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An overview of foresight methods


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An overview of some major foresight methods you can use in your strategy processes, including environmental scanning, delphi, future wheels, causal layered analysis, scenarios and visioning. The webinar begins with a discussion of why we need foresight in organisations today.

Published in: Business

An overview of foresight methods

  1. 1. An overview of foresight methods Maree Conway Thinking Futures/ Centre for Australian Foresight August 2013
  2. 2. Overview • Context: why foresight? • Methods Framework – the Generic Foresight Process • Input Methods • Analytical Methods • Interpretation Methods • Prospective Methods • Back to Work: which methods and when? • Questions/Discussion
  3. 3. A taster only
  4. 4. Context: why foresight?
  5. 5. We learn about the past to avoid repeating mistakes today Future Present Past Certain in terms of what happened • Can’t change • Much data Moving - things are changing constantly • Can respond, shape and influence • Data overload Uncertain – it hasn’t happened yet • Can shape and influence • No data We need to learn from the future to avoid making mistakes Macrohistory–cyclesofchange Using the past and the future to inform strategic decisions today Context: why foresight?
  6. 6. Context: why foresight? • Building individual and organisational capacity to think systematically about the future - in a strategic sense. • Generating a range of possible futures and possible strategic options in those futures and enhancing understanding of possible challenges and strategic risks. • Building capacity for long term thinking to enable proactive responses to change today.
  7. 7. Definition The ability to take a forward view and use the insights gained in organisationally useful ways Richard Slaughter, Foresight International
  8. 8. Change Ecosystem
  9. 9. This is a common reaction when people are asked to deal with that ecosystem in the strategy process
  10. 10. • Current strategy processes live in the pragmatic futures realm. • Working within the existing paradigm, making it better, but not challenging it. • We call it ‘strategic planning’.
  11. 11. Think tomorrow is going to be more of today, and assume a linear future
  12. 12. Are not prepared for the unexpected or the unfamiliar
  13. 13. Usually don’t systematically and deeply explore the long term future (10-20 years out) to identify possible futures
  14. 14. Prefer quantitative over qualitative information
  15. 15. Don’t challenge individual and organisational assumptions about the future
  16. 16. Rely on experts and/or downplay or dismiss staff beliefs, hopes and fears about the future
  17. 17. • Traditional planning are approaches increasingly irrelevant • Focus on data at the expense of strategic thinking • View the plan as the end game • And don’t systematically and deeply consider possible futures
  18. 18. • Beyond strategic planning – to strategy development and implementation that is futures ready not present proficient. • Moving into the progressive futures realm, where we challenge the current paradigm and re-interpret how we do business to meet the challenges of the future.
  19. 19. Frameworks for Challenging
  20. 20. Theory U Otto Scharmer
  21. 21. Integral Futures Ken Wilber
  22. 22. Seeing Deepening understanding of relevant change Environmental Scanning Thinking Interpreting implications, identifying alternative futures & deciding on action Strategic Thinking Doing Implementing action and aligning the organisation Strategic Planning Thinking Futures Approach
  23. 23. The Discipline of Anticipation
  24. 24. This is where we usually start thinking about the future, so what do we miss?
  25. 25. The goal: futures ready strategy Strategy that is flexible enough to allow organisations to be agile in their response to future change. - which is only possible if you have explored the future first.
  26. 26. Foresight Methods
  27. 27. The Foresight Diamond
  28. 28. Generic Foresight Process
  29. 29. Input Methods • Provides high quality information to inform your strategic thinking. • Industry trends and global forces of change that are shaping the future of your industry.
  30. 30. Global Drivers of Change Industry Trends Your organisation Strategic scanning happens at the global level – what are the forces shaping the change you are seeing in your industry? You know a lot about this – it is the change already here that you deal with every day.
  31. 31. Input Methods • Environmental (Horizon) Scanning • Delphi (expert based or crowdsourced) • Done a lot today, but often not broad or deep enough, reinforcing rather than challenging status-quo thinking
