A few often asked questions about foresight, what it is and how to use it.
Q1. What is Foresight?
Foresight is a way of developing a range of views about possible ways the future might develop, and understanding them well enough to help you make effective decisions today. Foresight is an applied process when it informs strategy development but more importantly, it's a cognitive capacity that allows us to imagine what doesn't yet exist. The point of thinking about futures is not to get a future right - which is impossible - no matter how many people make inane predictions year after year. The point is to make sure we don't get the future wrong - and we do that by thinking in new ways about futures in the present.
Q2. Why do you focus on conversations?
As I've worked with people over the last 20+ years, it's become very clear that what creates change, what shifts people's ways of thinking and operating is having conversations about things that matter with their peers. The conversations we design aren't a random chat - there is a process, there are questions and there are outcomes, all designed to strengthen your capacity to think about futures in new ways to be proactive in your responses to change today.
Q3. What is Integral Futures?
Integral futures provide a systemic, holistic view of organisations, integrating invisible individual and cultural beliefs and values with the visible organisation and how it operates and responds to the external environment. For me, it is a frame that lets us recognise the centrality of people in preparing for our futures and the need for our organisational leaders and processes to facilitate ways to bring people together to have more expansive and deeper conversations about futures.
Q4. Why bother with futures when we are so busy today?
This answer is adapted from text by Joseph Voros, Swinburne University of Technology, and is used here with his permission.
Because the world in which strategic planning was developed no longer exists. Once upon a time, organisations faced low levels of complexity and a fairly basic foresight capacity was sufficient to be futures ready. Today, where our environment is complex, uncertain and emergent, we need a deeper foresight capacity to be prepared for the future. Low rates of change and complexity in the last century meant that a single, linear pathway to the future was enough. Now, as we face a fundamental shift in how we live and work, this linear view has been stretched to breaking point. Building our individual and organisational foresight capacities will allow us to think in multiples and create many pathways to respond to the emerging future.
Q.5 Isn't foresight just like doing a SWOT?
This answer is adapted from text by Joseph Voros, Swinburne University of Technology and is used here with his permission.
No. Experts on strategy such as Henry Mintzberg have characterised the essential difference between strategic planning(using SWOTs) and strategic thinking (using foresight). Mintzberg argues that strategic planning is about analysis - the breaking down of a goal into steps, designing how the steps may be implemented, and estimating the anticipated consequences of each step. Strategic thinking, on the other hand, is about systhesis - using intuition, creativity and foreisght to formulate an integrated perspective or vision of where an organisation should be heading. In other words, strategic thinking is concerned with the setting of the goal itself, not the steps needed to bring it about, which is the realm of strategic thinking.
Q.6 How can I build my foresight capacity?
Begin by understanding that we can define and challenge our worldviews and train our brains to accept new information rather than automatically rejecting it. The first step is a commitment to being open to new ideas that may well hit an assumption wall, and challenging your deeply held beliefs about what is true and false, and what is possible and impossible. At the beginning, as we expose ourselves to different information sources and test them for current validity, we begin to expand our thinking almost without knowing it is happening. Then one day you will find yourself consciously challenging yourself about one or more of your assumptions and beliefs. This is when you know your foresight capacity is emerging - and you will change the way you think about futures.
Building foresight capacities is what Foresight in the Present is all about. So explore the site and see what you can use in your exploration of your foresight.
Q.7 Can I share what's here on your site?
You sure can. I have made this information available under a Creative Commons License. The version I use means that you can use, remix and share as long as you attribute the source by citing "Maree Conway, Foresight Futures" and indicate if you've changed the work. Thanks.
Foresight Futures acknowledges the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nations, Traditional Custodians of the land from which it operates, and all Traditional Custodians of Country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. We pay our respect to their elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.
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