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“The future is already here. It’s just not widely distributed.” (William Gibson in The Economist, 2003)

By now you’ve probably read plenty of predictions about the innovative technologies forecasted to take off in 2017. Some of these predictions may seem like simple commonsense, framed as a natural extension of phenomena each of us is observing amid the buzz of our own familiar, proximate environments. Some predictions, however, seem to come out of nowhere. In their brilliance, imagination, and scope, they offer a flash of insight into the breath-taking possibilities the universe has to offer. These are the “Big Wows” of predictions. And, not surprisingly, they are most often made by futurists.

What is a futurist? “One who predicts future events or developments,” according to Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary. The web site goes a good step further by describing three focus areas that comprise the work of a futurist: 1.) Forecasting the future, using quantitative and qualitative means; 2.) Imagining the future, using primarily intuition and writing skills, and 3.) Creating the future, using techniques of planning and consulting.

Some experts believe that in a world marked by unpredictability, futurists will be more valued than ever before for their ability to spot trends and disruptive technologies. Being a futurist is hardly the domain of a chosen few. In fact, you too could be a futurist. “We will all need to be better futurists,” recommends Bryan W. Mattimore, Cofounder and Chief Idea Guy at the Growth Engine Company, and author of best-selling 21 Days to a Big Idea!: Creative Breakthrough Business Concepts. “With the present unpredictability of the world, I think the markets, individuals, and firms are going to be looking for increased control.”

How can you think like a futurist? To help you go from armchair trend-spotter to the futurist pro who brings added value to the workplace, Mattimore recently shared his three tips for how to become a futurist on an episode of SAP Game-Changers 2017 Predictions, presented by SAP.

Here are 3 tips to get you started as a futurist:

  1. Start with quality information. Futurists don’t work in vacuums. Tapping into the wealth of (usually free) resources available online can help you stay on top of trends, find data, and familiarize yourself with how futurists work. Some leading web sites that offer projections include: Cassandra , Abundance Insider newsletter from Peter Diamandis,, and Sparks and Honey. There are also excellent books available, such as Think Like a Futurist and Non-Obvious 2017. “These are all wonderful sources to help us all be more cognitive,” said Mattimore, “– getting us more aware of the things that are changing and the ways we can leverage that.”

  2. Watch for the merging of different disciplines. Your calling as a futurist may come from the most unlikely of places. Mattimore illustrated this with an example of how futurists can find a niche that is uniquely suited to them: “If you have an interest in psychology and architecture, and you’re thinking it’s an either/or – but it might not be.” His suggestion: “Combine those two and become a ‘mood specialist’ on how different buildings are designed to elicit different emotions.”

  3. Invent the future. Be bold and get people thinking. “One of the simplest ways to do that is to take some current trend and match it up to an area of interest,” advised Mattimore. “Probably the easiest is to take the word ‘smart’ and put it in front of anything. I guarantee you’re going to get new inventions. Smart cars, smart refrigerators – we’ve all heard of those. But what’s a ‘smart basketball’, a ‘smart jacket’, ‘smart eyeglasses’?”

“These are just some of the tools that we use as ideation specialists,” said Mattimore. “My prediction is that these tools are going to become much more important in this world of unpredictability.”

Mattimore was among the experts who appeared on Coffee Break with Game-Changers  2017 Predictions Special – Part 3 presented by SAP. Host Bonnie D. Graham asked 16 leading experts, academics, and business influencers what they see in their crystal ball for 2017. Each person was given just two minutes to share their predictions for what the next year holds for their industry, business, the world, and technology. Listen to a recording of the full show.

SAP Game-Changers Radio 2017 Predictions Special Upcoming Shows

For dozens of other insightful predictions that can impact you and your business in 2017 and beyond, listen to all five episodes of SAP’s Game-Changers Radio 2017 Predictions Special. Part 4 will air live on Wednesday, January 11 at 11am EST/ 8am PST at Part 5 airs January 18 at the same link. You can listen to the shows live here.

Follow me: @jacprause

Photo: Shutterstock