25th Anniversary series: Introduction – The Importance of Strategic Foresight: use it or lose it
This is an extract from Strategic Foresight: Learning from the Future, by SAMI Associate Patricia Lustig, to be published by Triarchy Press in July http://www.triarchypress.net/foresight . We use it as the Preface to our collection of blogs covering the years from 1989 because it provides excellent pointers to the lessons we have derived from these.
“Strategic Foresight can help you to manage uncertainty, improve your decision-making, your implementation of strategy and your ability to adapt to and cope with future change and challenge. It is the practice you use to engage with the future, make sense of what you see and make decisions based upon this.
Strategic Foresight helps you manage uncertainty
Practising Strategic Foresight helps you begin to see what you can influence, what you can control and what you can’t. It may be uncomfortable to become more aware of the things you can’t control or influence, but on the other hand, learning what they are helps you to avoid wasting time on them. Getting a clearer view and grip on what is out there and approaching you (at speed) helps to reduce your feelings of uncertainty. It helps you put boundaries around what you can do something about, it helps you to understand the decisions that you can make and then helps you to choose the strategic actions to take today that will benefit you in the near future (and hopefully the longer term future as well). The tools help you to get a handle on complexity as you identify the trends and driving forces that are in your world today.
Strategic Foresight improves the qualities of the decisions you make
You will develop visions of potential futures that will help you (as a leader) and your people make decisions for themselves about things as diverse as future learning, new careers and lifestyle choices, as well as decisions concerning your business’s direction and strategy. Exploring the implications of emerging trends and drivers at a deeper level enables you to uncover previously hidden threats and opportunities.
Properly undertaken with a diverse group of stakeholders, your strategy and decisions – which come out of the potential futures you envision – will be based on a wide variety of knowledge and input which gives you a wider choice and in the end a better, more robust, decision. Don’t forget that these decisions involve both what you will do and what you will stop doing, or what you decide not to do.
Strategic Foresight improves implementation of your strategy
It helps create buy-in among stakeholders as they participate in identifying, defining and making sense of potential futures and their impact. This encourages people to work together on common goals. When a group share an understanding of the threats and opportunities that they face, it stimulates innovative thinking in the areas that will be of greatest impact. Then it becomes clear what needs to be done, what decisions need to be made and what changes need to be implemented.
Strategic Foresight improves your capability to handle change
Developing a ‘Foresight Culture’ means that you and your colleagues are better prepared for what might hit you, either negative or positive as the future unfolds. Strategic Foresight creates an increased awareness of possible risks and opportunities and of the larger system in which you and your business operate. You develop a shared vocabulary to discuss and make sense of events as they occur. You begin to jointly identify weak signals of things that are changing. This enhances your resilience both as an individual leader and as a business. In a competitive and rapidly changing world, Foresight enhances the capacity to design change and manage non-routine events.”
Written by SAMI Associate Patricia Lustig