Four ground rules of foresight work

Feb 12, 2016 10:00:13 AM

If we lived in a society that had no one looking ahead of the present, we would soon get stuck in an everlasting loop of stagnation. Fortunately, we live in a society quite the opposite: a plethora of people, businesses, communities, and every other actor imaginable are rigorously working to make their dent in the universe, thus forever disabling the status quo.From an established business’ point of view, this is why foresight work is needed. You need continuous and systematic work to keep up with the pace, to base your own development on plausible trends, and still to take charge of building a future fit for yourself.

Foresight work is always going to be needed to keep you not just up to date but ahead of the competition. Investing resources into foresight work is the same as investing resources in your organization’s future.

Primarily, foresight work includes surveying and identifying the movement of change, events, and impending concerns. Foresight work is about imagining the alternative future, constructing an enhanced scenario to fit your business needs.

How, then, should such foresight work be organized? Well, we believe in these four ground rules, at least:

1. Focus on cross-industry developments

Foresight work should be based on primarily looking at cross-industry developments, not on the ongoing trends of the current industry.

We’re almost fed up with the words ‘disruption’ and ‘innovation’, but in short: those really major new ideas and implementations rarely emerge from within existing industry boundaries.

2. Combine external market tracking with internal sense-making

Foresight work should ultimately be based on a combination of external market tracking and organization-specific sense-making.

Standard trend reports rarely bring direct value. Sense-making needs to take into account a number of organization-specific backgrounds one can never derive from trend reports. In short, real strategic insight is always a combination of the understanding of external changes and internal capabilities and drivers.

3. Involve people widely from your organization

The people involved in your foresight work should include open-minded individuals from all walks of life, and certainly also from outside your own organization.

Your own people are always limited in their insights. There are some 7 billion people outside your organization, and let me assure you, all the smart people of the world do not today work for your organization.

4. Connect foresight with decision-making

Foresight work should feed directly into your strategy and daily work, and have a continuous feedback loop.

Even if you may outline your beliefs and strategies for the long-term, you should not make the mistake of stopping there. You always need to test and update your assumptions, always to learn more, always to remain agile.

Conclusion

Putting in the hours and human capital on foresight work will bring you closer to your goals, by preparing you for what could happen, and, more importantly, by letting you to create the future.

Implementing foresight work will prepare your organization for the future, to help plan your path by uncovering patterns, holes, and hidden opportunities in the market. It is important to not just study the past but to delve into the future, to become the pioneer of the market.

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Panu Kause is the founder and CEO at FIBRES. Before founding FIBRES, he held several management positions and ran his own foresight and strategy focused consultancy.

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