Specialty Foresight Functions
We have said that strategic foresight is a complex, action-oriented activity, involving many cognitively diverse and specialty practices and perspectives in the organization. It’s time to look a little deeper at some of those specialties. This guide identifies Twenty Foresight Functions (foresight-related functional skills in organizations) as particularly important practices that firms use to navigate the future today. We will sometimes color them gold to distinguish them as key functions in this guide. We will fit these functions into a departmental model of the firm in Chapter 3, and present them as components of the Eight Skills in Chapter 5.
The Twenty Foresight Functions are: Intelligence, Learning & Development, Metrics, Ideation, Design, Innovation Management/R&D, Entrepreneurship, Forecasting, Investing, Risk Management, Law & Security, Strategy, Analysis, Planning, Product/Service Management, Marketing Management, Performance Management, Scorecards, Quality, and Change Management.
Each of these functions is used to generate a specific useful type of foresight in a great variety of organizations. Having basic proficiency in any one of them can be critical to solving a particular foresight problem, or even to keeping the firm alive. We could have chosen fewer functions to introduce you to, but the simpler the approach, the more rapidly we lose sight of how diverse, effective, and necessary foresight practice has become in the modern organization. These Twenty Functions aren’t the only places where organizational foresight is practiced, and we will mention other secondary functions in this guide. But we will argue that these twenty are a special set, balanced across the Eight Skills, and perhaps broad enough to represent the full spectrum of modern foresight practice.
Making foresight a conscious leadership priority in organizations of all types is among the greatest goals of our field. Once an appropriate level and variety of foresight is widely understood by organizational leaders as a key competitive advantage, and evidence for its value well understood, our field will be on a path to its maturity. Top practitioners of these Twenty Functions very often have C-level positions in many types of organizations and industries. But until our primary foresight professional associations also have C-level practitioners from all of these functions as leaders within our own ranks, and until an influential minority of leaders in all these functions also self-identify as foresight professionals, our field will remain underdeveloped. The leadership of top organizations will not recognize the foresight work they already do (“foresight by other names”), and the case for foresight as a leadership priority cannot be well made.
None of us will ever be experts in all of these functions, but each of us can seek out some specialty training to complement our general foresight knowledge. For each function we’ve named one Specialty Foresight Association below that is advancing professional practice in that function. Joining one or more of these associations at a time, in addition to a primary association, taking their online or in-person training, and attending their conferences will give you access to specialist foresight methods and knowledge that is often only lightly covered, if at all, in our still-developing primary associations. You will also make many new friendships and gain new practice opportunities.
Given their broad utility in foresight practice, learning the basics of all of these Twenty Functions is a very wise approach to professional development. Reading and publishing in their journals and other publications will also further the field and your professional distinction. Shifting your memberships among the specialty associations every few years, and picking up new certifications where helpful is a great way for foresight practitioners to do continuing education in our field. Such specialty training makes us much more valuable to our clients. Hopefully our primary foresight practice organizations will also develop much closer relationships with these specialty practice associations in coming years. Here are the associations:
- Intelligence – Strategic and Competitive Intelligence Professionals (SCIP). Since 1986. Helps professionals in competitive intelligence (legal and ethical information gathering and analysis). Runs an Annual Conference and Regional Summits. Bimonthly CI Magazine.
- Learning & Development – Association for Talent Development (ATD). Since 1945. Leading professional assoc. for workplace training, learning and development (L&D). Three annual conferences, L&D certifications, local chapters. T+D Magazine.
- Metrics & Knowledge Management – Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). Since 1919. The leading association for cost accounting, financial planning, and decision support, the most important metrics for any for-profit firm. Annual Conference, CMA certification. Strategic Finance. The Knowledge Management Professional Society (KMPro) is the largest KM group. It offers certifications and training. While we consider it a key function, KM is a considerably less-developed field than management accounting.
- Forecasting – International Institute of Forecasters (IIF). Since 1981. Advancing forecasting, short and long-term, quantitative and judgmental, as a multidisciplinary field of research and practice. Annual Internat’l Symposium on Forecasting, training Workshops. Publishes Foresight: The Journal of Applied Forecasting and Internat’l Journal of Forecasting.
- Investing – CFA Institute. Since 1946. Global association of 110K investment professionals. Offers Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA) and other certifications. Conferences, webinars, and events. Financial Analysts Journal, CFA Institute Magazine. Alternative: American Association of Individual Investors (AAII). 150K members. AAII Journal, Conference.
