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8 things leaders should know about strategic foresight

Today’s leaders are pressed to focus on strategic foresight and many are responding. But it’s not always clear what strategic foresight means. What do leaders need to know?

  1. It has to be long term. For true clarity on your future, you need a view that goes at least five or ten years out. You need to see past immediate concerns and explore and envision real change. See: The short-term view and the long-term view
  2. There are no “answers.” The future is uncertain, with a range of potential outcomes. So strategic foresight doesn’t mean prediction, it means clarifying patterns of change and modeling potential outcomes and choices. See: Foresight illustrated: The mother of all futures diagrams
  3. You have to look beyond your usual domain. New challenges and undiscovered opportunities will often come from outside your sector or market. See: All futures are global
  4. You need to reach beyond the low-hanging fruit. The actions you can take now to fix things and keep going are obvious, whether or not you are able to accomplish them. They are the low-hanging fruit. Addressing bigger challenges and opportunities, and forging a successful future, means reaching beyond the low-hanging fruit to bigger systems that will need to change. See: Making change beyond the low-hanging fruit
  5. The foresight process itself is valuable. Wider participation in the processes of strategic foresight strengthens organizational foresight, agility, and learning. You need others’ inputs, and you need others to be a part of innovation and decisionmaking. And everyone benefits from the time spent learning, exploring, and imagining. See: Noun=bad, verb=good and Planning, scanning, forecasting—it’s the verb not the noun
  6. You must confront unpleasant truths, not just hopes and dreams. That means “what ifs” that include catastrophic or transformational change. From those scenarios can come fresh thinking about a positive path forward. See: The unspoken scenario
  7. Success means forging a culture of foresight. Strategic foresight can’t be a once-in-a-while activity. Organizational habits of mind and action should stand on a base of clear and regular thinking about the future. See: What is a foresight culture? and The characteristics of a foresightful organization
  8. The future is yours to shape. Finally, the future is not inevitable. You can and must shape it yourself. Don’t wait for it to happen to you. See: Don’t be a victim of change

My work is all about helping leaders do these things. Let me know if I can shed more light on this, or help you kick your efforts up to a new level. Jbmahaffie@leadingfuturists.biz and 202-271-0444 More about my work is at www.leadingfuturists.biz.

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