Why Futures & Foresight ?

As for any social science, the definition of a field of practice is not built in stone, and different definitions emerge while still sharing a common ground.

 

Definitions

 

Here are just 2 of the definitions of Futures & Foresight illustrating the idea:

 

"Strategic foresight is a decades-old discipline that allows us to create functional views of alternative futures and possibilities. Through this process, organisations are better prepared for potential threats and are able to capitalise on hidden opportunities. While no one can predict the future, foresight allows us to mine the external environment for trends and leverage those insights to create maps of the emerging landscape. These well-informed maps of the future allow us to test our current strategy, develop breakthrough innovations, and create transformative change."

Source: https://kedgefutures.com/

and

 

"Foresight is defined as the capacity to think systematically about the future to inform decisionmaking today. It is a neurological capacity that we humans can have to imagine possible futures. It is a capacity that we need to develop as individuals, as organisations, and as a society. In individuals, foresight is usually unconscious in nature and needs to be surfaced to be used to inform decision making and action in the present."

Source: https://foresightfutures.net/

 

Current context

 

Today, everybody sees and feels that the world, including business as part of it, has entered an era of high uncertainty and complexity with multiple intertwined challenges ahead. At the same time, disruptive evolutions in all areas, including technology, the economy, business models, the natural environment, demographics, social structures and political systems seem to move on in exponential speed. These changes and their effects will multiply and intersect.

 

At last, most of these systemic interdependencies have been crystallised through the pandemic like never before.

The Futures & Foresight perspective

We used to make our projections about the future by solely learning from the past and the present, in quantitative and qualitative terms. Now, in the first quarter of the 21st century where we face huge accelerations of change and disruptions at multiple levels, learning only from the past and from the present isn't sufficient anymore to deal with the challenges ahead, be it for a company, a business sector, a community, an NGO or governments as a whole.

 

We have to expand our learning space to different alternative, possible, plausible and emergent futures in order to bring stronger resilience and novelty into the present. Futures & Foresight practice helps to reduce uncertainty, better embrace complexity by recognising disruption and strengthen the ability to identify and interpret change. Through structured Futures and Foresight practice, organisations and communities become more aware of tomorrow's needs and make the right decisions to actively shape their futures, mitigate risks and capitalise on opportunities.

 

Or in other words, Futures & Foresight opens our mind for futures that do not yet exist, that can emerge, that we can learn from, but that we can't predict but help to create.

 

As April Rinne puts it in her article "A Futurist’s Guide to Preparing Your Company for Constant Change":

"{The aim of Futures and Foresight is to }...make sense of the forces shaping the future and prepare responsibly. The objective is not to predict the future (which is a futile quest), but rather to be ready for many different possible futures that could unfold.

...

The time to prepare for change is not when it hits. It’s before it hits, and during times of relative calm. Reacting to change in the moment keeps you forever on the defensive, and the consequences can be severe. You’re unable to see where the future is heading because your attention is consumed with dodging the next curveball. This exposes your organization to unnecessary risks and overlooks new opportunities. It’s a recipe for frustration and lagging performance at best — collapse at worst."

 

A structured approach

 

For Futures & Foresight practice to be successful though, it needs a structured approach using the many tools, methods and frameworks that have been developed and used already by pioneering companies, organisations and governments around the world during the last decades. Currently, the community of trained futurists is growing rapidly. New academic and other high quality training programs yielding many new young and often very creative futurists can be considered itself as an emerging issue, or even a trend, pointing to the need of expanding our learning spaces from the past to futures in front of the many human and economic challenges ahead.

 

 

Futures & Foresight as a performance driver

 

There also is growing evidence that organisations that systematically integrate Futures and Foresight in their daily work, outperform others. Here are just a few references underpinning the argument :

 

 

Futures & Foresight Maturity

Terry Grim has developed the following Futures & Foresight Maturity model which helps to identify future fitness of any organisation:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Source: https://wfsf.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/GRIM-15-Foresight-Maturity-Model.pdf

To develop Futures and Foresight Maturity, you need to understand and master the required skills, tools and methods, and the different approaches to Futures and Foresight according to the type of organisation or community using it.

At Exploring Futures, we help organisations and communities to embrace the benefits of Futures and Foresight towards a higher Futures and Foresight Maturity.

 

 

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