9 Foresight Methodologies Successful Companies Use to Stay Ahead

9 Foresight Methodologies Successful Companies Use to Stay Ahead

And how you can use them, too.

November 17, 2018, Bruno Jacobsen, Irmeli Hirvensalo

There's a few answers successful foresight activities must answer. Three of the most important are: What are the alternative futures the organization faces? How likely are the different futures to unfold? And, given the options, what actions can the organization take to achieve its goals?

9 Foresight Methodologies Successful Companies Use to Stay Ahead

 


This article is based on our latest eBook. Get your FREE copy today and get ready for the future. If you're looking for a tool to facilitate the process, take a look at our Foresight Platform and check out the free trial.


 

There's a few answers successful foresight activities must answer. Three of the most important, though at a superficial level are: What are the alternative futures the organization faces? How likely are the different futures to unfold? And, given the options, what actions can the organization take to achieve its goals?

 

The practice of strategic foresight has long been associated with the military and politics. More recently, however, its diffused into public organizations and businesses.

 

But why have companies and public organizations begun to worry more about how the long term, and even the short term, could impact them so much?

 

The driver is clear. Never has the pace of change been so fast on so many fronts: technology, business models, ecological environment, culture, and societies. And if history is a good teacher, it's not going to slow down.

 

Indeed, "predicting" the future has become so important that a number of different methods have been developed over the years. While 100% accuracy cannot be guaranteed, better-preparedness is almost certain.

 

Here we go briefly over 9 foresight methodologies successful companies have used to stay on top of the game and ahead of competition.

 

Foresight Methodologies:

Foresight methodologies can be be qualitative or quantitative in nature, and can focus on the near future or long term. Below, we illustrate the 9 different methodologies we will cover and where they fall on the scale.

 

However, one thing should be noted. Most foresight methodologies actually combine qualitative and quantitative data, so reality is not as clear-cut. But, for illustrative purposes, this will do.

 

Foresight Methodologies
Foresight Methodologies cover different timespans and vary in terms of qualitative/quantitative nature.

 

As you can see, some of these may already be familiar to you. Many organizations and institutions include several of these in their year-to-year business. Some may review industry and society trends, go through war game simulations (as governments often do), and draw out technology roadmaps. They are not usually labelled under "foresight" or done in a "foresight department." But they are there, and necessary.

 

Let's move on to the 9 foresight methodologies.

 


This article is based on our latest eBook. Get your FREE copy today and get ready for the future. If you're looking for a tool to facilitate the process, take a look at our Foresight Platform and check out the free trial.


 

Forecasts / Predictions

Forecasting is about making more or less linear projections or estimations of future events whose outcomes are uncertain. A "prediction" refers to precise estimations. For example, estimating the precise number of times floods will occur in a certain area over a certain period of time.

 

War Game Simulations

War game simulations are strategic games that mostly deal with military operations of various kinds. In a business context, these war games simulate different competitive settings and competitor actions and responses.

 

Roadmaps

Roadmaps are most often seen in technical contexts. They literally map out projected milestones in the development of new technologies or products.

 

Backcasting

Backcasting starts with defining a plausible and desirable future. After that, the team works backwards to identify actions and programs that will connect that future with the present.

 

Weak signals and wild cards

When it comes to foresight, wild cards are low-probability, high-impact events. They are also generally referred to as "black swans," though they can refer to positive events. Weak signals are lower impact events. Their observation attempts to link small developments and phenomena to the potential occurence of emerging issues or changes in current trends.

 

Trends and Emerging Issues Analysis

Trends analysis is the practice of collecting information and attempting to spot patterns in it. It also deals with the impact of these patterns over time. Emerging issues, on the other hand, are "events" that do not seem to fit into any existing patterns, but which may develop new ones.

 

Horizon Scanning

Horizon scanning is the systematic gathering of information to detect early signs of potentially important developments. It's also used to identify new and emerging trends. This activity is often based on desk research, assisting in the development of the big picture of future changes. A solid horizon scanning process can help develop strategies to align with future changes. It can also be a way of identifying new trends which are later used in scenarios.

 

Scenarios

Scenario planning helps organizations anticipate change, prepare responses, and create robust strategies. The process typically starts with the combining of known facts about the operating environment with uncertain factors about the future context. Then, one selects a number of these ‘uncertainties’ or ‘drivers of change’ in the future and converts plausible paths of developments into two or more alternative stories, or ‘scenarios’. As the future unfolds, some paths generally begin to emerge as more plausible and others as less plausible. Often, the future involves a combination of paths.

 

The Delphi Method

The Delphi Method is a structured and interactive forecasting activity that relies on a panel of experts. The experts answer questionnaires and argue different positions. This is usually done over a few rounds. During this process, the range of answers narrows down. This is based on the reassessment of given arguments and consensus building. In the final round, the group of experts converges towards a final, "correct" answer about the future.

 

Making Your Organization Future Proof

Successful companies understand the importance of foresight work. Even if they don't call it that. Oftentimes, they do one or more of them above methods yearly in order to stay ahead of competition.

 

But a truly successful foresight program needs more than the incorporation of these methods in strategy work. These foresight methods are part of a larger whole - company wide program that enables any organization of become future proof.

 


This article is based on our latest eBook. Get your FREE copy today and get ready for the future. If you're looking for a tool to facilitate the process, take a look at our Foresight Platform and check out the free trial.


Leave your comment below: