Monday, February 18, 2008

Using a workbook

When I was doing the research for my dissertation, the intended outcome was simply a system that would allow individuals to apply futures methods to their personal lives. A byproduct of that process was a 20 page workbook that consisted mostly of worksheets.

After I completed the dissertation and the defense, I expanded the workbook, adding some explanation to go along with the worksheets. With that workbook, I conducted some workshops.
In each workshop, I learned something from my students and soon the workbook included more explanation and lots of examples. Eventually it was over 90 pages. Then I added a CD of narrated PowerPoint slides---a workshop in a package.

But printing, distribution costs and shipping all made it a pretty expensive package in my mind, so when I was asked to speak to a group of Engineers in Austin, Texas early in February, I asked if they'd like to try a new approach. I'd send them the Personal Futures Workbook in digital format and they could come to the short (90 minute) workshop with their notebook computers or a printed copy. They liked the idea, so we agreed.

The execution was a bit more complicated than the idea! I had known that there was software available to create and fill out forms, so I was confident I could create the workbook in one of those. Well, yes and no. All the software programs had one or more shortcomings. Many would allow me to create a form that people could fill out. But for some reason, they could not save the completed form on their computer. Except in the new version of Adobe Acrobat

Frankly I had avoided Acrobat for two reasons. It was expensive and I had purchased Adobe software before. I had used that software to write a book, which was such a painful experience that I've never used it since. But I put that behind me and purchased the Acrobat software, figuring I'd get through the experience somehow. Then, surprise! Adobe gave me acess to about 12 hours of tutorial videos. Wow! That made the difference.

I slimmed the workbook down to just over 50 pages, created forms fields with my new Acrobat software, had several futurist friends try it out and tweaked it some more. Then I sent it to the engineers in Austin.

Two weeks later I went to Austin for the meeting. I was told that their organization had never had so many people show up at a meeting. I spoke to them about Personal Futures and how to use the workbook. I answered questions from time to time as we went along, and at the end had a lot of questions. GOOD questions. A good experience.

So now the Personal Futures Workbook is available on my web site, free. It includes a Creative Commons license that permits copying and sharing. Teachers can freely give copies to their students. You can send them to friends, grandkids or anyone else.
You can download it free at

One more feature. All copies carry permission to make comments via Adobe Reader about any portion of the workbook. Anyone can make suggestions, comments, criticisms about anything in the workbook and send their comments to me by email. Hopefully, this workbook will just get better.

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