Looking Back at Looking Forward

sharing knowledge about organisational foresight

Locke’s theory of knowledge

Continuing on my investigations into ways that philosophy aids futures thinking and practice. Bertrand Russel’s History of Western Philosophy has a chapter on John Locke’s theory of knowledge. There is one piece that stands out in relation to my interest: the interpretation of ‘reason’ (pages 554-555).

‘Reason’ – as Locke uses the term – has “two parts: first an inquiry into what things we know with certainty; second, an investigation into propositions which it is wise to accept in practice, although they have only probability and not certainty in their favour. The grounds of probability are two: conformity with our own experience, or the testimony of others’ experiences”.

In futures research those developments that are nascent or that are emergent – that may at some time in the future prove to be disruptive – but that are available to experience in the present, are where probabilities can be assessed.

To influence others to take action in response to foresight (that can never be certain) – the acceptance of which requires they should quit their assumptions or opinions and embrace the foresight – takes time and the “common offices of humanity and friendship in the diversity of opinions”.

What is at stake to invoke acceptance and action from others is to engage them in the acquisition of new ‘knowledge’ gained from their examination of information about the issues and the grounds of probability. Where engagement of that sort is not taken, according to Locke we should not expect others to blindly submit to the will and the dictates of another, is like asking them to put aside their reason.

These passages help understand why it is so hard to have foresight understood and acted upon. But what is so often missing is the facilitative environment – humanity and friendship!


July 22, 2007 Posted by | foresight, knowledge networks, philosophy | , , , , | Leave a comment

Change management and horizon scanning

Came across a few jewels (wise advice) in a change management article today (The New Science of Change, http://www.cio.com/) September 15, 2006.

A key message was to resist the urge to provide too much detail – keep to the big picture. As the article states: “If you get too detailed, it prevents people from making the connections on their own”.

Very good point. If people make their own connections they are more likely to own the result. The more you try to explain things, the more people are likely to resist. Fascinating.

Asking people questions forces them to pay attention and prompts them into making connections. The more connections they make, the happier they feel.

Pitching new ideas to drive dumping faded or obsolete assumptions should be pitched as learning opportunities – something that can be seen as of value.

To operationalise horizon scanning insights involves keeping to the big picture, asking questions to prompt connections, and pitch the message as a strategic learning opportunity.

July 9, 2007 Posted by | foresight, knowledge networks | , , | Leave a comment