I love foresight.
I think it’s one of the most valuable and exciting skills and practices that anyone can learn and apply.
Foresight helps us imagine and create the future we want, by exploring multiple possibilities, anticipating challenges, and identifying opportunities.
Foresight also helps us prepare for the future we don’t want, by understanding uncertainties, mitigating risks, and making choices.
Foresight is useful, and fun, and empowering.
However, I also encounter many misconceptions about foresight that make me sad and frustrated. These misconceptions prevent people from appreciating and practicing foresight effectively or credibly. They also limit the potential and impact of foresight for all of us.
Here are some of the most common ones. Oh, how I would like to debunk them...
- Foresight is about predicting the future: This is a huge misunderstanding that often leads to disappointment or disbelief. Foresight is not a crystal ball that can tell us what will happen with certainty or accuracy. Instead, foresight helps us widen our perspective and deepen our insight about the future, not narrow them down to a single point or line. Foresight also helps us shape our future, not just accept it as given or inevitable.
- Foresight is so difficult, it's only for experts or elites: This is a false assumption that often leads to exclusion or elitism. Foresight is not a secret or exclusive domain that requires special knowledge, skills, or resources. Foresight is a public and participatory practice that benefits from diverse perspectives, experiences, and insights. Foresight can be done by anyone who is curious, creative, and critical about the future. Foresight can also be done for anyone who has a stake or interest in the future, whether they are individuals, groups, organizations, or communities.
- Foresight is only for long-term or big-picture issues: This is a narrow view that often leads to irrelevance or detachment. Foresight is not only relevant or useful for addressing long-term or big-picture issues, such as global trends, megatrends, or grand challenges. Foresight is also versatile and adaptable for dealing with short-term or small-scale issues, such as personal decisions, organizational changes, or local problems. Foresight can also help us connect the dots between different time horizons or scales of interest, such as how our daily actions affect our long-term goals, or how local issues relate to global issues.
I think these misconceptions persist because of several factors:
- lack of awareness, education, or exposure to foresight;
- cognitive biases or heuristics that influence our perception and judgment of the future;
- social norms or expectations that shape our attitude and behavior towards the future;
- and institutional barriers or constraints that limit our access or opportunity to engage in foresight.
The list of factors implies that we need a huge campaign to overcome the misconceptions about foresight. These challenges are not only cognitive, but also social, cultural, and institutional. They affect not only me or you but also the collective level of foresight practice and culture. So the misconceptions are very difficult to debunk.
Change is Needed
But if these misconceptions will always remain, then foresight will never reach its full potential and impact. Foresight will be seen as a marginal, irrelevant, or unreliable practice, rather than a vital, useful, or credible one.
Foresight will be limited to a few experts or elites, rather than accessible to everyone.
Foresight will be focused on long-term or big-picture issues, rather than adaptable to any time horizon or scale of interest.
This would be a loss for both the industry professionals and the public, as they would miss out on the benefits and opportunities that foresight can offer. They would also face more risks and challenges that foresight can help them anticipate and prepare for. They would also have less agency and ownership over their future, as they would rely on others to tell them what will happen or what to do.
For all those reasons, I think it is important and worthwhile to debunk these misconceptions and promote a better understanding and appreciation of foresight. I think this is not only a matter of professional interest, but also of public interest and responsibility.
What We Can Do
As an individual foresight expert, I help debunk the misconceptions by infusing the debate with the facts and teach foresight, wherever and whenever I can:
- Explain and illustrate what foresight is, what it isn’t, and why it matters, like here, on the blog.
- Teach and mentor others who are interested or curious about foresight by offering courses, workshops, webinars, or coaching sessions that introduce the basics and benefits of foresight. I also share my experiences, insights, and tips on how to practice foresight effectively and ethically in my work as educator/consultant.
- I network and collaborate with other foresight practitioners and enthusiasts and participate in events or conferences that showcase and celebrate foresight.
- I use foresight tools and methods to explore and create the future of my profession, organization, and industry. I can also use foresight to make better decisions, solve problems, or pursue opportunities in my personal or family life.
I feel that these actions are not only feasible, but also rewarding.
They can help me improve my skills, knowledge, and reputation as a foresight expert. They can also help me contribute to the advancement and recognition of foresight as a valuable and exciting practice. They can also help me make a positive difference in the world by helping others explore and shape the future as they see fit.
Foresight can help you too with a very long list of benefits and opportunities. Foresight helps you to:
- Expand imagination and creativity with multiple futures
- Enhance understanding and insight with future analysis
- Empower action and impact with future strategies
- Enrich work and life with future applications
- Anticipate and prepare for potential future threats
- Mitigate and manage negative future consequences
- Adapt and recover from future changes or shocks
- Learn and improve from future experiences or feedback
- Collaborate and communicate with other foresight actors
- Support and promote foresight as a democratic practice
- Align and integrate foresight with common values or goals
- Respect and protect future diversity, sustainability, or resilience
Call for Change:
I invite you to join me in exploring and shaping the future in the direction we want. With foresight. Help me share foresight insights in your network and apply the tools that you find here. You'll gain my eternal thanks, and have the satisfaction that you did your bit to shape the future and that you've helped others to improve their skills, knowlegde, and confidence!
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