- Risk Management – Risk Management Society (RIMS). Since 2000. Global leader in risk mgmt. practices (insurance, finance, accounting, legal, IT, HR, etc). Annual RIMS Conference and Enterprise Risk Mgmt. Conf. Global Chapters. Risk Management
- Law & Security – American Bar Association (ABA). Since 1878. For lawyers & non-lawyers. Improving legal profession, advancing the rule of law. 400K members. Advocacy groups. ABA Journal, >100 specialty periodicals, many specialty law conferences.
- Idea Generation – American Creativity Association (ACA). Since 1990. Creativity, problem solving, ideation theory, tools, methods. Runs an Annual Conference. Non-associated journals: Creativity Research Journal and Journal of Creative Behavior.
- Design – AIGA: The Professional Association for Design (AIGA). Since 1914. Advancing product, service, and environmental design. Annual Design Competitions, Chapters, Student Groups, Professional Dev. Non-associated magazine: Wallpaper
- Innovation Mgmt/R&D – International Society of Professional Innovation Mgmt (ISPIM). Since 1983. R&D leaders, industrialists, institutions, and consultants in innovation mgmt. Runs Regional ISPIM Conferences. Publishes Internat’l Journal of Innovation Management.
- Entrepreneurship – Founder Institute (FI). Since 2009. Teaching founders to do internal or external startups. Also Lean Startup Circles. Since 2009. Communities to implement Eric Ries’ Lean Startup
- Strategy – Association for Strategic Planning (ASP). Since 1999. Advancing strategy and planning development and deployment for business, nonprofits, and govt. Annual Conference, certificate programs. Sixteen Chapters. Strategic planning resources.
- Analysis – Institute for Operations Research and the Mgmt Sciences (INFORMS). Since 1995. Advancing operations research, mgmt sciences, and data analytics. Annual Conference and Business Analytics Conference. Many Chapters. Publishes thirteen journals.
- Planning – American Planning Association (APA). Since 1978. Advancing the art and science of urban and regional planning. Runs American Inst of Certified Planners. Publishes Planning magazine, Journal of the American Planning Association.
- Product/Service/Project Mgmt. – American Management Association (AMA). Since 1923. Full-spectrum training in leadership, analysis, comm., IT, marketing, sales, PR, human resources, finance, project mgmt. Books, papers, podcasts, webinars, webcasts, etc. Alternative: Project Management Institute (PMI), and PMP Certification. 270 chapters.
- Marketing Mgmt. – American Marketing Association (AMA). Since 1937. Advancing the practice and scholarship of marketing, including advertising, customer modeling, metrics. 30K members. Certification & training. Marketing News, seven journals. Many conferences.
- HR & Performance Mgmt. – Society for Human Resource Mgmt (SHRM). Since 1948. Promotes HR (people ops, analytics, labor mgmt.) as a field, via education, certification, lobbying, and networking. 275K members. HR Magazine, others. Annual conference.
- Scorecards – Balanced Scorecard Institute (BSI). Since 1997. Balanced scorecard is a business performance dashboard with nine types of feedback, including customer feedback. Scorecards are key to firm success. Certifications, training. 5,000 practitioners.
- Quality – American Society for Quality (ASQ). Since 1946. Promoting the practice of performance feedback and quality improvement (TQM, Lean Six Sigma, etc.). 80K members. Various certifications and conferences. Eight magazines and journals.
- Change Management – Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP). Since 2009. New association standardizing and promoting the discipline of individual and organizational change management. Seven Chapters. Annual conference (900 attendees).
One more practice specialty, Leadership, should also be mentioned here, so that we may recommend one of its associations for professional development. Like foresight, leadership is a “meta” specialty, coordinating all the specialties listed above and depending on all of them. We’ll briefly explore how leadership requires, yet also differs from and builds upon foresight, at the end of Chapter 3.
- Leadership – International Leadership Association (ILA). Since 1999. Developing and advancing organizational leadership practices. ILA Global Conference. Publishes Journal of Leadership Studies, Leadership Excellence
We think foresight educational programs should offer basic working knowledge of all of these Twenty Functions. To give less to our students is to shortchange their potential to create great and lasting foresight impact on their client’s problems. You don’t need to be proficient in all or even most of the functions to be a good foresight professional. But you should have basic knowledge of all of them, and be able to value and work with professionals who do have those skills, and recognize when a specialist from one of the functions can help solve a problem. The better your team is at navigating the functions, the better you’ll be at managing and leading foresight in your organization.
There are also specialty industry organizations that offer foresight knowledge and training that may be helpful to join, depending on your particular clients. The Institute of Management Consultants, Investment Management Consultants Association, National Speakers Association, National Venture Capital Association, and Police Futurists International are a few examples. See Chapter 11 (Leaders) for more.