the foresight process

The Futuring Process in 24 Lovely Foresight Quotes

foresight resources Jun 06, 2023

The foresight process... illustrated with quotes inspire you to explore, imagine, and shape your organization's future. Let’s get started!


There's No Time to Waste

Thinking about the future often gets lots in everything that must get done today. And that's perfectly fine. If you free your schedule somewhere this week to catch up on the future.


"Unfortunately, the clock is ticking, the hours are going by. The past increases, the future recedes. Possibilities decreasing, regrets mounting."

— Haruki Murakami (Dance Dance Dance (The Rat, #4)


"Our lives are not our own. We are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future."
— David Mitchell (Cloud Atlas)


"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future."
— John F. KennedyAddress in the Assembly Hall at the Paulskirche in Frankfurt, June 26 1963 


Unpredictability of the Future

The first thing foresight has to do for us is to get to terms with uncertainty and unknowns. But not by making predictions! Because:


"Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards."
— Søren Kierkegaard (The Seducer's Diary)


"The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed."
— J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)


"Life takes us to unexpected places sometimes. The future is never set in stone, remember that."
— Erin Morgenstern (The Night Circus)


"To understand the difficulty of predicting the next 100 years, we have to appreciate the difficulty that the people of 1900 had in predicting the world of 2000."
— Michio Kaku (Physics of the Future)


The Point of Weak Signals

Although we can't predict the future's very accurately, we can make educated guesses about possible futures. Those guesses are based on so-called weak signals: the early warnings of emerging change.


"Any fool can tell a crisis when it arrives. The real service to the state is to detect it in embryo."
— Isaac Asimov (Foundation)


"No one knows the future, but the present offers clues and hints on its direction."
— Innocent Mwatsikesimbe (Mirror (Mere Reflections)


"You can't prevent what you can't predict."
— Unknown


The Importance of the Past

Weak signals are hard to detect, so we turn to the past for help. We trace how trends have progressed by and include seemingly stand-alone events in patterns. Focusing on the progressions instead of the moments, the patterns instead of the events, provides us with a new perspective on the past, that we can extrapolate into the future. So, the past is important:


 "Study the past if you would define the future."
— Confucius


"Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future too."
— Marcus Aurelius (Meditations)


Shaping the Future

Extrapolating trends and developments into the future is more than just extending a line. You use your logical powers to envision what would happen if a trend were to grow or shrink exponentially, or what would happen if just one trend controlled all others (like climate change rescue can control economics).  These futures are all possible, because they are all created on real, actual information:

"The future depends on what you do today."
— Mahatma Gandhi


"Education is our passport to the future, for tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today."
— Malcolm X in a speech he gave on June 28, 1964


"The greatest danger to our future is apathy."
— Jane Goodall in Time Magazine


"The best way to keep something bad from happening is to see it ahead of time... and you can't see it if you refuse to face the possibility."
— William S. Burroughs




The Good Side of Uncertainty

Besides the best, the worst, and the controlled future, there is also the wild card future. This possible future is infused with uncertainties. Which is a good thing:


"If you knew what was going to happen, if you knew everything that was going to happen next—if you knew in advance the consequences of your own actions—you'd be doomed. You'd be ruined as God. You'd be a stone. You'd never eat or drink or laugh or get out of bed in the morning. You'd never love anyone, ever again. You'd never dare to."
— Margaret Atwood (The Blind Assassin)


"In the midst of chaos, there is also opportunity"
— Sun Tzu (The Art of War)


"The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next."
— Ursula K. Le Guin (The Left Hand of Darkness)



About Scenarios

When you have created the four scenarios (best, worst, controlled, and wild card future), you develop your preferred future. Another scenario, one that you strive for. Plotting your organization in the set of five scenarios will inform you of its strengths and weaknesses and how these are contingent on possible futures. You'll also know what to do to build on your strengths.


"If you have answers to two questions, life will be amazing. One, what’s your priority, the current one and long-term? Two, do you have a plan for the worst-case scenario?"
— Vikrmn: CA Vikram Verma (Slate)


"Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win"
— Sun Tzu (The Art of War)


"In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."
— Dwight D. Eisenhower in Nixon's Six Crises


The Never-Ending Story of Foresight

Foresight never stops, because the world never stops changing. So with the arrival of the scenarios, we're back at step one...


"People think of education as something they can finish."
— Isaac Asimov


"Even in the Future the Story Begins with Once Upon a Time."
— Marissa Meyer (Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles)


Do you have a great quote on the future? I'd love to add it to the collection!

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