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Practical Foresight: Get it All Down on Paper

Throughout the Practical Foresight series, we have been outlining a few simple activities that leaders can use with their teams to develop foresight during a particularly anxious year in American life.  Whether through adversarial actions or just the effects of randomness on sprawlingly complex systems, the first four months of this year have already provided organizations and communities with disruption and confusion.


Our final practical foresight activity, creating a reference document, is intended to help pull together the results of the previous exercises and set a rudimentary foundation for institutionalizing foresight with your team.  With all due simplicity, we are writing down the insights and key discussion points from the other activities so that the team can use them to sustain the conversation.


  1. Open a Word document (ok, for those offended by Microsoft assumptions, open a new word processing file…) and create a simple outline:

    1. Calendar: the schedule and venue of your team’s weekly, ten-minute discussions

    2. Weak Signals: the most compelling ideas from weekly discussions

    3. Operating Environment: insert that beautiful picture of the world you all created

    4. Trends: the short and long-term trends the team identified as important

    5. Contingencies: briefly outline the 7-10 contingencies.

  2. Save the document somewhere the entire team can access.

  3. Seriously consider disseminating the document more broadly within your organization.

  4. Print/open this document for each weekly ten-minute discussion and update it.


Once again, the idea is simply to capture the output from the different activities so that the team can remember, track, and continue to update.  It doesn’t have to be a Word file or follow the outline above; just so long as the team can readily access it, it is simple enough for a broad audience, and it gets used.  People sometimes ask us about how foresight leads to action, and the short – if not always popular – answer is, when you decide to use it.


For help with any of the practical foresight activities, or with things like 4 Steps to the Future workshops, contact us today at or 1-808-724-1440.

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