Title: Learning to use the future: developing foresight capabilities through
Author names and affiliations:
Martin Rhisiarta, Riel Millerb and Simon Brooksc
a South Wales Business School, University of South Wales, Pontypridd CF37 1DL,
UK. Email: email@example.com
b UNESCO, 7 Place de Fontenoy, 75007 Paris, France. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
c School of Management, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP,
UK. Email: email@example.com
South Wales Business School, University of South Wales, Pontypridd CF37 1DL,
South Wales Business School, University of South Wales, Pontypridd CF37 1DL,
UK. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tel. +44 1443 483565; fax: +44 1443 482380
Organizational learning is one type of value created by scenarios and strategic
foresight within companies. However, relatively little attention has been devoted to
what and how individuals – such as managers and strategists – learn from
participation within strategic scenario processes. The paper focuses on the learning
effects of scenario processes on participants, using the Futures Literacy Hybrid
Strategic Scenario (FL HSS) method. It presents an evaluative framework for
capturing the learning and cognitive effects of using the imaginary future, and the
learning benefits derived by participants in intensive scenario processes. The paper
outlines how scenario activities change the capabilities of the individuals and
organizational systems to understand the nature and role of the future for what they
perceive and what they do. Cognition is the domain of the individual rather than the
organization and, as a result, the micro processes through which individuals learn and
challenge mental models appear to be antecedent resources to collective mental model
changes within organizations. This suggests that companies should invest in
pedagogically rich scenario processes that develop the capability of managers to sense
changes. The learning generated by scenario processes can strengthen the ‗sensing‘
dynamic capabilities of firms.
Keyword: scenarios; strategic foresight; learning
Title: Learning to use the future: developing foresight capabilities through
This paper addresses two important issues for strategic foresight practice and theory.
The first is the value of strategic foresight – particularly scenario work. Here we focus
on the learning effects of scenario processes on participants. The second is the
difficulty posed when engaged in scenario work by the lack of robust theory, as
already noted by recent academic literature [1, 2].
Strategic foresight activities are used by companies to support a range of functions
and objectives, including strategic decision-making, business development and
innovation [3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9]. Concerns regarding uncertainty are also important
triggers for companies to engage in strategic foresight work [10,11]. Given the
resources devoted to strategic foresight efforts by companies, a prima facie case can
be made for its value and impact. Although there is little robust evidence of the effect
of scenario planning on firm performance , there are many documented cases in
which strategic foresight activities have guided firms along paths that have resulted in
concrete successes for the company, i.e. improved corporate outcomes (surviving and
thriving) [3, 13, 6].
Recent work has sought to unpack the value-creating benefits of strategic foresight
activities for companies. The predominant hypothesis or model used to describe and
explain such impact rests on the proposition that strategic foresight improves
decision-making , organizational ambidexterity , organizational learning ,
strategic agility [21, 22], and the dynamic capabilities of firms to survive and grow in
the face of competitive and uncertain environments [23, 24]. Explicit anticipatory
activities influence the cognitive capabilities of the organization to sense and make-
sense of changes, risks, opportunities and the need for strategic shifts. Foresight
activities, when deployed on an on-going basis and as a capability diffused throughout
the organization‘s culture and structure, can continuously provide new or refocused
lenses for identifying weak signals that cannot be detected using the dominant search
logic of the businesses [17, 18, 19].
Taking advantage of the value offered by the effective integration of strategic
foresight activities into everyday operations and management within the corporate
setting requires building up individual capabilities and establishing good systems for
organizational learning . There are many options and resources available to
organizations and corporate leaders with an interest in advancing strategic foresight
capabilities and systems – developing organizational capability, and operating at
different levels and within different functions in the company. For example,
approaches such as backcasting and visioning often require an alignment and re-
purposing of the whole organization. Whilst elaborate processes and methods might
be employed in some strategic foresight activities that involve teams from multiple
business units, others focus on individual processes of learning and cognition. One
main approach is addressed by the primary research question guiding this paper: How
does the deployment of strategic foresight activities change the capabilities of the
individuals and organizational systems to understand the nature and role of the future
for what they perceive and what they do? This paper addresses how strategic
foresight processes influence the domain of learning, cognition and enhancing
capabilities. We develop and apply a framework for evaluating the learning of
participants in scenario workshops using the Futures Literacy Hybrid Strategic
Scenario (FL HSS) method . Using the results of a FL HSS process run with
participants from multiple companies (and other organizations) in Brazil, the paper
presents the results of a reflective survey conducted by participants in which they self-
evaluate how their understanding of the future has been affected through their full
immersion in the scenario process. It assesses the learning and knowledge generated
by the method – and sets this in the context of individuals‘ previous knowledge of
strategic foresight and the way in which they frame the future.
The paper makes two principal contributions. First, it presents an evaluative
framework for capturing the learning and cognitive effects of using the imaginary
future. Second, on the basis of this evaluative framework there is an assessment of the
learning benefits generated by using a specific methodology for working with the
2. Literature review
There is a wide range of existing knowledge and literature on the role, methods and
value of strategic foresight within organizations. Strategic foresight activities vary in
terms of purpose, structuring and approaches [27, 28, 16, 23, 3, 9]. Here we review
the literature that is relevant to the main scope and interest of our paper: the value of
strategic foresight – specifically scenario processes – with a particular emphasis on
individual learning and cognition.
