Hawai’i’s Shared Futures By Vision Foresight Strategy

What are Scenarios?

Scenarios are stories about the future.  But, they are not predictions.  Rather, they describe possible futures that we might experience.  They are explorations of the different ways in which the world could change, providing us an opportunity to examine how our lives and our businesses might be different.  But there are some important differences between scenarios and other kinds of ‘stories’:  scenarios are informed by foresight; they come in sets, not singles; and their greatest value comes from creating them, not reading them.

From a futures perspective, foresight is having insight into the challenges and opportunities the future may offer.  Put another way, it is having insight into how things may change.  Good foresight requires some understanding of change, broad exposure to possibilities, and a healthy dose of creativity.

Good foresight first requires some explicit understanding of and exploration into how and why things change.  Whether we are talking about a local community, a corporation, or a regional economy, we are always relying on some set of assumptions about how things work, how they change.  These are the mental models that we use in part to make our decisions.  There are, of course, an infinite number of models about how the world works, how different things in life change.  Each of us has our own unique model (based on our unique learning and life experience) and researchers in most fields have produced a variety of formal models to explain change.  Regardless of which model you choose, knowing your model, and being familiar with the models of others, is the first step in developing foresight.

Foresight also requires broad exposure to possibilities.  The technological development occurring today, in fields as diverse as renewable energy, fabrication technology, and cognitive science, is almost overwhelming.  Global connectivity intensifies this, enabling us to share ideas, learn from each other, and create unanticipated combinations of new technologies and practices.  The potential for disruptive technical and social changes, arising out of areas that have nothing directly to do with us, is increasing every day.  By continuously exposing us to these changes, foresight enables us to continually refine our notion of the possible.  Good foresight allows us to take advantage of the full range of possibilities that lie before us.

Good foresight also requires a dose of creative thinking.  The future is unwritten, which means that the trends you’ve been monitoring do not (and cannot) predict what will happen tomorrow.  This also means that you have a hand in writing the future.  Your choices interact with the choices of others and with the changes already in motion.  A little ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, like seeing novel combinations or untried approaches, often allows us to create opportunities.  Foresight is also about seeing how the future can be shaped to a better end.

More on this later.


Filed under: foresight, futures, scenarios

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