How do shared beliefs about futures emerge?

A strategic foresight capacity is the outcome of the development and coalescence of individual foresight capacities. Here I see foresight as a neurological and cognitive capacity.

How do shared beliefs about futures emerge?
Photo by Hello I'm Nik on Unsplash

In this post I'm exploring the need to clarify the role of an individual in how shared beliefs about an organisation's futures emerge.

I believe now - after 22 years experience and a PhD in futures -  that foresight will only emerge in ways that are useful in the present when we turn some of our attention to integrating individual foresight with organisational or strategic foresight. The latter focus is understandable because it's the collective that take strategic actions of any kind. But integrating individual foresight in collective processes is also critical if actions emerging from futures processes are to have 'impact'.

Those actions are underpinned by our foresight capacities which are, in turn, underpinned by our assumptions - a broad term which I take to mean the beliefs what is right and wrong, what are values are, and what we can accept as valid and what we reject, all of which shape our thinking, our actions and our judgement on what futures are possible - or not.

I did this diagram many years ago when I was working in organisational foresight which I adapted from Richard Slaughter's social foresight model.

A strategic foresight capacity is the outcome of the development and coalescence of individual foresight capacities. Here I see foresight as a neurological and cognitive capacity.

Until we as individuals have found our foresight, recognised it and begun to use it, being told to think in new ways or use our imaginations (I've been guilty of using both) doesn't always work if foresight is applied only in workshops. Like all things to do with our minds, the more we experience something, the more we are likely to begin to challenge our embedded and unchallenged assumptions underpinning our thinking.

Using foresight needs to be a practice, not a once off event or part of an annual get-together if an organisation is serious about using foresight. It can, and should be, part of an organisation's operating system, it's DNA - it can become 'just the way we do things around here'. This bringing together of conscious individual foresight capacities is what creates shared beliefs about futures that over time allow a strategic foresight capacity to emerge, as the following diagram shows.

Foresight at the individual level is solitary and will have impact on an individual's thinking, while for an organisation that thinking needs to be collective at the organisation level so that foresight moves from an individual to an organisational capacity.

The starting point in building a strategic foresight capacity in organisations therefore is with the individual. Not with the executive team, not by running a series of workshops or writing scanning reports every year but in supporting individuals to recognise and use their foresight capacities. Individuals first, support the development of their foresight capacity by using methods and training, having conversations, integrating what is being learned into existing practice - and proving the time for an organisational capacity and share beliefs about futures to emerge.

Shared beliefs and a share foresight capacity emerge over time as our foresight is used in futures processes over and over again. Impact needs to be measured in terms of both individuals and organisations. I used to say that strategy without people is strategy without a future. I now understand that means strategy without collective foresight is strategy without a future. More about this in coming posts.


I'm taking a break over August and will post again in early September.