Fear of Knowing the Future

“The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown” (Lovecraft, 1973). These words shed light on why some people and organizations struggle with the idea of strategic foresight. The assumption is if there is a way to have insight into the future, every organization would be utilizing forecasting tools to conduct strategic planning (Canton, 2015). Unfortunately, the future is so ambiguous and unknown to most organizations, strategic foresight and the ability to see forward with any degree of clarity seems too good to be true and change is impossible to predict (Canton, 2015).

Partially, strategic foresight can be overwhelming to organizations because of the work necessary to effectively create a clear picture of the future that is imperfect (Rohrbeck & Gemünden, 2008). Even though strategic foresight has the potential to provide indications for change and equip organizations with decision making tools necessary for managing uncertainties that come with the future (Rohrbeck and Schwarz, 2013), many organizations struggle to embrace it as a viable tool. In order to be an organization that effectively utilizes strategic foresight, there needs to be employee accountability throughout different levels of the organization to carry out strategic foresight activities in order to instill it into the organizational culture (Rohrbeck & Gemünden, 2008). This requires time, training, and financial investment into employees to effectively develop the skills and tools necessary for effective strategic foresight. This is a stretch for many organizations because only those with cultures that are flexible and agile are more apt to embrace implementation of strategic foresight practices, which eliminates many long standing and institutionalized organizations (Çakar & Ertürk, 2010).

Organizations, and people, who are flexible, open to change, and willing to overcome fear have the ability to see the future clearly.

References 

Appiah, G., & Sarpong, D. (2015). On the influence of organisational routines on strategic foresight. Foresight : The Journal of Futures Studies, Strategic Thinking and Policy, 17(5), 512–527.

Çakar, N. D., & Ertürk, A. (2010). Comparing Innovation Capability of Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: Examining the Effects of Organizational Culture and Empowerment. Journal of Small Business Management, 48(3), 325–359. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-627X.2010.00297.x

Canton, J. (2015). Future smart: managing the game-changing trends that will transform your world. Boston, MA: Da Capo Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.

Lovecraft, H. P. (1973). Supernatural horror in literature. New York: Dover Publications.

Rohrbeck, R., & Gemünden, H. G. (2008). Strategic Foresight in Multinational Enterprises: Building a Best-Practice Framework from Case Studies (SSRN Scholarly Paper No. ID 1552318). Rochester, NY: Social Science Research Network. Retrieved from http://papers.ssrn.com/abstract=1552318

Rohrbeck, R., & Schwarz, J. O. (2013). The value contribution of strategic foresight: Insights from an empirical study of large European companies. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 80(8), 1593–1606. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.techfore.2013.01.004

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