Barbara van Veen Ph.D.
Barbara van Veen teaches Corporate Foresight in Exec Ed programs of Nyenrode Business University and facilitates in-company management development programs. She has 20+ years of experience in boardroom consulting and a Ph.D. in managerial foresight.One Page CV
Why Teaching Corporate Foresight
Anticipating disruption early is a crucial competitive organizational competency and contributes to innovative, inclusive, sustainable futures.
Without Corporate Foresight, aspiring leaders meet disruption unprepared and have to learn tough management lessons at a cost to their organization.
In an increasingly uncertain world (pandemic, war, climate change, digitalization, and interwoven economies), corporate foresight is the discipline for future profitability and purpose.
(See, for instance: SLAUGHTER RA. Futures Studies as an Intellectual and Applied Discipline. American Behavioral Scientist. 1998;42(3):372-385. doi:10.1177/0002764298042003008)
We have no facts about the future, so we don't have right answers. Only the best possible answers. That makes researching or practicing -and thus teaching Foresight different from other disciplines (and also much fun).
The factlessness of the future has three significant consequences for teaching:
- Lacking facts means high uncertainty about what exactly is changing, when and how changes will impact the organization, and when and how to respond best. Learners have to practice strategizing and deciding under uncertainty. Besides dealing with the pressure of uncertainty, learners also need methods to minimize the bias-enhancing effects of uncertainty.
- Lacking facts means working with subjective opinions. For example, in Foresight, we think one person's expertise is another person's blind spot and vice versa. In other words: foresight intelligence is socially constructed. Therefore, learners must practice assembling and working with diverse teams, focusing on unique views instead of commonalities, and integrating perspectives into overarching concepts.
- Lacking facts means we rarely start with normative models of the phenomena we study. Instead, we must work inductively (from incident to theory) and often even abductively (from surprise to plausible patterns).
The Classroom as Simulation
High uncertainty, socially constructed knowledge, and abductive approaches turn the classroom into a simulation of real-world problems. Several small but diverse teams will act as the CEO of a company right before a crucial decision. They must go through the foresight process to inform their judgment and experience the effect of not knowing the correct answer up till the end of the course. While working, they will discover the criteria for the best answer and practice actual foresight methods at the same time. They will develop competencies and skills like strategic awareness and inclusive leadership. Last but not least, they will increase their tolerance of uncertainty.
Future Leaders for Better Futures
These understandings, competencies, skills, and tolerances are a requirement for future leaders, foresight practitioners, and researchers alike. The organizational environment will become much more uncertain under climate change, digitalization, and other meta trends. Preparing learners to lead in such environments feels like a much-needed contribution to better futures.
Instructor and Process Facilitator
As a foresight instructor, I am the process facilitator, scaffolding it with microteaching, structure, and UDL learning materials and watching over the safest possible learning environment. At no point will I predict the future, but I will often have the pleasure of being surprised by learners' insightful and creative outlooks.
Foresight has all the ingredients for an exciting and fulfilling learning journey. It can become inspiring when motivated learners feel free to express themselves and explore other opinions despite the tension of uncertainty and grading. I love to bring out that freedom and witness its effect on thinking complexity. #ChallengeAccepted!
Recent Professional Development
I am always learning, from students, peers, books, practice, and, of course, educator training. In the past months, two courses have had a high impact on my teaching.
Successful Case Teaching: In-class and Online
The impact of this three-day online workshop led by Professor Angela Lee (Columbia Business School) and featuring peers teaching the case method at universities in very different countries were:
- Including easy educational technologies in online case classes, making teaching much more interactive. I now use Google docs, Miro or LucidSpark, and PollEverywhere.
- Cold-calling inclusively and with UDL means.
Higher Education Teaching Certificate (2022-10-8)
COURSE IN PROGRESS
The impact of this eight-week online course by Harvard's Preceptor in Expository Writing Tad Davies and peers from all educational levels and sciences was:
- Creating peer-reviewed approaches to include students with different learning needs.
- Rigorously back planning the lesson plans with activities linked to learning outcomes.
Microteaching Example from an Online Class on Scanning
In this 12 -minute video, you'll see how I use small teaching, scaffolding, and educational tech to let learners discover horizon scanning. For privacy purposes, you don't hear or see learners or their inputs, but you'll still get a fair idea of my work. This microteaching is part of a series that together form a lesson.
Since 2007, I have taught foresight to hundreds of executives per year. Classes changed from lectures to learning activities and from face-to-face via online to blended. Presently, I teach a masterclass format (Nyenrode University) and a fundamentals course (in-company version).
Masterclass Corporate Foresight
Fundamentals of Corporate Foresight Course
Corporate Foresight in Your Curriculum
Corporate Foresight is part of Futures Studies. The discipline shares models and methods with Strategic Choice, Organizational Learning, and Management of Innovation.
Futures Studies is a separate faculty at several universities, but ingredients like Corporate Foresight can seamlessly integrate with courses in related disciplines.
From integrating one lesson or one module to Ph.D. supervision
Studies focusing on Strategy, Business, or Organizational Learning can significantly benefit from including the fundamentals of Futures Studies in their curriculum. Learners develop intricate future scenarios helping them to direct their goal setting and career.
(2004) Imaging the Future of Science Education: the Case for Making Futures Studies Explicit in Student Learning, Studies in Science Education, 40:1, 139-177,