Prescient has partnered for a second year with the Arizona State University School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes to offer the Foresight Sandbox. The Sandbox is a three-day professional course that combines strategic foresight training with hands-on planning for an era of accelerating technological change. Each year, we choose a technology theme in an area that is growing in importance. This year, our theme is the Future of Human Performance.
In this brief article, we explain why we have selected human performance optimization as our theme in 2020. (If you would like to learn more about Strategic Foresight before reading further: please take a look at our explainer document.
Why the Foresight Sandbox pairs Foresight learning with an Emerging Technology theme
The role of technology in modern societies is complicated. On the one hand, companies often view technology as the main source of potential disruption. On the other, technology may also be seen as the key solution to disruption.
At Prescient, we take a holistic view. We see technology as one driver among many in complex socio-technological systems made up of people and institutions. We focus on technology, but we also put it in a broader context. Not least, at the Foresight Sandbox, we want to create a safe space where senior leaders can ask questions and feel supported while learning about emerging technologies.
2020 Foresight Sandbox Focus:Human Performance Optimization in 2020
“Human performance” is a trans-disciplinary area of research and technology that seeks to understand, measure, and improve how people function in stressful or complex situations. Traditionally, human performance study focused on optimizing the output of workers in industrial or white-collar contexts. Alternatively, researchers sought to learn lessons about human performance from specialized roles, such as athletes, pilots or soldiers.
Today, the study of human performance is exploding with new ideas and emerging applications. These include employee performance but also extend far beyond it. Advances in biology, psychology, computing and medicine have increased our understanding of how humans function. They offer new ways to enhance and measure the performance of individuals and groups.
The ways that human performance could be optimized include ‘far out’ (but actually not far-fetched) technologies such as brain-computer interfaces and digital implants. But they also include more basic emerging concepts around mindfulness, resilience and even nutrition.
Human Performance optimization is for everyone
Human performance knowledge is no longer only for elite teams or ‘special’ workforces. What excites us about this area is its potential importance to everyone: leaders, teams, organizations, societies, communities, and even families.
Human populations of all sorts are facing novel environments and new worlds. Many populations are under increased stress. Here are some examples:
- Managerial workers who must lead and collaborate with remote international teams under time pressure
- Employees facing compounding challenges arising from a shifting economy and changing demographics
- Entire communities trapped at the intersection of poverty, climate change effects, and governance challenges
All of these examples share the same human performance challenges. These challenges include fatigue, developing coping mechanisms, and the need to interact productively with other people and machines.
This cross-cutting area is also complicated and worth spending time to understand fully. Human performance optimization research engages science, technology, work and economics, ethics, legislation, regulation, values, and behavior.
We believe that human performance optimization R&D is critical for organizational leaders to recognize and understand going forward.
The Foresight Sandbox Philosophy
Many organizations are still planning on the basis of the linear planning models of the late 20th century. Maybe even yours. But change today isn’t linear. Change is discontinuous and complex, making the future environment uncertain.
This leaves us with the question: What planning models are effective in an operating environment of accelerating change, uncertainty, and ambiguity? Strategic Foresight offers an answer to that question. Foresight offers thinking and planning tools that help people anticipate, manage and use change to their advantage.
The Foresight Sandbox is a place to learn how to apply these tools most effectively to your organization.
We want to help you anticipate how the business operating environment is changing, and the demands these changes will place on your teams and employees. With these in hand, you can future-proof your organization.