The Emergence of a Unique Approach
While Global Foresight’s creation had many influencers, the most proximate incubator was the “Innovation Lab,” a late 1990s pilot initiative of Mary’s that was to become the Silicon Valley’s first foothold in SoMa, San Francisco’s South of Market District. The area that is today home to scores of tech companies, including Twitter and Google, was still a neighborhood in transition, one of warehouses, artists’ lofts and an underground rave, punk and independent music scene. Then a director of the Institute for the Future in Palo Alto, Mary founded the “lab” as an early effort to take the insights of forecasting in a more sleeves-rolled-up direction. It was an initiative to move closer to client operations and diffuse knowledge to diverse businesses in ways not possible in the venture capitalist culture that prevailed along Sand Hill Road where IFTF was located.
While founding the “lab” Mary was also founding the Center for the Future of China at Peking University, another pilot spin-off originally from IFTF whose energy continues to inform Global Foresight’s work on China and emerging markets today. Straddling the Pacific with these two initiatives, Mary sought both to unfold the tools of forecasting before new audiences and also to nurture ties and understanding between U.S., Chinese and Asian entrepreneurs. The spirit of both projects lives on in many ways, not least of which in the transformation of SoMa and in Global Foresight itself which was to become the sum of these distinct endeavors. With the bursting of the doc.com bubble in 2000 IFTF redoubled on its core mission and retreated from the pilot projects. Ultimately, Mary took this “Do Tank,” founded during the dot.com turmoil, on its own course and in 2003 she transitioned away from IFTF to become president and CEO of the new forecasting company.
It was here that she was to write the foundational Navigating the Badlands: Thriving in the Decade of Radical Innovation. This seminal book was first published in 2004 and elucidates the methodologies used by the Global Foresight team today. Mary is currently working on a sequel that will carry its forecasts to 2040.