• How does the reflexive knowledge we develop about institutions and environments influence the expectations we might have about the future? The paper addresses this question in the context of Foresight in local governance. It describes a project aiming at creating visions for a Norwegian municipality by inviting schoolchildren to contribute with their ideas of the future. The focus is on how the interactions between project owners and participants produced certain forms of resistance and led to visions best described as idealistic conformism. Introducing the idea of ‘reflexive futures’, I suggest that that a broader understanding of reflexivity as containing both enabling and constraining features can help to unlock certain paradoxes of current Foresight and provide a renewed inquiry into the practise of visioning for strategy and long-term planning.
  • “Thinking and planning for the future is critical in a competitive business world. Scenarios are a common technique for investigating the future, but can be time consuming and challenging to develop, particularly when more than a single organisation is involved. An approach is presented here which shifts the focus of scenario building from the company level to the sector level, whereby a range of organisations engage collectively on a topic of mutual importance. A rapid technique was developed, with simple scenarios being constructed in 2-4. h. This process was implemented in 13 multi-organisational workshops with participants from the construction and building industries, sectors which are traditionally short-term and reactive in their outlook. The resulting feedback, observations and experiences are discussed, together with examples of how the resultant scenarios have been applied. An example of causal map reflection… is also presented, described and critiqued.”
  • Practitioners of futures research think that most modelling, and especially economic modelling, is concerned with forecasting. Since it is generally agreed that futures research is not concerned with deterministic views of the future, futures researchers have turned their back on quantitative methods, relying instead on scenario methods. However, given the progress made in modelling techniques, there are no reasons to maintain the divorce between futures research and modelling, especially economic modelling. Both can provide interesting insights about the future and these insights can certainly be improved by using all available techniques.
  • This paper presents the Foresight Futures, a participative planning tool developed by SPRU-Science and Technology Policy Research for the UK Foresight Programme. It describes the process of developing the scenario framework, sets out the key dimensions and basic storylines and summarises different ways in which the Foresight Futures have been applied by government, researchers and industry. Focusing on practical ways of using the scenarios, the final part of the paper provides guidance on their use and discusses the potential of the approach.
  • “There is a well-worn aphorism among stock market strategists: if you want to forecast the long term, be sure to do it frequently,” [market strategist Nick] Colas writes. “That’s sound advice, especially in the current and unique environment of central-bank driven liquidity and high asset price correlations. It is hard enough to figure out next quarter, let alone next year or into the next decade. Yet Colas draws some common-sense conclusions based on all the inflation likely to be pumped into the system and the higher tax rates that will be needed to pay for the trillions in sovereign debt floating out there and coming to maturity in the next decade…. “I don’t think you can crush the US housing market and global banking sector, replace it with central bank liquidity on an unprecedented scale, see historically high and sticky unemployment, and witness rolling mini-crises of sovereign debt concerns without thinking that the landscape is going to be very different for a long time.”
  • Over the last thirty years, academic economics has been penetrated by special interests, particularly financial services, in the same way that America’s political and regulatory systems have been compromised by campaign contributions and the revolving door…. Prominent economists are now routinely paid to testify in antitrust cases, criminal trials, and regulatory proceedings; to testify in Congress; to give speeches to the industries and firms they study; to serve on boards of directors and as advisors; and to write supposedly objective analyses of industries, companies and policies…. These activities are not marginal; they are now, literally, a billion dollar industry, managed by firms such as the Law and Economics Consulting Group (LECG), The Analysis Group, Compass Lexecon, Charles River Associates, and others. Professors’ income from such groups often dwarfs their academic salaries.
  • There’s a host of new research coming out about the mental science of ambivalent thinking, and a Wall Street Journal write-up serves as a good introduction to it. For a long time, psychologists didn’t assume a tough decision was a deep-seated problem in some people; tests and studies that used 1-to-10 ratings seemed to cloak the issue. But some researchers are finding out that those who have trouble making decisions are often the most chronic procrastinators and full of regret. On the flip side, they also tend to make thoughtful decisions and accept the most wide-ranging points of view on a subject.
  • Seeing the world as black and white, in which choices seem clear, or shades of gray can affect people’s path in life, from jobs and relationships to which political candidate they vote for, researchers say. People who often have conflicting feelings about situations—the shades-of-gray thinkers—have more of what psychologists call ambivalence, while those who tend toward unequivocal views have less ambivalence. High ambivalence may be useful in some situations, and low ambivalence in others, researchers say. And although people don’t fall neatly into one camp or the other, in general, individuals who tend toward ambivalence do so fairly consistently across different areas of their lives.
  • The problem with calendars is that they are additive rather than subtractive. They approach your time as something to add to rather than subtract from. Adding a meeting is innocuous. You’re acting on a calendar. A calendar isn’t a person. It isn’t even a thing. It’s an abstraction. But subtracting an hour from the life of another human being isn’t to be taken lightly. It’s almost violent. It’s certainly invasive. Shared calendars are vessels you fill by taking things away from other people. “I’m adding a meeting” should really be “I’m subtracting an hour from your life.”