Love this - but let's not pretend we all agree on what or why we are doing something.

The future isn’t what it used to be: Here's how strategic foresight can help; it is a high-quality, well-written, thoughtful piece from WEF.  It is presented by Olivier Woeffray, Practice Lead, Strategic Intelligence, World Economic Forum and Paulo Carvalho, Executive Director, MBA, Lisbon School of Economics & Management.

The truth of the opening statement set the scene, “[We are moving] from a world of relative predictability … to a world with more fragility – greater uncertainty, higher economic volatility, geopolitical confrontations.”

However, something niggled me.  I love the future system and exponential thinking; however, I was wondering if the Venn diagram was the right one, but that took me off into thinking about the presentation, not the content.  My gut said I was missing something, but I could add all my initial objections into the future or systems thinking buckets. I was warming to the model and indeed feel it is a positive and valuable contribution, but it assumes we have already agreed on two concepts:

  1. what we are optimising for, and

  2. the top-level ontology. 

We have yet to agree on what we are optimising for, aka the Peak Paradox framing; we have to acknowledge there are different purposes, and it is not that any are good or bad; they are different.  The 13 SDGs have conflicts and cannot all be achieved. 

I would also like to know if we have or can agree on a top-level ontology and how to frame what we are optimising for.  

The WEF framing assumes we have and can agree on the macroeconomics and therefore focuses on the micro. The model is very valid and helpful at a micro level, but the individuals should test the assumptions, the framing and the perspectives about the macro.  Future framing definitely should embrace long-term philosophies of de-growth, sustainability and transparency, but because they are beyond the long-term planning and strategy horizons, they are discounted.  Because so much of business is framed by “what problem does this solve”, “free market competition”, and “what is the action”, future thinking is limited to a narrow scope and does not embrace a different ontology or a different optimisation purpose. 

Love this - but let's not pretend we all agree on what or why we are doing something.