Generic Foresight Process

Futures & Foresight, as a practice with its own sets of methods and frameworks, usually follows a generic foresight process that can be illustrated as follows:

 

Source: A generic foresight process framework by Jospeh Voros

 

  • Inputs involve scanning the external environment to identify changes that are shaping the future of an organization or community in its marker, industry, social and global contexts.
     

  • Analysis of the environment scanning outcomes identify major change shifts that an organization or community needs to explore to identify potential strategic implications.

 

  • Interpretation helps people identify assumptions and underpinning beliefs about the future, looking for deeper system dynamics and worldviews shaping how the future of the organization or community is understood, and the use of one or more framework of understanding.

 

  • Prospection is the step most often missed in conventional strategy work. It develops possible images or scenarios for the organisation’s or community's future in order to make decisions informed by the future as well as the past and the present. This is also the step where imagination is used as a method to generate images of the future.

 

 

 

 

Each step in the process uses different tools adapted to the purpose of the step. Here's a non-exhaustive list of the tools & methods most commonly used in different combinations based on the specific context of each futures & foresight project:

 

​There are several designs of foresight process by different scholars but all of them follow the generic foresight process in their own way.

 

Futures cones

Futures & Foresight is about understanding that society as a whole or an organisation in particular is potentially confronted to many different futures, futures that we try to understand and to make sense of by using Futures & Foresight methods in oder to be prepared for these different futures.


Voros describes each alternative future in the Futures Cone as follows:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The quality and nature of different types of futures scenarios is often illustrated by the Futures cones:

 

  • Potential: beyond today exists any number of potential futures simply because the future is not fixed (Principle 1 above);
     

  • Preposterous: futures that are, at first sight, seemingly absurd, and the futures that can cause conflict with existing worldviews; however, ‘seeds of the future’ can be found in this space – this is Jim Dator’s Second Law that any useful idea about the future must first appear to be ridiculous; and Alfred Clarke’s third law that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic;
     

  • Possible: futures that are based on knowledge we do not yet have – what is being considered might become reality if specific knowledge can be developed, or equally, may not;
     

  • Plausible: futures based on today’s knowledge of how things work (for example, the laws of nature); this familiarity often constrains challenging assumptions that generate linear futures;
     

  • Projected: the official futures projected from the present, most often found in strategic plans;
     

  • Probable: this is the future that is likely to happen, the one based on current trends; and
     

  • Preferable: normative futures, the futures desired by groups and individuals who take action to shape those futures in the present (for example, activist and climate change groups).

 

6 Pillars

At Exploring Futures we like to use the model of Sohail Ianayatullah (Metafuture school), called 6 pillars, as a declination of a generic foresight process, who is currently one of the leading futures & foresight experts in the world :

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3Ps of Future fitness


In the same order of ideas, the Chair for Foresight, Innovation and Transformation, EDHEC Business School defines the 3Ps of Future fitness as follows:

  • Perceiving, which enables an organisation to detect changes. The aim is to identify signals ahead of competitors to gain a foresight advantage.

 

  • Prospecting, which enables an organisation to make sense of detected changes. The aim is to identify tipping points and invest once the time is right, to gain an innovation advantage.

 

  • Probing, which enables an organisation to act on insights from prospecting. The aim is to legitimise and starting a new course of action, mainly through experimentation. It provides a transformation advantage.

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