Last night I had a great time introducing the @CIMSEC folks to one of the newer – and increasingly popular – frameworks used by foresight professionals to map the possible transitions from the way things are ordered today to some new “configuration” of the system. The framework is known as three horizons (3H) and it can be a wonderful tool for assisting groups in articulating present-day assumptions, identifying trends putting pressure on those assumptions, and the emerging issues that are inspiring either hope or anxiety on the part of stakeholders. Three horizons is also used to map the possible transition from the present to a future as well as being a springboard for developing scenarios of alternative futures.
One of the key elements underpinning the 3H framework – and something last night’s participants caught onto right away – is that elements of each of the three horizons, the present, near future, and farther future, are all visible right now in the present. Thus, while the three horizons framework is on the one hand addressing a linear shift from one “era” of the system to the next, it is also trying to address the reality that at any one moment we do tend to have all of the following: elements of traditional ways of doing things still in play, attempts at practical innovation away from tradition underway, and much more challenging (and disruptive) visions of totally new ways of doing things (which are often predicated on not-yet-mainstream technologies or concepts).
When might you consider using the three horizons framework with your own organization? While it can be something of a general-use framework, the framework works best when you believe your organization or industry is facing the potential for a genuine systems change in the foreseeable future. Are the core technologies or infrastructure about to be disrupted by a new generation of tech? Are the common sense assumptions about how to operate falling too far out of alignment with emerging realities? Are there early signs of a strong upwelling of interest or demand for a radically different set of driving values or worldview?
And for those interested in the output of the @CIMSEC three horizons workshop, stay tuned for the #CrowdedSeas project that @SCheneyPeters and I are working on, which will incorporate some of the workshop results.