) years ago, the National College for Educational Leadership (NCEL) examined the mega trend, "digital society", and used the futuring approach to conceptualise and implement new and innovative ways to build digitial literacy within and across its constituents. It recognised that leadership development cannot be confined to closed spaces as the issues in educational leadership are too complex and the information too widely spread. It needed mobility, scope and accessibility.

The Ignito Learning Management System which now presents the possibility for the College’s online campus has been updated and upgraded to facilitate a wide range of the College’s programmes. It acts as the single access point for the asynchronous delivery of the College’s newest initiative, the Virtual Instructional Leadership course.  NCEL’s leadership development webinars streamed through the College’s YouTube Channel, Eye on Leadership, Leadership development blogs, Digital Learning Series (short videos which feature best practices as well as leadership and performance conversations all serve to impact and equip leaders with the knowledge, skills and competencies. In addition, The Principal's Voice Magazine and E-zine (all conceptualized in 2017, 2018 and 2019) are products of the College's structured and emergent futuring exercises. These initiatives are proving today to be relevant and meaningful approaches to the continuation of leadership development, teaching/learning and connecting and engaging effectively.

What may the future look like for you and your school? We can never say for certain. But we can say you may find yourself in a comfortable place if you engage your team in this critical and often overlooked activity. You never know which other pandemic you may be able to survive.


Strategies for Engaging in Futuring

There are nine (9) simple strategies for engaging in futuring. 

  1. Get staff members to share what they envision their present jobs to look like.

  2. Identify team strengths and allow staff members to speak about what their work looks like when they are at their best.

  3. Examine data with a purpose for change.

  4. Publish data to stakeholders for feedback.

  5. Use staff meetings to identify the root cause of success rather than the root cause of failure (Whitnery and Trosten-Bloom, 2010).

  6. Arrange meetings or discussions that solely examine possibilities, probabilities and preferences.

  7. Utilise the various futuring methods.

  8. Create leaders at every level of the institution.

  9. Use collaborative models to deal with challenges and pull in answers from those who are closest to the problem.

People support what they help to create and so the more of our teams we involve in the process, the more buy-in we will get and the greater the solutions will align with what the future may present.




Cornish, E. (2004). Futuring: The exploration of the future. USA. World Future Society.
Whitney, D., Trosten-Bloom, A, & Rader, K. (2010). Appreciative leadership: Focus on what works to drive winning performance and build a thriving organization. New York: McGraw Hill.
Chim Khan, W., & R. Mauborgne (2017). Blue Ocean Shift: Beyond competing. New York: Hachette Book Group Inc.
Inquentia Trend Report (2016). Retrieved from: https://vdocuments.site/meet-digital-society-a-mega-trend-inquentia-trend-report-2016.html  

Profile of Writer
Taneisha Ingleton, PhD has a performance driven, agile and innovative mind. She believes in the infinite capacity of each individual to bring autonomy, mastery and purpose to their life and work. Dr. Ingleton is an author and has expertise in Design Thinking. She is a Leadership Development Programme Designer, Educational Leadership Researcher, Capability Development Specialist, Designer of Competency Frameworks and Consultant. She earned her PhD at the University of Saskatchewan, Canada. Her scholarly writing, her experiences and her dissertation research have focused significantly on leadership development. Prior to her Master of Philosophy Degree, she had completed her Undergraduate Degree and Post Graduate Diploma from the University of the West Indies [UWI], Jamaica with First Class Honours and, distinction respectively. Dr. Ingleton has over seventeen years combined teaching, research and management experience at the high school level, Undergraduate, Masters and PhD levels in Jamaica and Canada. Her areas of publication, research and teaching include Educational Leadership, Transformational Leadership, Educational Policy and Planning, Instructional Leadership, School Improvement, Strategic Planning, Editorial Writing, Spanish Language, Literature and Culture.  Her research has, to date, informed over 90 scholarly articles and dissertations on leadership and school effectiveness. She is currently completing her Bachelor of Laws degree at the University of London.

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