02 January 2014

It's 2014. Do you know what the future holds?

As we begin a New Year, thoughts turn from what was to what will be or could be! Imagining and creating the future is especially important in the context of President Hester Klopper’s 2013-15 presidential call to action: Serve locally, transform regionally, lead globally. Klopper’s request to provide input and respond to the work of the Global Advisory Panel on the Future of Nursing (GAPSON) calls for development of futures literacy among nurses around the globe.

Improve your futures literacy and help transform health care.
Consider that, in 1997, the International Council of Nurses (ICN), on the occasion of their 100th anniversary, partnered with the Institute for Alternative Futures to create the Guidebook for Nurse Futurists. The World Future Society is home to a number of resources that educators, clinicians, and administrators can use to exercise and influence the development of future-thinking skills. Perhaps, in 2014, it is time to renew and resurrect our learning about futures thinking, research methods, and the creativity associated with design-thinking about the future we want to create.

Intentional use of futures thinking and the application and evaluation of futures-related research methods is a chance to inspire agency in the face of uncertainty. How will you use these resources to anticipate, forecast, and respond to future trends and scenarios that have cascading consequences? What future do you want to create for yourself and the nursing profession at large?

Riel Miller, PhD, argues that futures literacy involves dynamic interactions between narrative capacity, our collective interactive sense-making intelligence, and our capacity to reframe situations. Nurses are very good at sense-making and, if provided the time, space, and resources, we excel at activating our collective intelligence and reframing situations with a greater good in mind.

In addition to Miller’s work, the ideas and insights of Margo Greenwood, PhD, and colleagues provide a road map for developing agency in the face of uncertainty. It is useful, they suggest, to reflect on the cross-impact of two variables: locus of control (to what degree do we see our response to the future in our own hands or the hands of others) and certainty versus uncertainty about the future. Such a 2-by-2 reflection reveals four positions. As you consider the positions below, discern what stance best represents the perspectives of your organization, colleagues, and your own personal or professional opinions.
  • Position 1, Building site: People assume the future is open and undetermined, and they have control determining the way forward into possibility.
  • Position 2, Route map: People are confident of a particular future coming to pass, and they have control over their path to that future.
  • Position 3, Carried along: People are confident of a particular future coming to pass and do not see themselves having control over their path to that future.
  • Position 4, Into the mist: People assume the future is open and undetermined, and they do not see themselves as having control over determining their way forward in relation to possibilities.

Is it possible to change peoples’ opinions, beliefs, and points of view? I believe it is, and An Educator’s Guide: Realistic and Creative Strategies for Thinking About the Future, is a wonderful resource that supports development of futures literacy skills and helps people see a way forward. The exercise included in this resource helps people explore and unpack tacit beliefs, values, and positions and nudges people toward more proactive insight and understanding of the need for agency and action.

As you think about your engagement with the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International, over the next biennium, consider how you can develop your futures literacy. Explore and experiment with some of the references, tools, and resources cited in this post. Share your learning and discoveries with others. Consider how exerting nursing-leadership influence can shape the future and contribute to the positive transformation of a 21st-century health care system. Move beyond the fear of uncertainty to agency and action.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.