Richard Lum, CEO – Vision Foresight Strategy LLC
To be effective, our foresight efforts need to be linked with decision-making and planning frameworks within our organizations.
Foresight on its own is neither strategy nor policy nor action. To be useful, it must inform decision-making, serving as an integral factor in the process. And given that our uncertainties today are multiplying, our planning frameworks, like our foresight efforts, should be flexible and nimble. We need plans that are adaptive by nature and assumptions that are more tentative than we are used to. We need frameworks that will enable us to balance hedging strategies (accepting what the world throws at us) and shaping strategies (creating new systems and spaces in the world).
For the past few months, the pandemic has profoundly perturbed a set of already historic transitions world-wide. In doing so, it has accelerated the future’s approach toward us and greatly expanded its possibilities. If the future was difficult to anticipate before, it is posi- tively obscure now. There are so many cross-cutting forces currently buffeting our world that anticipating specific trajectories of change is challenging, to say the least. But this also means we are living in a time of experimentation and exploration—in public health and healthcare, urban design and transportation, education and skills development, the relationships between governance and safety. We are seeing a dizzying array of individual and collaborative attempts at problem-solving. We have all been jolted into action and are search- ing for new models and practices, new assumptions about how the world works.
This will not be the last pandemic.
We need to build new assumptions now that will be resilient in the face of the next pandemic. And we need to create new models and practices that will be better adapted to ongoing transformations, including those of climate change, geopolitical shifts, the rise of machines, and our emerging ability to recode life itself. Right now, we have a great need—an opportunity—to invent new business models, define new markets and customer groups, and conceive of new public services, new civic infrastructure, even new roles for citizens and communities. As we all, eventually, move into the final, post-Covid phase of long-term adaptations, the new models and practices that spread around the world will be those that stick. The systems and technologies that become mainstream are never necessarily “the best,” as measured by some objective, universal standard. They are simply those that effectively provide value and survive. And this means that your organization’s experiment today could be the innovation that we all want to adopt tomorrow.
As much as we might wish otherwise, those of us living through this transformative moment in history do not have the prescience to know what comes next.
Fortunately, we are not trapped by the future.
And foresight will give us the insight needed to shape and respond to emerging events, allowing us to create a better future for everyone.
This excerpt is from Richard Lum’s chapter, “The Future is Expanding: Foresight as a Critical Skill for Shaping a New Era,” from The Center for Asia Leadership’s Rethinking Asia 7 – The Future of Work: How To Prepare For It. To learn more, please visit https://asialeadership.org/publication/.