What is foresight

  • Print

 

Ten years ago, who knew that the coming decade would bring a devastating global crisis in finance, energy price, food shortage, and wide-spread emerging infectious diseases? We live in a turbulent and uncertain world. Dealing with changing circumstances, as well as with the fast pace of change today, is extremely difficult.

One response is to wait for events to happen and then to react to them. Increasingly, however, governments, businesses and organizations are realizing that if they stand still, changes will leave them somewhere that they do not want to be. An alternative is to be proactive by using foresight. Foresight is a process of anticipating and managing change. It is a systematic and participatory approach to develop effective strategies and policies for the medium- to longer-term future.

Resting on a firm foundation of the best information available, foresight taps into the wisdom and judgement of experts and other stakeholders. Foresight encourages shared understanding amongst the stakeholders and creates (or strengthens) networks. Where differences of opinion and attitude are significant, the foresight process can help different groups to understand each other’s positions better.

Foresight began as a planning tool within the science and technology sector. Its first users were especially interested in priority-setting for science and technology investments. This is still an important use for foresight, but technology is now seen as just one of many factors that have an impact on societies and sometimes it is only a minor issue in a foresight project. Foresight is now being used far more widely, and its use in the APEC region is increasing. This reflects a global trend – foresight has become very popular in Europe and is now occurring on every single continent in the world. Foresight has been used successfully to tackle social, cultural and economic issues.

Foresight is a dynamic process that continues to look ahead to anticipate the next changes. Foresight does not focus on day-to-day “operational” concerns, although it can provide important insights into how operations can be reformed to manage effectively in a rapidlychanging world. It is not based on extrapolation of existing patterns; it explicitly recognizes that the future is uncertain and that seriously disruptive events can and will happen. Most importantly, the goal of foresight is not just to prepare well for the future, but also to take every opportunity to shape and create the future.

Foresight tackles questions such as:

  • How can we increase our national competitiveness using science and technology?
  • How are our markets, our customers and our stakeholders going to change over the next 5-10 years?
  • What impacts are new technologies likely to have on our organization and its role?
  • What is the future course of global warming?
  • What skills and competencies should we be developing for the future?
  • What will be the demand for health, education or welfare services over the next 10-20 years?
  • How do we set priorities for our research and development program?