Foresight is Needed Now
Randy Wolken, President & CEO

As leaders and individuals, we like to know what is coming next. We like to be prepared. Often, we use historical data and forecasting to do this. However, when unprecedented events occur, this kind of typical way to look toward the future is not as helpful. And in some cases, it is not useful at all. Why is that?

Forecasting and the use of data to provide intelligent understanding relies, to a great extent, on the future being much like the past. We can gather all the data from our recent experiences and use that to predict the future. When today looks a lot like yesterday this methodology works well. What happens when today is so radically different than yesterday, and events seem both chaotic and unpredictable? We will need to use a different method to prepare for the future. One such way is the use of foresight.

Foresight is where we try to prepare for the future in light of new and emerging trends. Some of them may be very weak signals of what is coming but can now break through in a time of rapid and often chaotic changes. Since the present has been disrupted – the past is less of a predictor of what will come next. Foresight takes this into account. Foresight also allows for our creative future selection since we look at emerging trends and do not rely so much on past events that may no longer hold true as predictive patterns.

Let me give you an example. Prior to COVID-19, unemployment was very low and hiring was difficult. Many positions remained unfilled in critical areas. Now, the environment has shifted dramatically with unemployment rising rapidly. Individuals who were once unavailable may now be available. A company may have the opportunity to pursue new initiatives with recently available talent. Another opportunity is the rapid scaling of digital work from great distances. Combined, these two new emerging trends could provide a company an exciting new offering that was not realistically possible before the crisis. We already see this from some of our members who have begun production of PPE when they did not do so before. Foresight uses emerging trends that may not be well supported by past data or forecasting. The new normal will offer many new opportunities.

As you look to the future for you and your organizations, how will you prepare? What new or emerging trends can you identify that will help shape your future in a positive way? What new opportunities are available to you that you could not imagine prior to the COVID-19 pandemic? How might you pursue them?

Foresight starts with questions that come from the new now. We can still look at some of the prior data points and make predictions – but we now need to question if they still are valid. When we do so, we are living in the new normal. In these chaotic times, we need to create our best future through foresight. Identifying emerging trends and opportunities is the best way to create our successful future.