In formal terms, foresight is the action science of the Futures Studies discipline. In practical terms, foresight is the application of futures thinking and research in useful ways. This can be conceived of as answering the why and where questions about direction and destination, before strategic planning takes care of the who, what, how and when implementation issues.
Foresight occurs at the individual, organisational and community levels. It is action oriented, open to alternatives, participatory and multidisciplinary. It is these aspects, in particular, that differentiate it from other strategic planning exercises.
What is a foresight process?
The term ‘foresight’ also refers to the process of thinking about the future in an action oriented manner. There are hundreds of examples of foresight processes which have been used around the world at the individual, organisational, regional and country level.
The value of foresight processes is that they allow for the engagement of a wide range of stake-holders as both the process and the outcomes are equally important.
What is futures thinking?
Futures thinking is an individual the capacity to think about and into the future. Futures thinking rests on a language comprising of futures concepts and metaphors. It is through investigating these concepts and metaphors, via strategic conversations, that a shared foresight culture and language are developed.
How can this capacity be developed in my organisation/group?
Futures thinking can developed through asking people to think about deeply about issues at levels which are not normally considered, also by asking questions about assumptions, values, identity, language and culture.
Futures thinking happens at the level of ‘where are we going’, by asking ‘why are we choosing that path, rather than another one’? It prepares people to make choices about their preferred futures, thereby equipping organisations and communities.
Futures thinking capacity is enabled at the individual level, but enacted at the organisational or community level.
The role of foresight in strategic positioning
Foresight processes should precede strategic positioning or strategic planning exercises. Foresight allows for the future to be explored before action in the present is planned. In many organisations, this does not occur, so ‘business as usual’ is the output even when the intention may have been different.
Our core interest is in developing foresight capability in individuals, and therefore organisations and groups, through the application of futures/foresight methodology and praxis.
Foresight and leadership
Foresight, or taking a long term view, is a leadership capability which can be learned by those who are willing to investigate, keep a beginners mind and be open to the possibilities that are inherent in dealing with complexity and paradox.