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Using Futures 2.0 to manage intractable futures: the case of weight loss

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PurposeFuturists have tended to take little interest in the hard work of implementing changes necessary to reach particular futures. This paper aims to argue that the field should pay more attention to these issues, and to use the challenge of weight loss to illustrate how tools can be developed to help both individuals and organizations deal with futures. It also aims to argue for the importance of mindfulness in managing long-term futures challenges. Design/methodology/approachThe paper describes how the author applied concepts outlined in Futures 2.0 to his own program of weight loss, and lost 50 pounds (22.7 kilograms). FindingsThe paper shows how futurists could use concepts from behavioral economics and design in personal futures and futures work more generally. It also suggests that mindfulness ‐ a concept borrowed from Buddhism and other contemplative practices ‐ can give perspective necessary see the long-term consequences of decisions they face in the present, and the self-discipline necessary to make good choices. Research limitations/implicationsThe paper argues that futurists should not just focus on helping clients see unexpected trends or wild cards, or thinking about the future in new ways, or reframing their underlying strategic assumptions. Complex, intractable futures subvert the best efforts of rational actors; clients are most interested in getting help on the problems they are least likely to solve. Practical implicationsMore value for clients can be delivered by helping them understand common roadblocks and designing the means to reach long-term future goals. Social implicationsFor a profession accustomed to thinking about big issues and megatrends like nanotechnology and global warming, losing weight may seem trivial and beneath its interest. But by any objective measure, in much of the developed world obesity is a substantial public health problem: it affects the lives of tens of millions of people, increases chronic diseases like hypertension and diabetes, and costs governments hundreds of billions of dollars. More generally, weight loss is a microcosm of the kinds of problems that can only be managed through the collective action of large numbers of people. Originality/valueThe paper is a contribution to the literature on personal futures, and to the ongoing discussion of the scope and methods of futures.
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Keywords: Behaviour modification; Diet; Forecasting; Motivation (psychology); Personal health; Scenario planning

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2011-07-19

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