Keywords: foresight, innovation, Delphi, scenario planning, participatory policy analysis
Foresight - refining the process
The use of foresight as a tool in national research and technology planning exercises has increased markedly over the past decade, as a consequence of the pressures of the emerging knowledge economy, constraints on government spending, the new emphasis in organisations on learning, networks and relationships, and changes in the structures of knowledge production. It is therefore timely to invest in evaluation of and learning from these experiences. That the business management focus in addressing the future is far more on issues of structure and culture, such as flexibility, adaptability and tolerance for ambiguity, than it is on tools such as foresight, suggests the need for a much closer linking of foresight to other company considerations. Three particular areas of challenge are identified. The first is linking foresight more effectively with strategy and action, through better engagement of and with key stakeholders. The second is the development and refinement of the range of foresight techniques with a clear appreciation of their appropriate arena of application. The third is to acknowledge the cultural dimension of foresight, and to apply it with an awareness of the potential cultural constraints. An alternative framework for foresight, modelled on "participatory policy analysis", is proposed to improve the interface of foresight with political and administrative decision making process.