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Knowing What Kind of Foresight You Need

Over long stretches of time, interest in “foresight” rises and falls. For the past several years we’ve been in a period of steep, rising interest. A succession of globally disruptive events over the past 20 years, all against a backdrop of accelerating technological change, has certainly contributed to this. So, today there are lots of people trying their hand at formal foresight work. Some are pursuing degrees while many more are attending training workshops to learn a few concepts or methods. As with all fads in organizational management, there are even those trying to add some “foresight” to their core services. None of this is surprising, and it is in fact a pattern we would expect.

There are desirable benefits from our organizations and communities becoming generally more familiar with structured ways of thinking about the future. It’s like everyone getting just a little healthier. No downside. And as our overall familiarity rises, there is an opportunity to begin distinguishing between the different levels – the different intensities – of formal foresight work. For the purposes of this discussion, let’s consider three (arbitrary) levels of foresight work.

Level one introduces some basic frameworks and facilitates a structured discussion. Picture a few lightly facilitated group exercises. For many groups this is a massive improvement on doing nothing. Level two adds specific data and information to inform those discussions as well as their attempts at forecasting future change in a more serious way. This requires research and particular types of analysis. Finally, level three weaves together many approaches and methods, drawing upon a lot of information, to try to map the emerging landscape in a rigorous way.

Now that so many more of us are becoming familiar with the notion of foresight, we have an opportunity to be more discerning about what we need. Are you just looking for a little something fresh for your next conversation? Do you want some original research and forecasting to shape your upcoming strategic plans? Do you need a comprehensive and rigorous assessment of the landscape on which to base investments and commitments? Each of these is a valid use case for formal foresight. Being clear about which case you fall into will go a long way towards selecting the right project to meet your needs.

Reach out to us today to talk about the kind of foresight you need right now.

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