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Peek around the corner and plan for the future with foresight

Can we see into the future? Perhaps not in the literal sense. But we can actually plan and prepare for tomorrow on a scientific basis. 

And the enabler is known as foresight. This is a scientific discipline that involves using tools such as external environment analysis and scenario planning to understand the consequences of current trends, uncertainties and developments.  

“Foresight can be used in combination with what we call strategic planning. This then involves three different perspectives. The first perspective involves working with trend and external environment analyses. The second perspective considers possible futures, and this is more focused on creating different scenarios. These are sometimes referred to as exploratory scenarios and alternative futures,” says Magnus Eriksson, a unit manager at RISE, and continues:  

“The third perspective concerns preferred futures. This involves working with, for example, visions and strategic objectives. By envisioning these various probable, possible and preferred futures, we create better conditions for facing a complex future and making more future-oriented decisions.” 

Foresight provides a concrete roadmap 

The idea behind envisioning probable, possible and preferred futures is to provide organisations in the public and private sectors with a scientific basis for making decisions. According to Magnus, many organisations focus on short-term perspectives in their efforts to deal with the imminent. This makes it more difficult to envision where the organisation will be in five to ten years and how it will get there. With the help of foresight, we can draw up both the goal and a concrete roadmap for getting there.  

Increasingly more people are starting to realise that foresight is a highly capable strategic planning tool that can help and simplify decision-making.

Today, RISE works with foresight linked to, for example, the transition to climate-neutral and circular systems and business. Foresight is also applied to other fields within transition, such as digitalisation and demographic changes. Questions that RISE can help answer include: “How can your organisation become tomorrow’s winner?”, “How can you transition to a more sustainable business faster?” and “Which emerging trends will affect your industry in the longer run?”  

“We have, for example, devised a way forward for the Swedish Transport Administration. The feedback from the client was that following the foresight project, it was easier for decision-makers to prioritise various technology developments and determine investment needs. For another client, a municipal company, we’re looking at how external factors and future developments will affect the design of future recycling systems,” says Magnus.  

A foresight project requires facts and expertise within the area in which the client operates. In the example concerning the Swedish Transport Administration, the project concerned transport, mobility and aviation.  

“Since we have access to 3,000 experts here at RISE, we can effectively gather facts about all imaginable areas. The foresight team consults these experts and extracts their knowledge to make it understandable to the client,” Magnus explains. 

“Foresight is an underused tool” 

Foresight is woven into to a number of related disciplines, all of which can be linked to a foresight project. Governance innovation, which entails strengthening and building robust governance to achieve a more sustainable society, is one example, while transition management and transition capacity are others. In these contexts, it is a case of leveraging a system perspective to approach the transition process more proactively. This involves contributing to the development of new sustainable practices, logics and technologies.  

However, foresight is a good place to start, according to Magnus.  

“Increasingly more people are starting to realise that foresight is a highly capable strategic planning tool that can help and simplify decision-making. Foresight is a tool that offers huge potential and leverage but is currently underused.”  

Magnus Carl Eriksson

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Magnus Carl Eriksson


+46 10 516 55 61

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