Learning (Again) with Elizabeth Merritt and the Center for the Future of Museums

Last week, here at the ALA offices in Chicago, we had the pleasure of hosting Elizabeth Merritt (right), Vice President of Strategic Foresight at the American Alliance of Museums and Founding Director of their Center for the Future of Museums. Elizabeth’s visit to Chicago was part of her continued support for the development of the Center for the Future of Libraries and it was a great opportunity to catch up on both of our organizations’ work and many of our shared experiences. Elizabeth Merritt, Center for the Future of Museums
 
While she was here in Chicago, I asked Elizabeth to share a presentation with our staff. Her presentation was similar to what she shared with attendees at ALA’s 2015 Midwinter Meeting. It’s a great overview of strategic foresight and futuring and a nice introduction to the Center for the Future of Museums. I found this past week’s presentation as valuable and insightful as the one I saw last January. 
 
If you haven’t had a chance to view the recording from the Midwinter presentation, I’d invite you to take a look now. It’ll introduce some key concepts for thinking about the future:
  • How trends, events, and choices form the core of strategic foresight and futuring work
  • The “cone of plausibility” as a tool for thinking about our relationship to the future
  • The importance of defining and monitoring categories of change (STEEP or STEEPED, as the Center for the Future of Libraries uses)
Hearing it again, I also noticed that there’s a real story of innovation and change in this talk. When Elizabeth talks about the Center for the Future of Museums it echoes the experiences of innovators and change agents. Build a sense of urgency. Don’t plan too far ahead. Try lots of things. Fail fast. Don’t respect tradition too much. Dream big. It’s the stuff that worked and the stuff that didn’t work that’s important in innovation and change.
 
I have so much respect for Elizabeth’s knowledge of strategic foresight and futuring, but it’s her mastery of innovation and change that really inspires me.