Institute for Futures Studies and Knowledge Management
Futurology is a topic that still seems strange to many people: it arouses scepticism and causes associations with taking a look into a crystal ball. Since the end of the Second World War, the field of futures research has continuously developed so that today’s researchers and corporate strategists can rely on numerous concepts, theories, principles and methods.
The systematic analyses of the future were quite mathematical at the beginning and only conducted within the scope of military research for a long time. For example, the scenario- and Delphi techniques, two of the best known futures research methods, were developed in the 50’s by RAND Corporation – a think tank for the US armed forces. It was only in the 70’s that companies began to successfully apply such techniques to strategic corporate planning.
Although the benefits are apparent and numerous research endeavours have proven the success of proactive forecasting, many firms still shy away from dedicated examination of the future – primarily because they do not recognise its potential or estimate the effort to be too great. However, especially in today’s turbulent corporate environment, systematic methods of future research can decisively support in dealing with uncertainties in the decision making process. In creating scenarios, complex data is comprehensively compiled and communicated in plausible and consistent stories. Learning processes are accelerated and managers are able to train reactions to various “futures”. The higher flexibility and reaction capability achieved via scenarios create competitive advantages. He who wants to be a leader in a market has to simply make decisions quicker, while considering more imponderables than a few years ago.
Structured methods in futures research facilitate in making robust and far-sighted decisions, identifying opportunities and risks, and developing contingency strategies. The objective is not to foresee the future, rather to intelligently think ahead.
- How can political-legal, economic, socio-cultural, and technical conditions in a market change?
- How could the direct market environment and competitors diversify?
- Where are opportunities in the future and what potential surprises are already conceivable today?
- How can companies best prepare themselves for unexpected occurrences and developments?