Doctoral Project Abstract
The Foresight Experience: Imagining Tomorrow ... Today
Charles T. Bowen Jr.
Strategic planning charts the organization's course, strategic foresight looks over the horizon at what lies ahead. In ancient times the edges of maps were marked with the warning, "here there be monsters." The trend and issue analysis of today could be compared to sailing in sight of the shore, or to a known point. Strategic foresight informs the organization about the "monsters" over the horizon that need to be anticipated and avoided, or prepared for.
On the horizon are transformational technologies such as nanotechnology that will build machines at the molecular level that will change medical science. Neurotechnology will make the man-machine interface potentially become a thought away. Bio-technology may extend human life and provide us with enhanced capabilities. New materials, machines and mechanisms may change the way we work, communicate and even where we may live. How WILL they impact your line of business, your customers, and the products and services you offer? How will they impact your employees, organizational structures and processes?
Our foresight experience begins in our imaginations. There are three words that need to be considered. First, is the word imagine, as ... to form a mental image of (something not present). The second is tomorrow, as ... the day after the present, or as the "future." The third is today ... the present day, time, or age. The foresight experience asks participants to imagine tomorrow; today. The strategic foresight process can be used to inform an organizations strategic planning and help them anticipate what contingencies need to be planned for. But it does not replace it! Strategic Foresight is not predictive - the process can provide alternative views of the future, but it is not predictive. Foresight is not magic!
Strategic Foresight is not prophetic - the process can help an organization develop agility, through contingency planning, so it can respond to potential changes but it cannot tell you what will change; it is not prescriptive. The products of the strategic foresight process are learnable; not a divine gift!
Is your organization like the mythological character Sisyphus, doomed to push the rock up the hill, only to reach the top and have it roll down again and again? Or, can you use foresight to imagine and prepare to make tomorrow more than what was hoped for? Through the strategic foresight process we can anticipate and shape the organizations response to future events. That is a cause for hope.