The Condom as a Metaphor for Foresight

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. 

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4 Responses to The Condom as a Metaphor for Foresight

  1. And perhaps one of the greatest advantages of using the condom as a symobol for engaging with the future is that the message is ‘It’s Your future – take responsibility!’
    Marcus 🙂

  2. Di Efram says:

    It would also stops those listen to your futurist views taking “issue” with them also !

  3. Paul Roberts says:

    Ok, but I wonder what member-ship qualifications might get in the way here?

    Seriously, I looked at Marcus Barber’s presentation and it reminded me of the refrain “Don’t try to make clients into foresight professionals” in Thinking About the Future:guidelines for strategic foresight – edited by Andy Hines & Peter Bishop. It is so easy to loose your audience by waxin on about systemic interrelationships

    Key messages in this useful book include tailoring foresight practice to the thinking styles, language and processes of the organisation. Simple as that really.

    Like, er, getting into bed with the client 😉

  4. Henry Pym says:

    Like a rather well worn condom, these prophylactic/bedroom entendres are wearing a bit hin.

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