The Condom as a Metaphor for Foresight

November 15, 2007

Last week, I attended the Ausforesight 2007 conference for practitioners up in Sydney.  Great to see a lot of the old and new hands intermixing.  Some wonderful messages and learnings came out which I plan to post about later.

But one interesting snippet came from Marcus Barber (renowned for coming up with some wacky and brilliant ideas).  Who else would title their presentation “From Foresight Foreplay to Corporate Consummation“?  I would!! 

But before their presentation in the workshop prior to theirs that I was co-facilitating, we were wondering what would make a good metaphor for foresight.  Pens, watches, diaries all came to mind initially until the humble condom came into the picture.  What a great metaphor for foresight!!!  Be prepared – as you never know if you might get lucky.  I got excited by that and thought that I would expand on that a bit more (excuse the pun).

Futurists often talk about different types of futures, to which the condom fits like a glove – or well, like a condom.  Possible futures embrace the most alternatives and you certainly might want a condom in a possible future.  One would hope that it is also a plausible future.  The narrow scope of the probable future depends somewhat on one’s sexual pulling power but it is most powerfully in one’s own preferred future that the metaphor of the condom as a symbol of foresight is strongest.

The other aspect of the symbology of the condom is in relation to why people should consider foresight. There are ultimately three levels here to which the condom fits most exquisitely.  Most people initially think about the future where something needs to be prevented or where risks need to be managed carefully.  The condom is a great metaphor here to overcome the fear/risk of STDs or unwanted pregnancy.  The second meta-level is more anticipatory, where the future is more open, challenging and full of opportunity.  Once again, condoms fit here perfectly as they are the symbol of possible opportunities for lustful satisfaction (or not as the case may be).  And finally, the third meta-meta-level is one based on hope and dreams, of imagining a future with deep emotional engagement.  And here as well, the condom comes fully into play as the symbol of love, romance and of course, unparalleled foresight  (thanks Peter Hayward for that contribution of the three levels).

Perhaps then, an  association of futurists (such as the APF) should have a condom as their symbol rather than a compass (direction setting, where are we going).  While the Friends of the Earth have used condoms in some of their campaigns to highlight the need to protect the world from carbon emissions, I think that futurists using condoms (metaphorically of course) as symbols and branding would help highlight the preventative, opportunistic and hopeful nature of our preferred, probable and possible futures. 


Economics = Uncertainty

November 7, 2007

Interesting blog post over at Henry Thornton referencing a visiting US guru economist.  Now I don’t tend to reference too many economics articles here but having worked with a number of economists in the past (and I must stress that I am not an economist), I find their forecasts often fascinating, often unreliable but always interesting to talk with and debate.  It’s quite an inexact science – and of course there is the old joke about a US president wanting an economist with only one hand as they always say “On the one hand, this bit on the other hand …”  Economics is also a fascinating topic with the current federal election – it’s the economy stupid, interest rates (we’ll hear more about them), etc.

Now this unnamed visiting guru stated that the US is heading for a recession and their housing bubble will deflate slowly.  He then moved on to trade flows and how China is propping up the US dollar, selling the US cheap goods (I heard a stat a while ago saying that 10% of China’s exports to the US go to Walmart and this makes up 1% of China’s GDP), and China then uses these US dollars to buy assets.  The problem is that the undervalued currency produces asset bubbles leading to inflation.  A particular quote got me interested  – “We must cross our fingers and pray that the US dollar does not plunge and that China’s inflation does not take off.” 

The trade imbalances can make things pretty rocky over time.  What happens if the USD spirals down further, particularly if world oil markets starts to use Euro as the currency rather than the USD?  What happens to China if its currency appreciates faster and how will that affect its manufacturing base?  And Australia caught in the middle – how will we fare even though we might not have as much debt as in the US? 

The record high stockmarket cannot keep increasing forever.  I’d like to be more optimistic but I smell that there could be a fair bit of a shake-out over the next year or two which could have drastic consequences for a Howard/Costello or Rudd incoming government.   Mind you, if my forecasts were accurate, I would quit my day job and take up something that could cash in on all this !!


Um, er… Clear speaking and being, er, understood

November 3, 2007

One of the things I learnt from a KM conference a while back was that it really doesn’t matter how you say a message that you want to communicate, what is most important is how that message is being received.

And so I was most interested in a newspaper article that my mother recently provided me.  The article found that disfluencies in utterances (like um, er, ah) force a listener to pay more attention.  It’s because it interrupts what is expected and so forces the listener to pay more attention to the interesting words. 

What would be interesting is whether the study is based on a short amount of speech rather than a long speech.  I find that people who have these ums and ahs in their speech to be a bit of a turnoff – particularly at conferences.  A little bit now and then is OK which causes you to pay more attention as it seems then that the person is striving for the right word.

So that would mean, um, that I reckon, er, that I speak, well sort of, alright like, if you know what I mean.