Alberta CoLab was disbanded in March 2020. This page exists as a historical record.
Foresight is the systematic exploration of possible futures to help inform decision-making in the present.
Foresight enables us to anticipate and prepare for potential challenges and opportunities beyond a 'business-as-usual' narrative, and to build robust and forward looking responses to possible futures. Foresight can also be used to develop an early warning structure to detect whether and how a system may be changing. It is useful in strategy development because it helps us to identify credible assumptions about the future, and to discard those that are no longer relevant.
Foresight is most helpful when you are looking further into the future, as uncertainty grows.
Foresight is underpinned by four main axioms:
- The future is not predetermined
- The future cannot be known with accuracy
- Cause-effect relationships are multi-directional and non-linear
- The future can be influenced by our choices in the present
CoLab's foresight methodology involves the following main activities:
- Scoping: identify a framing question
- Signals, Trends, Drivers: identify evidence of change
- Critical Uncertainties: take a system approach to explore how different elements interact with each other and what drives them, identifying which elements are the most impactful and uncertain
- Scenarios: formulate scenarios using the critical uncertainties as parameters; identify pathways to scenarios
- Strategic Implications: identify the implications of different scenarios
- Strategic Options: having identified the desired scenario, work backwards from the future to identify key milestones, potential interventions, and ways to test their robustness
- Evaluation: test options for robustness, modify based on learnings, and implement.
Although there is a logical progression to the phases described above for both systemic design and foresight, in practice the process is flexible and often iterative, depending on particular projects. It is possible to jump forwards or backwards depending on the circumstances of any given project.