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Copyright © 2005, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
European Futurists Conference Lucerne
European Futurists Conference Lucerne
Europe’s leading futures experts gathered for the first time in Lucerne for the European Futurists Conference Lucerne. From 10-12 July 2005, 200 participants from 19 countries discussed new methods of perceiving and seizing the future as well as new findings in futures studies. The Conference will be held annually in Lucerne.
As the number of future experts in Europe and at the same time the request for better understanding of the future of European businesses and governments is growing, a group of 25 people, all of them either directors of leading future studies institutes or future experts within public and private organisations, took the initiative to create an European platform for future expertise. In January 2004, they passed at the Swiss Re Centre for Global Dialogue in Zurich a mission statement, saying that the European Futurists Conference Lucerne shall be “the most important annual gathering of futurists, analysts and decision makers with long-term perspectives working with scientific methods of futures studies in Europe. It is dedicated to the professional needs of futurists AND to the needs of long-term decision makers and analysts in business, politics and society in Europe”.
The aims of the European Futurists Conference Lucerne are:
to promote the quality of futures studies in Europe;
to promote the sharing of future-oriented knowledge among futurists, analysts and decision makers with long-term perspectives in business, politics and society of Europe;
to contribute to the understanding of possible futures of European business, politics and societies, which is embedded in a global perspective;
to promote the public dialogue about possible futures; and
to support European business, politics and societies, in creating their preferred future.
First conference: improving future tools
The pre-conference centred on improving the tools of foresight. Particularly helpful were the session, where companies and governments such as Swiss Re, Swisscom, OECD or the government of Liechtenstein presented their future scanning challenges and were looking for approaches and methods to seize them. “How will the next generation perceive the risks and benefits of new technologies?”, “How can we foresee the future of the telcom industries?”, “How can a country establish a national foresight programme?” were some of the questions being raised. In intensive breakout sessions, the future experts came up with solutions.
Patrik Sallner, Head of Insight & Foresight of Nokia, said that futures studies need to meet three criteria in order to help business leaders to make good decisions:
give them insight on the future of their customers and my industry;
help them understand what the implications are for their business; and
involve them in exploring the options that they face.
The leading German futurist Matthias Horx reflected on the professional standards for future experts, pleading that futures studies should develop to a meta science of change. He also suggested a code of conduct for futurism:
learn to ask better questions (instead of knowing all the answers);
do not take with your greedy mouth full;
disappoint your customer responsibly;
never mention concrete dates; and
let us tell (and listen to) stories where people can love, hope and cry.
Johan Peter Paludan of the Copenhagen Institute for Futures Studies described the future experts’ role in inspiring clients and being the sparring partner of the change agent within an organisation.
Future tools for growth
The theme of the main conference centred on how Europe can shape its future: The futurists proceed on the assumption that Europe is in the middle of a process of fundamental change which will radically alter the political and economic landscape over the next 10 to 20 years. New growth centres are arising in Asia and possibly in South America, which could let Europe fall behind. According to the Deutsche Bank’s predictions, the national economies of India, Malaysia and China will grow by more than 5 percent a year by 2020, whereas growth in Europe – apart from a few exceptions – will achieve noticeably less than half this figure. What will these mean for the business environment of the European economy, what for the labour force in Europe, what for its wealth, its political institutions, and for its geopolitical influence?
At its main conference, the future experts discussed the contribution of better foresight to this growth challenge in Europe. Thanks to its systematic futures research, Siemens has, for example, recognised that “people do not want a futuristic, technology-dominated future. Rather they want technology which is unobtrusively integrated into the environment and supports everyday living”, said Heinrich Stuckenschneider, Head of Strategic Marketing at Siemens. Bo Malmberg of the Swedish Institute for Futures Studies pointed out, that that Europe’s ageing and decreasing population is also concealing opportunities for growth. Due to increased savings, a low interest rate is emerging which is stimulating investment in research and development. A shrinking population also offers the possibility of redefining growth: from quantitative to qualitative growth.
Keynote speeches of Patrick Dixon (Global Change) and Michael Jackson (Shaping Tomorrow), opened the session, while business best practises were presented on how decision makers can rely on scenarios, simulations, horizon scanning and trend analysis for their strategic planning. In a final discussion, Ged Davis, Managing Director of the World Economic Forum Davos, and Norbert Walter, Chief Economist of Deutsche Bank, argued on the future agenda for Europe. Norbert Walter draw a rather pessimistic picture due to the low fertility rates in Europe, whereas Ged Davis was more optimistic because people have proved to be adaptive to new situations.
The European Futurists Conference will be held annually in Lucerne. Further information at: www.european-futurists.org
Georges T. RoosManaging Director at European Futurists Conference Lucerne. Tel. +41 (0)41 240 63 60; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org