Inventing the Future with Continuous Foresight
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Inventing the Future with Continuous Foresight

Marty Resnick and Kevin Gabbard, Gartner Inc.
Marty Resnick and Kevin Gabbard, Gartner Inc.

Marty Resnick and Kevin Gabbard, Gartner Inc.

The threats associated with modern enterprises remaining stagnant and focusing on previously successful business models cannot be understated. The world is fastchanging, and leaders are struggling to keep up much less look ahead for what’s next. Furthermore, local, national and global organizations are so intertwined through social, economic, political and technology disruptions, and emerging trends, that it becomes imperative that enterprises work to discern how one single disruption may impact an entire industry.

Enterprise Architecture and Technology Innovation Leaders, with direction from the CIO and collaboration from business leaders, should use Continuous Foresight to engage disruption and build the differentiation that will bring their organization into the future. In an age of volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity (VUCA) - organizations require leaders with the skills and vision to lead their organizations by continuously inventing the future.

Continuous Foresight

Continuous Foresight is a new term from Gartner that leverages the best practices of Strategic/Corporate Foresight and Futurism to continuously validate business models and strategies, as well as understand how to adjust, either to make progress and be successful. Gartner’s formal definition of Continuous Foresight is a discipline that an organization perpetually uses to gather process and take action about the information on their future business models and operating environments.

 Leaders who embrace a Continuous Foresight mindset build stronger, more innovative and more adaptable organizationsultimately leading them to a preferable future 

Ultimately, Continuous Foresight is an organizational mindset. It is not merely a technology, tool, or framework. It is not just about the latest technology hype, and it is not a project that occurs one time. It is about continuously scanning and responding to disruptions that will impact your business and threaten to undo the digital transformation you have worked so hard to achieve. The future isn’t linear, and the mindset for how to anticipate and exploit it should not be either.

Practitioners of Continuous Foresight must consider levels of uncertainty that become clearer based on using hindsight, insight, and then Foresight to anticipate the impact disruptions will have on the future. The lower the level of uncertainty, the better organizations can not only predict and respond to those disruptions but exploit them towards a preferred future based on business and customer outcomes. Furthermore, Continuous Foresight is a set of practices that organizations use to drive desired results and attain superior positions in markets of the future and achieve real digital transformation.

Continuous Foresight is not limited to and should not start with technology. Organizations must start with how an inbound change that is outside of their control is going to affect their organization, positively or negatively, and how they need to respond to those changes. For instance, it is not about how an organization implements artificial intelligence (AI) and why, but more about how AI will impact business models in the future and how to respond or exploit it.

 Like many initiatives, there is a considerable risk of organizations practising pieces of Foresight in various silos. Lines of businesses, and multiple teams, tend to stay in their area of focus and ignore the rest of the organization. For example, IT leaders focus on technology disruptions and track them through their emerging tech radars and wheels, as well as, all too often start with the question – “how could my organization leverage x technology?” The assumption here is that the legal and compliance teams will focus on compliance disruptions (i.e., GDPR, CCPA), and the marketing team will focus on social ones. In the end, these disconnected efforts will lead towards a broader, disconnected future with higher levels of uncertainty. The road to digital disruption will ultimately be exasperated.

The Four Steps of Continuous Foresight

So, how does this all work? Continuous Foresight can be broken down into four steps. It is critical to understand that these steps are not linear but rather ongoing and occurring continuously.

Scouting - Start with a TAPESTRY analysis. This is Gartner’s version of what is commonly referred to as “PEST,” “STEEP,” or “PESTEL” analysis. It is a framework that consists of the macro environmental factors that together create a comprehensive understanding of disruptions that organizations should be scanning and scouting. TAPESTRY (or more precisely, TPESTRE) is a rough acronym for the following factors:

1. Technology

2. Politics

3. Economy

4. Social/cultural

5. Trust/ethics

6. Regulatory/legal

7. Environment

Synthesize – This step entails rationalizing all of the information together in a cohesive form to start navigating paths to success. Synthesizing includes (identifying?) emerging tech radars, emerging tech wheels, pattern recognition, and scenario planning.

Advocate – Ensure you get buy-in and input from the rest of the team and broader organization on the actionable steps to move forward with. Design Thinking and Storytelling techniques (i.e., science fiction prototyping) are beneficial here.

Prepare – Make decisions on when and where to act and begin the process or work back from a preferable future (backcasting). Without a plan of action, this exercise becomes meaningless.

Roles within Continuous Foresight

Continuous Foresight also provides a methodology to give leaders the ability to understand disruptive forces, make the hidden factors more visible, and illuminate obstacles and opportunities from “blind spots.” But first, as a CIO or IT leader in enterprise architecture or innovation, you need to ask yourself what your role is going to be:

Stargazer- Uses Continuous Foresight methodologies, more so, out of interest than implementation, so fail to act on them.

Innovator – Uses Continuous Foresight to come up with new and innovative business models.

Bystander – Does not effectively use Continuous Foresight but rather sits back and watches the future go by, reacting only as needed.

Master Builder – Leads the organization through architecting paths and steps to inventing and architecting preferable futures.

Leaders who embrace a Continuous Foresight mindset build stronger, more innovative and more adaptable organizations- ultimately leading them to a preferable future.

Gartner hosts a podcast exploring Continuous Foresight, which combines the best of Gartner’s expertise. We interview experts and practitioners working in futurism, strategy, and Foresight. Discussing what works and what is hard, what skills are needed, what it takes to get buy-in. We want everyone to have the skills and vision to lead their organizations by continuously inventing the future. The podcast is here. 

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