Looking Back at Looking Forward

sharing knowledge about organisational foresight

a thousand tomorrows on climate change

Today’s email from the ‘a thousand tomorrow’s blog described four scenarios on responses to climate change developed by Open the Future. One of the critical uncertainties was between centralised and decentralised control – seen as fundamental uncertainties about how the future will play out over the next few decades.

In the decentralised control scenarios collaboration dominates.

This analysis is very close to Vision 20/20.


November 27, 2007 Posted by | collaboration, foresight | , | Leave a comment

Environmental scanning

I managed to read a bit more from Thinking about the Future today. There is a chapter on scanning…and the recent advances in “more intuitive sources of information”. Ok. Plus they advocate probing more deeply into the potential implications. It’s about “understanding and acting…more quickly”. To understand what’s emerging is to make sense of it.

Both of these are potentially powerful for use in organisational strategic thinking.

Knowledge creation comes from sharing data and information and making sense of it. There is a good outline here:

Another useful role of the diagram shown here is the clear distinction between data, information and knowledge.

November 21, 2007 Posted by | foresight, knowledge networks | , , , , | Leave a comment

On ethics

After having read what Michel Onfray, Sam Harris and Bertrand Russell had to say on religion and the fragmented moral universe in which we life, I have to say my views on international collaboration and globalisation have suffered.

At one point in the 1980’s I assumed secularisation would continue unbounded but the clashes in various part of the world between the mainstream religions, terror attacks and other tensions around immigration of recent times have put paid to that.

Is is plausible to suggest that distributed networks may be one avenue to seek headway? Is it possible to envisage the articulation of global social and ethical norms that might one day bridge existing chasms will arise from sharing knowledge about cultural norms and practices, and from the fostering of dialogue inhibited by institutions and hierarchies?

November 19, 2007 Posted by | knowledge networks, philosophy | , , , , | Leave a comment


During my recent vacation I read Wikinomics: How mass collaboration changes everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D Williams. All about the transfer of power from institutions to distributed networks. The trend to distributed networks is very powerful as the ability to innovate, enhance, and share – the positive feelings/reputation enhancing/business development/economies of scale opportunities, and agility and responsiveness are all very compelling.

So I’ve been tracking the wikinomics website and am looking at the Wikinomics Playbook (a peer produced guide to collaboration in the 21st century. I’m interested in the value systems and generally accepted rule of behaviour that govern online collaboration. In the Tower of Google the statement is made that those who trust collaborate better… and trust is mostly a question of shared value systems.

Well, two apparently diametrically opposed thoughts come to mind:

  • how can there be mass collaboration in a world of fragmented value systems?
  • does mass collaboration mean there is a ‘global value system’ that distributed networking is tapping into?

Cause for some investigation I think.

November 8, 2007 Posted by | collaboration, knowledge networks | , , , , | Leave a comment

Operationalising foresight

I’m reading Thinking about the future: guidelines for strategic foresight, edited by Andy Hines and Peter Bishop (www.socialtechnologies.com) My interest in getting this book is to make use of foresight. The last chapter ‘Acting’ is the most interesting from that point of view.

Interestingly the focus is on either avoiding undesirable futures or moving towards a preferred one. In other words, describing the strategic landscape is only a forerunner. To get action, the risks and opportunities must be made clear. Then map out plausible pathways so that the organisation can choose the way forward. The strategic analyst must be capable of developing a plan of action.

The first message for me is to understand the organistation so well that the foresight can be framed in terms that stakeholders understand. Functional descriptions would be a useful starting point. This approach is also useful in that functions are already aligned with business objectives and outcomes.

Secondly, make use of the preferred means of processing information – the communication style of the organisation.

Thirdly, the thinking style of the organisation is likely to be concrete, detailed and here-and-now. Meanwhile the thinking style of the foresight analyst is about complexity, ambiguity and the longer-term. Differences in worldview also apply. As the books states “someone with a preference for competition and victory may not understand someone with a preference for participation and egalitarianism” (page 195). This knowledge may be obtained by interviewing people, or in conversation. Knowing the underlying beliefs, values and culture of individuals is important.

Forthly, in presenting alternatives for action, workshop the options with decision-makers first. The resultant recommendations for formalised endorsement will already have support.

This is all good stuff. It also supports may analysis some time ago about foresight competencies. As well as the style of thinking above (and as described in other posts on this blog) other skills include:

  • facilitation
  • presentation
  • interviewing
  • relationships
  • planning
  • pyschology
  • sociology
  • philosophy

November 1, 2007 Posted by | foresight, knowledge networks | , , | 1 Comment