'Seeing' for organizational foresight

Burt, George and Wright, George (2006) 'Seeing' for organizational foresight. Futures, 38 (8). pp. 887-893. ISSN 0016-3287 (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.futures.2005.12.012)

Full text not available in this repository.Request a copy


In July 2002 the First International Conference on "Probing the Future: Developing Organisational Foresight in the Knowledge Economy", was organised by Hari Tsoukas and Jill Sheppard, and held at the University of Strathclyde, Graduate School of Business, in Glasgow. This conference resulted in a Special Edition of Papers in Futures [1]. Building on the success of the First International Conference, a Second International Conference on Organisational Foresight was hosted by the Graduate School of Business in August 2004, where we explored the ways in which private-sector, public-sector, and voluntary organisations made sense of their environments - and of themselves - in order to cope with the future. In recognising the need to better understand the many issues surrounding foresight in organisations, we developed three major themes in our call for papers. The first theme concerned the organisational ability to explore and recognise the underlying structure of the business environment - seeing [2] drivers of change before they manifest themselves in near-term events. The second theme concerned the impact of heuristics and biases in managerial judgment and decision-making, which might impact on the ability of an organisation to detect drivers of change. The third and final theme concerned the development of an organisational capability (or capabilities) to see the future. Such a competence might be found to be socially embedded within the organisation or be a stand-alone function. Understanding the development of organisational foresight and how it is sustained would, we felt, provide insight to organisations - giving them an underpinning confidence to manage change proactively rather than reactively. Tsoukas and Sheppard [1] established the base for our current focus on these challenges and tensions, when they stated that the key to organisational foresightfulness is "the organisational ability to read the environment - to observe, to perceive - to spot subtle differences. Such ability is conditioned by the way the past is perceived and by the sensory altertness to spot departures from the past and fresh developments in the present". We would argue that, to achieve this, an organisation needs to develop a fresh perspective on its business environment, "not so much to see what no one has yet seen, but to think what nobody has yet thought about that what everybody sees" [3]. Such re-framing of the familiar provides the underpinning to create fresh competitive advantage for the organisation. In the next section of this introduction to the Special Edition, we elaborate on these three themes. We start by reprising the key messages that Pierre Wack articulated 20 years ago in exploring the environment for insights about change, ahead of change, or foresight. We then identify many of the key psychological barriers organisations face as they attempt to developing foresight.