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Foresight illustrated: Choosing how broad a view to take when exploring the future

One of the core questions to ask when you are going to explore the future is: How broad a look do we need to take? 

Much of the power of foresight is in looking beyond what we routinely pay attention to–we are experts at that–to see what forces and changes are not yet obvious to us, but will be. That is the reason to look a few years out, at least, but it's also the reason to broaden thinking beyond the organization, or community, or system we are part of.

I developed this diagram to help show people how to think about this. The lowest tiers are what responsible people in a company or other organization pay attention to. Those leaders usually have a pretty good grip on what's happening at those levels, though that is not always true.

But change also comes from beyond the system we are part of. The diagram uses as an example, a US-based organization. For that organization, change will come from beyond the region, and beyond the business sector, from elsewhere in the country, and from other parts of the world. 

The answer to "how high should we fly?" in exploring the future, is, higher than you think. I've written previously that All Futures are Global. That holds true for anyone, and using the diagram, you should consider raising some of your focus, and spending some of your time, exploring what's happening at the top, even if you settle for your main focus lower down. The less clear changes, and often the biggest ones, will come from beyond your usual field of view.

For another "Foresight Illustrated" post, see: http://foresightculture.com/2008/04/22/the-mother-of-all-futures-diagrams

See also: "Breaking out of your specialty for better foresight"

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