If someone would have told me a year ago: “Tanja, you will become a freelancer and start this crazy new project called Futures Space”, I would have told them — “Sorry, but that surely hasn’t been me.” I always thought I was not capable of solely working on my own and being responsible for all that until I figured — I am just exactly that.
All of it started with a great opportunity last year when a good friend of mine, Aileen Moeck, ask me in August if I would like to join her as a Futurist on her project ‘Die Zukunftsbauer’ — a project where she is disrupting the existing education system by bringing futures thinking into classrooms. I was looking for a new challenge back then and thought “if someone gives you an opportunity you’d better take it” especially for such a great cause. So I’ve been with her on a scholarship for the first six months of my freelancing, and of course, this was a soft landing after jumping off the cliff and into the freelancing pool. As usual, when I make decisions I follow them thoroughly with all my passion and energy, so I had one month to deal with all the bureaucracy Germany has to offer, and oh my that’s an impossible task.
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In the end, I came to an arrangement with myself acknowledging that I did my very best to fill out every legal form I could and to chase down every German agency and now they would have to come to me if needed — there is just no way anyone could ever fullfil all of that.
Let’s jump into the freelancing pool.
After three months of being a freelancer, I took a break and reflected on the time that just had passed. I haven’t felt so much energy and motivation for a really long time and enjoyed structuring my daily duties and being my own boss. I very much felt transferred back to Australia during my studies at Swinburne University where I did not only deepened my Foresight knowledge but was also able to work on multiple projects with diverse and international people. And I recalled that working, thriving and creating futures with people was my energy source after all. However, I also reflected on the hard times that one has as a freelancer — dealing with all the bureaucracy and taxes, struggling to find sparring partners and clients — especially in the futures field as it is tough to get buy-in from organizations for concepts they have never heard of. On the other hand, those people who had heard of Foresight approached me with questions about where they could learn more about it and how to improve futures skills and develop a futures mindset and foresight based strategies.
Here comes in now one of my favorite authors at the moment, Simon Sinek, who discusses in one of his talks that innovation mostly is provoked by struggle and being confronted with a problem that hasn’t been solved, yet. Somehow in that very moment, I had the feeling that there is an opportunity emerging out of my struggle which could create some momentum within in the Foresight and Futures world.
I am always highlighting that Foresight has nothing to do with prediction. Nevertheless, many people still address me, asking about the emerging future. Then, there is only one ‘prediction’ I will give them and it’s about the future of work.
Before I explain this in more detail, let’s make a short trip into my past:
I started my career in the corporate world doing my studies of Industrial Engineering with major in Electrical Engineering for one of the biggest German companies in Stuttgart. It was a dual system where you worked for three months at a company and then studied for three months at the University. After this, I got a job at the former subsidiary of that company, a lighting manufacturer and became a product manager for LED luminaires and Smart Home applications in lighting. Then, I switched to the Corporate Strategy department and was responsible for finding the next big thing! And that was my way into Foresight. Because once you google “What is the next big thing” — and that’s of course what we all do even if it is told us not to do — you will be hit with trends, scenarios and finally Foresight. I fell in love with the futures field immediately as it combined my technical understanding from being an Engineer with the creativity I treasured since I was young and a passionate ballroom dancer. Seemed like the perfect fit for me. Hence, I decided to study a double masters degree in Strategic Foresight and Business Administration at the Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. After I returned from Australia, I worked for two years in a startup focusing on Foresight software before I decided to become a freelancer. So as you can see, I’ve pretty much tried all styles of work that are currently out there during my 12 years of professional experience so far.
Back to the future:
I think why most corporations and even medium-sized companies struggle these days is because they have grown to a size where the majority of employees have to deal with a process overload, non-transparent communication and lack of tolerated ownership for making decisions. Whereas startups tend to struggle setting up those processes in order to grow and scale. Therefore, I wanted to try something different. So my ‘prediction’ of the future of work is that there will be fewer large corporations and more network organizations. That doesn’t exclude that some corporations may have transformed into such rather than disappeared. I believe that the future of work is project-based, agile, flexible and has enough space for individuals to grow on their personalities, strengths, and responsibilities.
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Consequently, I identified three issues:
- Being a freelancer in the futures field is hard. Many things steal your time and keep you from what you actually love — in my case shaping futures. Those things are taxes, invoicing and chasing your money, marketing activities and a general unawareness of Foresight and futures thinking. Additionally, the direct exchange and discussion with other Futurists and Forward Thinkers and the linkage to companies and industries are hard to maintain.
- Foresight and futures thinking are still highly unknown to many organizations and companies which makes it hard to get projects in the first place. However, once companies have experienced Foresight they are so convinced from the field that they are asking for where they can learn more about it.
- Companies struggle with uncertainty, complexity and deadlocked mindsets. They do not only have to deal with a fast pacing digital transformation but also with the social change of their future employees and global awareness that a system change lies ahead. Additionally, their processes tend to keep them from starting new projects fast — from the first quote until the project starts several months may pass. And most of the times they don’t even have identified their most significant problems, just yet.
