Discover more from Foresight in the Present
Is Foresight a thing? And who cares?
What I'm trying to say is that we need to add a pre-step to the design of FFS processes - one where people have the opportunity to find their foresight, to think in more expansive, deeper and conscious ways before they use their foresight in practice.
Over the 20+ years I've been working in the Futures Studies field, I have come to the conclusion that foresight is cognitive capacity that we can develop to a conscious level and then apply it to design of Foresight and Futures Studies (FFS) processes. Finding our foresight comes before the process. And yes, I know this is not always possible.
I define foresight as the capacity we used to think about and imagine new futures in the present. Applied foresight is the explicit design of processes to use our foresight in the contexts being explored. I've been saying this in one form or another since 2008 when I wrote "Foresight informs the thinking that occurs before strategic decisions are made and expands the perceptions of the strategic options or choices available to the organisation." (An Overview of Foresight Methods, 2008, page 1). I'd write that the other way around now - expanded perceptions come before the decisions.
I have grumbled about definitions and terminology in the field before before, including what practitioners call themselves. This post on LinkedIn triggered the grumblings again. Not because there was anything wrong with the post and the comments, but it did remind me of the confusion that confronts people when they try to find out about exactly what it is FFS practitioners do.
I am thinking this confusion might arise because we use the term foresight as both a noun and an adjective. Think strategic foresight, technology foresight, social foresight, environmental foresight - the list goes on. I read these terms as foresight used in an array of contexts which is fine, but I also read them, for example, as the use of individual and collective foresight in an organisation to develop strategy. It's the use of foresight as an adjective that creates a myriad of types of terms and perhaps the subsequent confusion about what foresight is and how it can be used. The success of these processes depends on the degree to which participants have a conscious foresight capacity that they can use in the process so they don't have to wonder what and why they are being asked to imagine futures. They will already have the capacity.
I might be 'spilling hairs' here but I think not. The confusion about the value of foresight that the field deals with continuously might be addressed by changing our understanding of what an applied foresight process is.
What I'm trying to say is that we need to add a pre-step to the design of FFS processes - one where people have the opportunity to find their foresight, to think in more expansive, deeper and conscious ways before they use their foresight in practice. And of course, this pre-step will add more time, more effort and more resources to the list of things needed for a FFS process - but it may also help those processes flow more smoothly.
The pre-step is what I have been working on for a while, but I've been stuck for a while about just how to make that step as practical as possible and not incredibly time intensive. I wrote a post on LinkedIn recently and got some great comments so I'm working hard to sort my brain out and get this foresight framework finished. Please add your thoughts to the comments on LinkedIn, or on the Foresight in the Present site, or email me.
One last thing. There are people of course who already have a conscious foresight capacity and intuitively use it. And others who only have to be 'exposed' to what foresight is and start thinking about how they can use it. But there's many who need help to find and surface their capacities - to understand the power of their worldviews and assumptions that emerge over time on how they think about futures.
One more thing. There are already processes that exist like the Futures Literacy Labs that work progressively from helping people to recognise their assumptions about futures through to developing new actions in the present. So what I'm writing about here is not new - far from it - but I am trying to make foresight capacities a separate 'thing'.