Future Search The Method
 

Applications in Higher Education

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FAQ's

Higher Education FAQ's

Higher education is different from other industries. What makes future search a viable alternative to classic strategic planning?

Classic strategic planning assumes that administration "knows best," will create the right plan and be able to get buy-in from the rest of the system.

When future search is added to traditional strategic planning, participants often become engaged in thinking about the future in transformative rather than incremental ways. Additionally, implementation tends to occur more rapidly because people leave the meeting ready to implement their plans.

How have people used future search in higher education?

Of the 60-plus future searches documented in higher education, more than half have focused on the future of an entire institution or a school/college. Other searches have focused on new academic programs, curriculum development, student life/student affairs issues, administrative technology, service to community and society, and collaborative efforts and partnerships.

Getting faculty and students to participate for 2 1/2 days is a challenge. How have colleges and universities done that?

A planning team made up of a microcosm of the larger stakeholder body is selected. Participants are invited and confirmed only after they have committed to full attendance. Often the clear invitation and the personal contact makes it easier to get full attendance than open invitations for shorter meetings. Some institutions have run the 2 1/2 days over the summer, spring and fall breaks, or the semester break. Sometimes special accommodations can be made during the academic year. The work of achieving commitment to attend is part of the buy-in process.

As I understand the process, future search is vastly different from other types of gatherings and planning sessions. Will the differences overwhelm participants?

Among faculty, the familiar patterns for discussing, interacting, and making decisions derive from the traditions of their disciplines. Faculty colleagues want, perhaps even expect, opportunities to prepare for participation, develop their ideas fully, react to ideas of others, and critique and refine any plans.

A future search can be uncomfortable because it is less analytical and relational. If people from different departments are on planning team, they can help educate their colleagues as to what makes future search different. Also, a break from familiar and entrenched methods of discourse and problem solving has huge potential for creating a transformative change. An emphasis on finding common ground may be a welcome contrast to the usual culture of debate and argument.

In addition, a break from familiar and entrenched methods of discourse and problem solving has huge potential for creating an openness that will lead to transformative change. An emphasis on finding common ground may be a welcome contrast to the usual culture of debate and argument.


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