Shaping an idea by living the future:
That’s how the idea for Futures Space evolved: a platform that provides the opportunity for companies and organizations to meet futures and industry experts so they can solve emerging issues and shape the future together. Because the future concerns us all. Futures Space concentrates on three things.
- Providing a backbone structure for freelancing Futurists and Forward Thinkers so they can focus on what they’re good at and what they love. This means we will ramp up a support system that removes barriers and enabled freelancers to do their job.
- Introducing Foresight and futures thinking to the world by doing combined marketing and social media activities. As Foresight and futures thinking provide methods and concepts that approach the needed skills for the future of work, we want to explain what Foresight is and why it is so vital for any business and even any person in the world. Therefore, we will spread the word on social media, write blog articles, organize meetups and events and speak on conferences about and for the future.
- Matching Futurists and Forward Thinkers with organizations and companies that are looking for answers and need problems to be solved that haven’t even been clearly identified. We are doing this by knowing the strengths of our freelancers and matching them to the companies in need for transformation and change. Therefore, we are offering future-oriented workshops, training, coaching, speeches, boot camps, and insights and invite industry experts who have successfully dealt with such problems. Hence, we provide a space supporting organizations to shape a better future.
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Futures Space a trial for the future of work
I am aware that, by suggesting such a collaboration, I am challenging the future itself — as such a network organization where freelancing Futurists, industry experts, and companies are working on projects together to shape the future does not yet exist, especially, in a structured and organizational way. But as I am a Futurist myself — how can I expect others to challenge the future and to deal with uncertainty and complexity if I am not living by those standards myself. Therefore, Futures Space is an experiment for the future of work, where I invite everyone to participates, who values collaboration over competition and believes that by working together greater things evolve. And the most significant thing, though, is that we won’t remain a sole experiment — mainly we are solving emerging issues, discovering future opportunities and shaping a better future together with organizations.
Who is crazy enough to jump on this space shuttle with me?
Here are the first seven Futurists who are brave and curious enough to follow me into Futures Space:
Our first freelancers ready to explore Futures Space: Richard Jaimes , Konstantinos Manginis , Alexander Pinker , Bastian Springer, Graciela Guadarrama, Aileen Moeck , Christoph Ruth and myself, Tanja Schindler.
And you can see how crazy we are from our first kick-off meeting:
Where are we operating from?
As we are challenging the future of work we will work remotely as well as in small hubs in four different cities of Germany: Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, and Regensburg. So let us know whenever you want to meet us in person and we will make it happen.
Why we talk about futures with an ‘s’?
Most of the times, you will see that I will talk about futures as plural as the future is broad, uncertain but still unwritten. Therefore, we speak of multiple or alternative futures when referring to what may come. Apart from new technologies and digital transformation; social change has a significant impact on how the future will unfold. Finally, when thinking about the future, we constantly need to challenge our biases, assumptions and current mindsets. That’s why at Futures Space we focus on these three areas of change, technology, society, and mindsets.
How does this look like? — Welcome to our planets
For future topics that our network sees as relevant, we create a planet representing an online and offline opportunity to meet and discuss those emerging futures. Once a general discussion had happened and organizations or companies need specific help on an identified issue we shift to project-based work where our freelancers work directly with them to solve the problem. Our current planets are:
What happens on the planets?
- Connect with cross-industry providers within a neutral setting to co-innovate
- Discuss future technologies, social & customer behavior, and new technology standards
- We coordinate, involve industry experts, Startups and universities
- Our freelancer provide new methodologies, trends, their industry impacts, and the latest technology as well as social insights
- Use the gained knowledge to foster your own strategy and product portfolio
- Get matched with our freelancers to continue project- and problem-oriented work
Who can you meet on the planets?
On each planet, you can meet futures and industry experts as well as other members to discuss the multiple futures of your topic of interest.
Are companies and organizations as well as their representatives who are looking for answers or want to explore a specific topic of the future in exchange for our industry and futures experts. They may not know what their particular issue is, yet, but are willing to change and to create a better future for their organization.
Are experts working within a specific industry for over 10 years and want to share their wisdom and insights with others. They are offering and looking for an inspiring exchange with our futurists and members.
Are freelancers that have either a degree in Futures Studies, Foresight, Strategy, Innovation, Strategic Design or any other future-focused field or have been supporting organizations in shaping the future for several years. They have a broad knowledge of futures methods, facilitate workshops, and training and help our members to shape their futures.
What on Earth is a Futurist?
If you made it up to this point — you may have asked yourself the whole time while reading: ‘What on Earth is a Futurist?” Well, let me enlighten you:
A Futurist is a person that challenges your current biases and assumptions to expand your thinking. A Futurist introduces you to a certain mindset and methods that reduce complexity and enable you to make decisions in an uncertain environment. Instead of only chasing trends, a Futurist teaches you how to think about long-term impacts and connecting long-term goals to present actions. By applying Foresight, you will be able to explore diverse futures and shape the future you desire.
Are you intrigued and want to learn more or even become a part of Futures Space — visit our website: http://www.futures-space.com
See you in the future, Cheers Tanja