“Strategic Foresight”, by Patricia Lustig. Review by Mick Yates

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Strategic Foresight

To quote the author: “You can’t influence the past – it has happened. You can perhaps learn from it, but too much focus on the past leads to feelings of helplessness precisely because you can’t change what has already happened. If you focus on potential, possible futures, and what you might learn from them, you rekindle your sense of wonder and love of possibility; you uncover energy for change.

That is the key premise of this readable and practical book by Patricia Lustig, Strategic Foresight“. Patricia suggest that there are 3 basic tenets in how we should think about Strategic Foresight

First, it is action-oriented. We should be actively working to shape and bring about a potential future or set of futures that we have identified as something we want to see happen. Purely analytical studies of possible futures are called “Futures Studies” and are not what is meant by “foresight”.

Second, Strategic Foresight is open to alternative futures: that is, we work with several futures because we can’t predict the future – and it most certainly won’t be an extrapolation from the past. The future can of course evolve in different directions, and the idea is to determine which are possible, which are probable, and from that we can figure out what we can best influence.

Third, it is participatory. While individuals can apply the principles of Strategic Foresight to their personal “future”, if a larger group or organisation is involved, the practice of Strategic Foresight must include ALL stakeholders. A broad range of people must work together to build and co-create the future. They must have “skin in the game”, in order to define the best choices to base decisions on. Successful Strategic Foresight is thus totally multidisciplinary in nature.

A common boardroom feeling is that never before have we needed ‘more hindsight sooner’. Couple that with the increasingly common feeling that the tried and tested approaches to strategy formulation are no longer enough. They still work – as far as they go – but they need to be supplemented with additional tools for looking ahead further than has become the norm, and with more intellectual rigour. This book shows us a way of doing that.” Sir David Brown, Engineer and Industrialist

The book lays out the needed set of skills and tools used to explore potential futures. It looks at how we must think about the future, and especially how we deal with ambiguity and uncertainty. It introduces a simple model of preferred thinking styles and explores the “baggage” and values that form our perceptions. The models, tools and maps are designed to guide users in developing their own, personal Strategic Foresight and then use this knowledge to make team decisions. The aim is to turn this future-focused creativity into real and sustainable competitive advantage.

Other sections include how to identify emerging trends: what impact they may have on your business; the strategic importance of early recognition; and how to apply the knowledge in your business. Case studies are interspersed throughout the book

Patricia pulls it all together by showing how to develop a practical method of exploring potential futures in the context of your existing business to help you work towards your preferred future.

Strategic Foresight can be found on Amazon


Patricia Lustig is a recognised and talented practitioner in Strategic Foresight and strategy development, future thinking and innovation. She has held senior advisory positions and led OD teams at major blue-chip companies such as BP, Motorola and Logica. She was a Programme Director at Management Centre Europe working in the In-Company division (designing and running In-Company bespoke programmes), a Visiting Executive Fellow at Henley Business School and CIPD Faculty for Scenario Planning and Foresight. Patricia has recently run interactive Foresight sessions for London Business School’s Executive Education