• Mansour K. Mansour, PhD

Strategic Foresight – An Introduction

Strategic Foresight is becoming an essential methodology for the survival of organizations, nowadays. Using traditional methodologies like strategic planning, market intelligence, risk management, etc …, an organization most likely will have a good understanding of the short-term or even the long-term trends in their industry and society. But, in an interconnected world where change is occurring at an ever fast pace, and where the boundaries between industries are blurring, more is needed. Organizations need to make informed decisions based on carefully analyzed views of alternative future scenarios.

We have a great lesson in the downfall of Kodak to benefit from. Scott D. Anthony in his article titled “Kodak’s Downfall Wasn’t About Technology” published in the Harvard Business Review on July 15, 2016 argues “The right lessons from Kodak are subtle. Companies often see the disruptive forces affecting their industry. They frequently divert sufficient resources to participate in emerging markets. Their failure is usually an inability to truly embrace the new business models the disruptive change opens up. Kodak created a digital camera, invested in the technology, and even understood that photos would be shared online. Where they failed was in realizing that online photo sharing was the new business, not just a way to expand the printing business.”

Organizations would need to build a systematic strategic foresight program to reap the benefit of such impactful program. “Building foresight capability takes time and effort” as illustrated by Ville Vanhala in his article titled “Building a Foresight Program” published on July 25, 2018. Ville in his article proposes the following five step approach to building the foundation of a systematic foresight program as depicted in the diagram below:

  1. Learn about the key trends impacting your organization by following trend reports, news feed, industry publications and by talking to industry experts or foresight experts.

  2. Engage your team to create a shared view of the future and possible scenarios therein. Encourage a collaborative approach with the key people from the organization and co-create scenarios together.

  3. Scan the horizon continuously to detect early warnings as well as emerging opportunities and track trends on the foresight radar. The signals are analyzed and turned into assessments of alternative future outcomes.

  4. Conduct deep dives into future topics to ensure your plans and decisions are based on future awareness. Deep dive analyses are typically used as input to strategy, to support investment decisions or risk analysis. Deep dives provide material for ideas that might end up becoming new products or services and can help in scenario planning.

  5. Promote your vision of the future for internal awareness and industry thought leadership adding value to the different functions of the organization.

In a mature future foresight organization, the strategic foresight activity involves those who are interested in how the future shapes the operations of the organization including the organization leaders, subject matter experts, internal network of users and other relevant stakeholders.

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