I did a five-minute “Little Big” at the APF “Play” Gathering on May 3rd in Orlando. I called it “A Framework for Discussing Success.” The ideas emerged from dissertation and I am planning to write a journal article on it, but for now here are the main ideas.
I reviewed the foresight literature to see what futurists have said about success. What I found was that the discussion of success included a mix of purposes, goals, and benefits along with ideas about success. I identified forty sources that touched on these themes in a significant way. One common theme was that foresight work is ultimately aimed at decision-making, specifically making “better” or more informed decisions about the future. As the figure shows, the decision-making process can be broken down into three components: learning, deciding, and acting. Learning is about providing information about the future that can inform decisions. Deciding is the making of a decision. Acting is taking action on the decision, because without action, it’s not really a decision, unless the decision was to take no action.
The aspects of success mentioned in the literature sorted nicely into these three categories (not show here for space reasons). What is shown is that the “backbone” of foresight work, that is, the six key activities of framing, scanning, forecasting, visioning, planning, and acting, feed into these three components of decision-making. Framing, scanning, and forecasting feed into learning; visioning and planning feed into deciding, and acting, of course, feeds into acting.
One way to interpret this framework is that most foresight work is aimed at learning, with a secondary focus on deciding, and a tertiary focus on acting. Put another way, most of our work goes into providing decision-makers with better information about the future to inform their decisions; sometimes they ask us to help with deciding (visioning and planning), and occasionally we help with acting.
My goal in developing this framework was two-fold: to see if we futurists can agree on a common framework for what successful work aims to achieve, and also to share with clients to set their expectations. If we can achieve that, we can then set about the logical follow-on task of exploring how to measure that success. Andy Hines