Looking ahead: the path to a more stable future

Suleiman Mohammed Al KaabiHe is currently the CEO of the Future Foresight Foundation in Abu Dhabi since 2016, and the President of the Future Horizons Academy. He gave many lectures and training workshops in the field of future foresight and building future scenarios in various parts of the UAE and the Arab world. He also contributed to building many forward-looking plans at the level of the UAE government. At the same time, he is the author of the first scientific encyclopedia in Arabic in the field of future foresight in the Arab world under the title “Encyclopedia of Future Foresight”, and he relies on an independent writing content and design for the concept of future foresight.

Sulaiman Al Kaabi is a resident of the Emirate of Fujairah in the United Arab Emirates. He works and directs the Future Foresight Foundation in Abu Dhabi. He began his life in the military sector, where he achieved first rank in the Police College, which enabled him to obtain a government scholarship to complete his master’s and doctoral studies, until he obtained a doctorate degree in the field of future foresight as the first Arab to specialize in this field with a high scientific degree.

The business model of the institution revolves around training, and writing specialized reports on topics related to future foresight. The Foundation works forward-looking plans for twenty or thirty years, in addition to future trends reports, and as Al-Kaabi emphasizes on this point: “Any organization that wants to know the upcoming challenges and opportunities must have an annual report on future trends.”

What does foreseeing the future mean?

Foresight began in the 1950s, in the defense sector through the RAND Corporation of America. The US government was looking behind two questions: Will there be a strike from the Soviet Union or not? And if the strike happened, what will we do?

Therefore, the science of foreseeing the future is based on two questions: If such-and-such happens … we do such-and-such, or what if we do such-and-such. Subsequently, this science shifted from the military sector to the energy sector and then to the corporate sector, so that Shell Oil Company invested in this science, in order to open and discover new markets.

The concept of foreseeing the future is somewhat similar to strategic planning, except that in the case of strategic planning, it is short-term, from three to five years, but in the case of foreseeing the future, we are talking about a long-term plan that may extend to twenty years. Therefore, it is long-term planning, and it has its own tools and methodologies.

Foreseeing the future mainly focuses on governmental and private institutions, how to prepare future scenarios for what will happen to these institutions after twenty or even fifty years and perhaps more. Experts anticipate the future of this institution by developing future scenarios that define for them what challenges they will face, and what are the favorable future opportunities for this company.

After the stage of discovering opportunities and challenges, we enter into the field of short strategic plans of three to five years, in order to prepare for challenges and seize opportunities, such as: entering into new markets, or focusing on new products. Here, they achieve leadership in the field that he discovered before everyone else.

Although foresight is directed at government and private institutions, a new term has emerged called individual foresight, and Al Kaabi explained this, saying: “The question of the individual is, how can I use future foresight tools to look at my future, and how can I predict it.”

Al Kaabi explains the difference between strategic planning and future foresight, saying: “The difference is imagination, because foresight is based on imagination. We use the indicators we have in order to understand the situation and then we can understand the future, and we think in an unusual way.”

Why did you go to study this science?

The choice of this field stemmed from the core of Al Kaabi’s personality, as he described to us: “I am very difficult, and I am only satisfied with something modern and new to implement in my life. Foresight is based on change and I love change.” Al-Kaabi began studying for his doctorate in 2010 in another specialty he did not want and continued in this specialty for two years. The specialization was chosen by the government agency that sent Al-Kaabi, but he did not like this specialty.

Al-Kaabi reminisces about that stage and adds: “After two years of studying this specialty I stopped completely, and I told myself this specialty is not suitable for me.” Then he began searching for a suitable specialty: “I did not know that there was a specialty called future foresight.” In the year 2014, he began to study and discover this science, information was very scarce, and then he developed himself by reading and attending conferences specialized in this science.

How do you find talent in a completely new field?

After his return to the UAE, and when he launched the Future Foresight Foundation, the most important challenges were in the search for talent. Al-Kaabi confirms this: “Because the field is new, so I could not get talents who understand this concept, and can write about future topics.” However, he tried to fix it: “I had to hire people specializing in innovation and strategy, and then I started teaching and training them in this thinking and this field.”

The second challenge lies in the people’s acceptance of this concept. Al-Kaabi explains: “People are not accepting that I will foresee the future. This is a kind of fortune-telling and it is forbidden.” And cleverly, Al-Kaabi tried to repel this attack, by spreading the culture of looking ahead, as he explained to us: “I used to give lectures and seminars and publish content, all of this for free in order to gain a segment of those interested and seekers of knowledge.” Al Kaabi adds: “I paid a lot of my financial allocations in order to attract more people to this science. The image improved a lot and people started accepting this concept.”

I desire an Arab thought; So I resorted to independent

Al-Kaabi began to seek the expertise of freelancers through Western websites, but the longing for the Arabic language made him change, as he explained to us: “I needed an Arab platform and Arab writers, because I had the desire to spread knowledge and science in Arabic. Therefore, I needed talents working with an Arab mind.” The Independent platform was the gateway that facilitated Al Kaabi’s access to all Arab skills: “An independent with many competencies, and with many specializations.”

Al Kaabi goes on to explain, “In the beginning, the organization did not have any employees, and there were challenges in some disciplines such as digital marketing, so a freelancer helped me in the beginning. All the experiences that I was missing I was getting through Independent and Five. Content writing was instrumental in the project, as was the design work.” And because he is an investor in content, the greatest need for a freelancer was, as he told us: “Freelancer helped me a lot in the beginning and still is.”

Al-Kaabi is currently establishing a new project, and the first solution and first thought for any problem in this current project was to resort to an independent.

We are expanding in the Gulf

Al-Kaabi realizes that the concept of looking forward to the future is still a relatively recent topic in the world, and he seeks to spread this concept in the Arab world. Therefore, he began to form working groups targeting doctoral holders in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. He says: “I worked with more than five doctoral students at Imam Muhammad bin Saud University in Saudi Arabia. We have a growing core of work. The same is true at Prince Muhammad Bin Fahd University, which established the Center for Future Studies, as is the case with the Department of Future Foresight at the UAE University.” There is a strong movement in the Arab Gulf region, and Dr. Al-Kaabi had contributions to all this academic movement.

Information is what helps develop a clear vision of the future, so that you take a step to change your future. The alpha generation born after 2010 has an unusual outlook that is not present in our generation, due to the advent of technology and the amount of information they are exposed to every day. This is what Al Kaabi notes in all the workshops he presents: “I notice that this generation is the generation that attends my courses. Because the generation speaks the same language, but what they lack is the tools that enable them to analyze this information in order to arrive at clear future scenarios.”

In 2018, the Foundation launched a report on jobs and skills until 2040, and is currently working on opening a second branch in Saudi Arabia. The UAE also started a project for the future foresight in the Emirates, and this helped them spread this concept in the Arab world.

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