Is Human-Machine Collaboration the Next Step in Strategic Foresight?

By letting artificial intelligence take care of the research process, organisations can free up a significant amount of time and resources.

May 25, 2021, Gökce Sandal

Artificial intelligence is increasingly used today in market and customer insights. Although it is no news anymore that AI is better than us humans at spotting patterns across large data sets, machine intelligence is still not advanced enough to understand correlation and causality, which are among humans’ strong suits. Joining these two forces can help organisations streamline foresight processes and save time.

WHY AI-ASSISTED FORESIGHT?

In today’s fast-changing operational landscapes, detecting early signals of change before they reach mainstream is imperative for organisations, which is why many invest increasing resources in activities such as trend scouting and weak signal monitoring.

Large organisations usually do this by establishing teams of trends researchers and analysts who study signals of change and produce trends reports. However, due to the large amounts of resources such work requires, these efforts tend to be sporadic or project-driven rather than continuous.

Another challenge often faced in foresight is the broad perspective needed for horizon scanning, which requires an advanced level of understanding in many different fields. Moreover, with the ever-increasing amount of information and thousands of potentially disruptive signals across industries, collecting and analysing such data also exceeds the limits of human capabilities.

AI-assisted foresight solutions are designed to address these pain points and support various aspects of foresight work. For example, predictive data modelling can be used when projecting the future of megatrends, while automated search queries can assist horizon scanning. By speeding up the research work, AI-powered foresight tools free time for organisations to focus on making sense of the collected data and turning them into actionable strategies.

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24/7 HORIZON SCANNING

As a process, horizon scanning often involves demanding scout work, but it is possible to partially automate it today with pattern management and AI discovery technologies. For instance, AI bots can continuously roam millions of research articles, news pieces and social media platforms according to pre-defined criteria and spot patterns by connecting the dots across large data sets.

In addition to helping with time management, AI-assisted foresight also brings structure to the horizon scanning process and helps humans manage information overload. This kind of systematic, always-on horizon scanning can significantly boost human discovery and help organisations spot unexpected areas of growth and innovation opportunities.

The creative industry is among the forerunners in utilising AI’s horizon scanning capabilities. For instance, in the fashion industry, which is one of the most competitive sectors, AI is increasingly used to identify trending colours, patterns and designs to develop innovative combinations.

 

The fashion industry is embracing artificial intelligence to forecast future trends

 

ENRICHING SCENARIO-MAKING THROUGH SIMULATION

As today’s problems become more complex and interconnected, how all these moving parts may play out in different scenarios becomes more difficult for humans to anticipate. Hence, scenario work is another area where AI and predictive analytics can make a difference.

In scenario-building, predictive algorithms and future simulations can help enrich human creativity and serve as a point of departure for foresight professionals to elaborate and expand on. By uncovering unexpected possibilities, AI-assisted solutions can also help humans address blind spots and inherent bias.

Considering that humans can be especially slow to react and plan for black swans, which are unforeseen events with high impacts, AI can also help organisations become more alert to emerging risks. For instance, BlueDot’s AI algorithm anticipated the Covid-19 pandemic already back in December 2019, long before humans had the time to react and take measures.

 

ENVISIONING THE FUTURE OF AI IN STRATEGIC FORESIGHT

As machines’ predictive analytics and creative thinking capabilities evolve, they will assist humans not only in trend spotting but also in decision-making processes.

By combining the best suits of artificial and human intelligence, it is possible to reach smarter decisions compared to decisions made by a human or an AI alone. Organisations that utilise the AI’s potential in streamlining strategic foresight processes will save time and resources while at the same time having deeper, data-driven insights to emerging signals of change.

Want to know more? Book a demo of Futures Platform's AI-powered foresight solution and discover how you can harness the potential of future changes.

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