  32. 32. Emerging Issues Trends Mainstream Time Number of cases; degree of public awareness Scientists, artists, radicals, mystics Newspapers, magazines, websites, journals,blogs Government Institutions Few cases, local focus Global, multiple dispersed cases, trends and megatrends Adapted from the work of Graham Molitor and Wendy Schultz, and Everett Rogers Innovators Early adopters Late Adopters Late Majority Laggards Today Time from emerging issue to mainstream varies between 18-36 years Look on the fringe as well Most scanning is here Look here for today’s info
  33. 33. Integral Scanning • Individual: Individual Values and Psychology, Development of Consciousness • Communal: Group Values & Mores and Cultural shifts • Objective: Scientific, Technical, and Measurable trends/forces • Social: Economic, Ecological, and Political trends/forces
  34. 34. Delphi • Developed by Rand Corporate in 1970s • Used extensively (Japan has long history) • Brings expert opinion together, seeks consensus on forecasts • Traditional version takes months and several rounds • Now real time Delphi, immediate, one round usually • http://www.millennium- • • Remember, expert opinion is only one input.
  35. 35. Expert Judgements • “Inventions have long since reached their limit, and I see no hope for future development” Roman engineer Sextus Julius Frontinus, 1st Century AD • “Heavier than air flying machines are not possible” Lord Kelvin, President of the Royal Society, 1895 • “We don’t like their sound, and guitar music is on the way out” Decca Recording Co. rejecting The Beatles, 1962 • “The fact that conflicts [producing civilian casualties] have been conducted away from the U.S. homeland can be considered one of the more fortunate aspects of the American experience.” Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) for the US Dept of Defence, 2001
  36. 36. Analysis • Looking for patterns and themes relevant for your organisation. • Organising and presenting the inputs for your organisation.
  37. 37. Analytic Methods • Trend Analysis • Emerging Issues Analysis • Cross Impact Analysis • Futures Wheel • Forecasts • This set of methods are well understood, but people can get trapped by data
  38. 38. Futures Wheel
  39. 39. Interpretation • System structure and dynamics • whose beliefs are dominant? • what’s driving and shaping the trends? • how will they develop? • and what does it mean for us? • This stage needs time for thinking and conversation
  40. 40. Interpretation Methods • Causal Layered Analysis • Systems Thinking • Hardest level because it needs open minds and people willing to have their assumptions challenged.
  41. 41. Litany Social Causes Discourse/Worldview Metaphor/Myths Short Term Long Term Visible Hidden Causal Layered Analysis
  42. 42. Systems thinking
  43. 43. Strategic Conversation
  44. 44. Prospection • How will change evolve over the next 10-20 years? • How might we respond? What are our options? • Often dismissed as fluffy because there is no ‘evidence’
  45. 45. Prospective Methods • Scenario Planning/Thinking/Learning • Backcasting – linked with scenarios • Visioning • Scenarios frequently used, but frequently done badly (superficial, don’t challenge assumptions) • This set of methods tests people’s ability to move beyond today
  46. 46. Scenarios
  47. 47. Scenario Types
  48. 48. Scenarios
  49. 49. Visioning • Preferred future for an organisation. • Developed after exploring alternative futures. • Long term, aspirational, stable. Pulls people into the future.
  50. 50. Back to Work
  51. 51. When and where to use? • Context matters – methods must be chosen and tailored to your organisation. • Foresight maturity of your organisation – the methods you use if you have never used foresight before will be different to those you use after doing foresight for 5 years, 10 years… • Foresight Maturity Assessment available at maturity-model/
  52. 52. When and where to use? • Decisions about foresight methods are based on these factors: • Purpose • Using Outputs • Resources Available • Major issues that you need to explore (the future is a big place) • Internal champion and support of CEO
  53. 53. This decision tree relates to scenarios but it’s relevant for all decisions about which method to use when.
  54. 54. A final word • There are many organisations in the world that use foresight in one way or another in their strategy processes. • Some are successful, (particularly in Europe) ,others once were (Nokia), and some missed the boat altogether (Kodak). • Your time is better spent thinking about how to contextualise methods for your organisation, rather than seeking benchmarks and case studies.
  55. 55. Questions/Discussion
  56. 56. Some Resources • Futures Research Methodology, Millennium Project • V3.html • Heuer and Pherson, Structured Analytical Techniques, CQ Press (Sage), 2011 • Practical Foresight Guide, Chapter 3, Methods •
  57. 57. Contact Maree Conway Thinking Futures/Centre for Australian Foresight Tel: +61 3 90169506 Email: Web: Centre for Australian Foresight:
  58. 58. Feedback • I would love your feedback on this webinar. • It’s new and the first time I have run it. • Please drop me a line at to let me know what you think. • Thanks!