Yes, Foresight is Actually Work (Crystal Balls Not Included)

As someone who has been doing futures research and foresight work “in the field” now for almost 20 years, it still sometimes surprises me that people don’t think of futures research or foresight work as work, that is as something that requires effort and labor to produce.  Despite every colleague I know routinely informing audiences that we don’t predict and don’t use crystal balls, most people out there aren’t yet familiar enough with what we do to understand that there is process and work involved.  If I actually had a crystal ball, then yes, I could consult it and immediately produce an answer.  Alas, I do not.

For those unfamiliar with foresight work, it can involve a variety of things:

  • Theory: for models of social and community change as well as for other aspects of learning, organizational change, and “knowing stuff”
  • Research: into industries, trends, emerging issues analysis, interviews, etc…
  • Assessment: of the client and the organization (just like other management consultants)
  • Forecasting: producing different types of forecasts, which can be either qualitative or quantitative, or both
  • Analysis: identifying and mapping the implications, working with folks to understand the ramifications
  • Planning: linking the foresight work to planning activities, using it to jump start creativity and innovation discussions, etc…

Just keep in mind that unless you are calling upon a futurist or foresight professional that specializes in a particular topic (i.e. they already have forecasts and analyses in their head), they will have to apply their craft to your issue in order to assist you in producing new insights into how and why your future will be different than your present.


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