Chapter 1. Introduction – Our Emerging Foresight Field

Professional Foresight – An Adaptive Definition

One step forward in the growth of our field is coming up with better definitions of what foresight is, and who engages in it. Our field needs to learn to recognize all the powerful parts of itself as it grows up, so we can more actively share and compare our methods, and collaborate on foresight problems. This is an exciting time for strategic foresight, as our leading professional organizations are all searching for new and more inclusive definitions of our field.

The 3Ps give us the core of foresight, but they aren’t the whole of the story. This guide proposes that useful professional foresight depends, most centrally, on a four step Learn-See-Do-Review decision cycle, which we call the Do loop. To the right are the Four Steps (four stages) of this loop in graphic form.

Step 2, the Three Ps, is what we normally think of as of foresight. But as cognitive science and ecological psychology tell us in the perception-decision-action cycle, foresight has little value if it is not also tied to action, and to review of (feedback on) the consequences of that action.

To be adaptive, all living things cycle continously through the entire Do loop, with learning, foresight, action, and feedback. This is the only way useful foresight can emerge. If our foresight is not tied to action, we’re just telling stories, not practicing strategic foresight. That means all four steps are part of the real-world foresight process, with the See step representing the foresight professional’s core skills, and the other three steps representing key supporting skills that we must now discuss.

Just as the See step can be split into three skills (probable, possible, and preferable futures), we will see in Chapter 4 that the Do step also depends on three key skills (execution, influence, and relating), with one additional skill each for the learning and reviewing steps. The Four Steps of the Do loop can thus be represented as Eight Skills, which we propose as a minimum viable model of adaptive foresight practice.

The Four Steps (Learn, See, Do, Review), are simplest and quickest way to introduce the Do loop of strategic foresight to clients. But for clients who are ready for the details, and to best improve our own practice, the Eight Skills are the best way to discuss the Do loop, and that’s what we’ll do in this guide. All organizations must learn, use and master all eight of these skills on their executive teams if they wish to stay adaptive.

Skipping any one of these skills, for too long, will eventually undo the firm. All are necessary for long-term survival. This is a strong claim, and we’ll try to defend it throughout the guide. We will continue to color the three core foresight skills in blue, green, and purple as before, and color the five supporting skills in red, to remind the reader that all eight skills are critical to foresight practice.

The Do loop forms the basis of a second, more adaptive definition of a foresight professional, which we consider in the next section.

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