Foresight – Definition and Explanation
“Foresight” refers to an umbrella term for a structured and systematic method to define possible developments in order to prepare for the future accordingly. Various tools and methods are available for foresight activities. Through foresight, companies can align their individual strategies with upcoming opportunities and challenges and be prepared for many possible future scenarios.
What is Foresight?
Foresight does not claim to predict the future. Rather, it is about expanding and analysing the horizon of possible developments in order to reveal new decision-making spaces. In foresight, the goal is to systematically engage with possible future scenarios. It is an attempt to methodically take an application-oriented and multidisciplinary look into the medium to long-term future. The aim is to avoid entering the future in a state of uncertainty and, as far as possible, to be actively involved in shaping it with all its developments – including those concerning technologies.
Both society at large and businesses need to prepare for challenges and changes and be able to act accordingly as early as possible. With the right methods, you can not only identify opportunities, but also define potential dangers and risks.
Especially for companies, the future holds both potential for growth and many risks. To be able to assess these risks, companies and organisations alike use so-called foresight activities, with which they can prepare for possible future changes in the present.
Foresight does not enable exact predictions about the future. It is mainly about preparations for possible developments, in order to prevent crises or avoid disasters.
Strategic foresight uses many different methods from various disciplines. The most well-known applications of foresight include the Delphi method and the scenario technique.
The Delphi method is a systematic expert survey. Experts are questioned in several rounds about a specific topic whose development is still uncertain. Participants can see how other people respond throughout the process and also have the opportunity to adjust their individual answers.
The Delphi method provides different perspectives on a question, serves to build consensus and can also promote communication about the future.
The scenario technique is a method that is mainly used in politics, business and science for strategic planning. Alternative hypothetical future scenarios are developed. Such a scenario includes the qualitative description of a future situation, influencing factors and development paths that lead to alternative future outcomes.
The scenario technique is applied when there are many uncertainties regarding a subject of investigation and the associated developments. The goal is always to analyse possible future developments and present them in relation to each other.
The Future of Foresight
With regard to the future, foresight holds great potential. A current example shows what is possible:
The “ForeSight” project of the Electrical Engineering Research Association is currently creating a platform for intelligent and foresighted smart living services. This is intended to bring together the residential economy, technology providers, craftsmen, associations, and science in order to develop and test methods of artificial intelligence for economic operations in the living environment.
- Bundesministerium für wirtschaftliche Zusammenarbeit und Entwicklung. ARBEITSWEISE – Strategische Vorausschau. BMZ, Berlin.
- Bundesministerium für Wirtschaft und Klimaschutz. ForeSight – Plattform für kontextsensitive, intelligente und vorausschauende Smart Living Services. BMWK, Referat Soziale Medien/Online-Kommunikation, Berlin.
- Foresight-Plattform. Forschungsvereinigung Elektrotechnik beim ZVEI e.V. c/o ZVEI, Frankfurt am Main.