Benefits

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Becoming Futures Literate

By appyling Futures & Foresight, organisations, communities as well as individuals become what is called "Futures Literate", meaning the capacity of learning from different futures and revealing the assumptions that underlie each image of the future that we have.

Strategic Planning

Practically, one of the most important objectives of structured Futures & Foresight practice is to infuse strategic planning with Foresight and Futures Literacy to produce more robust strategies. This is especially important for companies but applies to other types of organisations and communities as well.

Conventional strategic planning processes present a series of issues that makes them more and more unsuitable for the uncertain and complex times we are living in:

  • they assume tomorrow is going to be more of today
     

  • they develop a single ‘default future’ which is usually a linear extrapolation of the past and the present, they usually don’t include any processes for systematically exploring the long term future of the organisation
     

  • they develop plans for 3-5 years out and that’s not long term, they can’t cope with the unexpected
     

  • they often lack the flexibility to deal with unexpected changes in the external environment, they tend to rely heavily on quantitative data which suggests a single outcome, and dismiss the validity of more qualitative data, they miss potential innovation and strategic options because they don’t challenge organisational assumptions and ideologies about doing business now and into the future
     

  • they bypass the opportunity to spend some time in the future to test whether what they do today will be relevant in that future.
     

  • they downplay or dismiss stakeholder hopes, fears and believes about the future – they usually don’t include any systematic processes for listening to the views of stakeholders before a plan is written."


For strategy to be infused by foresight then, the current model of strategic planning needs to be reconceptualised into four separate, distinct but interdependent stages each with its own approach and methods:
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: https://foresightfutures.net

Here's another way for illustrating the difference between traditional strategic planning and Future FITness Strategising:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: https://www.edhec.edu/en/publications/making-organisations-fit-drive-desirable-futures

In a corporate context, developing alternate scenarios for strategic planning can serve as relatively low-cost insurance policies. For further reading, see "Scenario Planning and Strategic Forecasting".

More generally, Meta Future School defines the benefits of futures thinking as follows:

  • Creates flexibility in decision-making by moving from a focus on one future to an analysis of alternative futures.

 

  • Moves from the management of reality to the creation of possibilities.

 

  • Moves from the day-to-day operational considerations of management to the longer-term transformative dimensions of leadership.

 

  • Moves from narrow problem-solving approaches to broader and deeper systemic and trans-disciplinarian perspectives and solutions.
     

  • Anticipates emerging issues and weak signals that may derail strategic plans and policies. Through environmental scanning, strategic foresight intends to solve tomorrow’s problems today, and discover opportunities early on.

 

  • Through logic and creative thinking, articulates the first and second order – the long term - consequences of current issues.

 

  • Changes the temporal horizon of planning from the short-term to the medium- and long-term; indeed, strategic foresight provides methods and tools to navigate the three horizons (short, medium, and the long-term).

 

  • Seeks to ensure that the inner stories of organizations, institutions and nations are linked to systemic strategies. Often, strategies fail not because an inaccurate assessment of alternative futures but because of a lack of understanding of deep culture.
     

  • Reduces risk by understanding the worldviews of multiple stakeholders. Blind spots - which are always built into the knowledge framework of each person and organization - are addressed by including difference. This makes implementation far easier.

 

  • Moves from risk avoidance to risk reduction to risk management to opportunity and innovation creation.

 

  • Uses the future to change the present.
     

UNESCO, on their side, defines the benefits of Futures Literacy as follows:

 

 

 

To summarize, Futures & Foresight is

 

  • a tool for change management, as it helps to identify possible change in the future and to develop processes and actions to address that possible upcoming change
     

  • strengthening present and future resilience by increasing the capacity to deal with uncertainty, complexity and unexpected situations.
     

  • strengthening innovation capacity, as it helps identifying possible opportunities in the future.
     

  • a risk management & mitigation tool, as it identifies possible alternative futures and their risks.
     

  • a visioning exercise to define a preferred future to head towards.

Futures & Foresight and Intellectual Capital

Futures & Foresight is about learning from different futures to inform decision making today. It is an expansion of the learning space from the past & the present to multiple futures. As such, it is part of Knowledge Management which in turn is an essential ingredient to an organizations' Intellectual Capital (also called "Intangibles"), knowing that Intellectual Capital largely impacts an organisations' "market value".

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