By: Alison Brady Head of PageUp Talent Lab, PageUp

Talent Lab contributors and guests recently came together over lunch to explore the rich topic of strategic foresight. We were fortunate to have US futurist and PageUp Talent Lab contributor, Yvette Montero Salvatico, as our special guest speaker. Yvette was joined by her colleague and fellow Principal of The Futures School1, Frank Spencer. Together they led an engaging conversation on how to plan for and seize the future in today’s volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA) world.

What is strategic foresight?

Strategic foresight is a framework for identifying and evaluating future possibilities and determining the best course of action. It’s an input to strategic planning not an alternative, helping to uncover opportunities and threats that traditional processes might miss.

Why is strategic foresight important?

It can enable you to:

  • Identify emerging trends and opportunities on the horizon;
  • Build ‘maps of the future’ that generate successful strategies;
  • Challenge biases and remove blinders to new ideas and innovations; and
  • Harness the future to make better decisions today.  

Let me provide you with a taste of what we covered over lunch. If this whets your appetite I will tell you where you can read more.

Strategic foresight helps make sense of VUCA

VUCA characterises the business landscape today and we should be prepared for it to stay this way in the future.  Processes from the industrial era are no longer proving effective.  As a result, businesses need a new philosophy and set of tools; leaders need new ways of thinking and working to survive and thrive.  Strategic foresight provides this framework. It helps us explore the future, test business strategy, innovate and drive change.

We can create the future, not just plan for it

“…the future is not something that just happens to us but is instead something
we create every day through the decisions we make.” 2

Social, demographic and technological trends are pushing us into the future, seeking answers and encouraging us to plan.  We are being challenged to address questions such as ‘what will the workforce look like in 2025?’ and ‘how can we prepare for this?’. The strategic foresight framework prompts us to play a more proactive role in shaping our future by asking ‘what could and should our workforce look like in 2025?’ and ‘how can we make this happen?’. While both perspectives have merit, this subtle shift is significant. It empowers us to take control and shape the future, not just plan for it.      

The more we know the less we see

The more we know in a particular field, the more challenging it can be to innovate and change. Yvette and Frank call this ‘educated incapacity.’ Expertise and experience help us filter and interpret information, but they can also limit us. How do we overcome this? Two recent Talent Lab posts highlight opportunities for the HR profession to explore different perspectives.  Sliding doors: HR lessons from the C-suite explores opportunities for HR leaders to learn from their CFO, CIO, and CMO colleagues. Innovation insights from The Conference Board exposes the divergent views of HR and innovation leaders and puts a different lens on diversity.

Incremental innovation isn’t enough

From a futurist perspective, transformational change trumps continuous improvement. The ability to apply long-term thinking, identify opportunities and convert these into profitable outcomes are put forward as the hallmarks of true innovation. Strategic foresight needs to replace outdated innovation processes to enable this.

Yvette and Frank, thank you for sharing insightful thinking and practical tools that allow us all to benefit from strategic foresight. If this post has whet your appetite for more, do check out the Strategic Foresight Primer. This provides a comprehensive introduction to the topic with techniques that you can put into practice.  


Footnotes

  1. The Futures School 
    Strategic foresight is the framework behind The Futures School 3-day programme. The next programme is scheduled for 11-13 October 2016 in California. For more information, see: http://www.thefuturesschool.com/locations/losangeles/
  2. This quote is an extract from Strategic Foresight Primer: Unlock the Futurist Mindset, 2016, Kedge. http://www.kedgefutures.com/

About The Author


Alison Brady
Head of PageUp Talent Lab , PageUp

Alison leads PageUp Talent Lab and is responsible for research in the field of strategic human capital management. She has more than 15 years of experience delivering organisational development solutions, consulting and advisory services to a diverse range of companies. Alison is a Registered Psychologist with a Masters Degree in Organisational Psychology.