2.1 Main uses and objectives of foresight and scenarios
Several authors have sought to synthesise contemporary understanding of the
objectives and deployment of scenarios and other strategic foresight methods within
the corporate setting. In a review of scenario planning literature, the main categories
of applications of firm-based strategic foresight activities were identified as follows:
strategic decision-making, change management, finance, product or service
development, supply-chain management and logistics, economies, government and
policies, and environment; the category with the highest number of appearances was
strategic decision-making . Rohrbeck  identifies new potential value creation
contributions of corporate Foresight under three general categories: to trigger
responses, start and facilitate strategic discussions to enable strategic change, and
identify and support acquisition of needed strategic resources. Other research using
cross-case analysis has suggested that corporate Foresight has three distinct roles in
innovation: outside the innovation process/funnel as a strategist role, at the start of the
innovation funnel (initiator role), and as an opponent role along the innovation funnel
. Durance and Godet  make a distinction between confidential scenario
processes used by an executive team to develop enterprise strategy and scenarios for
mobilising staff resources and consciousness in the face of significant external change
– where the communication of strategy across the company is a central goal. For
many firms strategic foresight activities are an important part of innovation processes
– in product development and visioning [29, 30] and in guiding strategic innovation
[16, 25, 31].
2.2 Cognition, learning, weak signals and mental models
One of the main, generic motivations for conducting strategic foresight work has been
the perception of environmental uncertainty. Because of the way in which the future
is understood by most people and leaders in particular, discontinuities and
unpredictable external contexts are seen as a rationale for deploying the analytical,
cognitive and learning frameworks that can help companies navigate through the ‗fog‘
of uncertainty [4, 32]. Investments in environmental scanning are one response for
dealing with this way of understanding the future and uncertainty . Organizations
use foresight for ‗improving perception of opportunities and options‘ [33, p.1514].
Foresight activities provide important lenses for sensing and identification of weak
signals that may be undetected through the dominant search logic of the business [17,
One of the roles of strategic foresight and scenarios has been to challenge mental
models and prevailing assumptions [34, 35, 36, 10, 23]. Mental models provide
individuals and organisations with a way of managing and understanding complex
phenomena. However, mental models need to be challenged and renewed in light of
dynamic environmental conditions. Important signals can be undetected by the main
sensing activities of the company [4, 18, 19] and organizations have a tendency to
interpret the world according to their own ‗cognitive categories‘ . There has been
a long standing interest in the way organizations consciously or unconsciously filter
information, and how mental models respond to weak signals of change . This can
influence the search direction and methods of the organization (what to look for, and
where), and the managerial resistance to dissonant information that does not sit
comfortably with the prevailing mental model [39, 40]. The way in which
organizations capture and use signals – within a ‗sensemaking‘ process  is
important from the perspectives of cognition and learning. Counterfactual reasoning
is considered to be important in overcoming cognitive biases in strategic decision
making, and in developing improved, ‗foresightful‘ thinking [42, 43].
An important distinction has been made between individual and collective learning in
foresight processes. Bootz distinguishes between ‗foresight attitude‘, which ‗refers to
the cognitive dimensions of anticipation and to individual learning‘ [20, p. 1588], and
‗foresight activity‘ where groups of individuals participate in more interactive
learning within organizations. Several authors refer to foresight as a learning process
[44, 45, 46]. However, relatively little attention has been focused on what individuals
learn within foresight processes. Returning to the concept of ‗foresight attitude‘, it has
been suggested that ‗the cognitive virtues of anticipation (paradigmatic mobility,
questioning and enrichment of representations)‘ are ‗focused on the individual
(futurist, manager, and strategist)‘ [20, p.1589]. Within the organizational context,
foresight has been conceptualized as ‗planned learning‘  combining elements of
the planning and learning strategy schools.
The primary focus of this paper is individual learning and value from foresight.
2.3 Foresight, scenarios and dynamic capabilities
The resource-based view (RBV) [47, 48, 49] is one of the principal strategic
management frameworks for understanding how companies build and maintain
competitive advantage. According to RBV, firms‘ success is founded upon valuable,
rare, inimitable and non-substitutable resources – and how these are bundled or
packaged together effectively within the company. For strategic foresight and
strategic management, the concept of ‗dynamic capabilities‘ has been an influential
and rich area for research, which builds on RBV principles. Dynamic capabilities
have been defined as "the firm‘s ability to integrate, build, and reconfigure internal
and external competences to address rapidly changing environments" .
It is argued by Eisenhardt and Martin that dynamic capabilities differ from, but
augment, the RBV in that that can be thought of as the ―... antecedent organizational
and strategic routines by which managers alter their resource base‖ [51, p.1107].
They also propose that in dynamic, fast-moving contexts, these routines and processes
become simpler, more experiential and shorter term. Three dynamic capabilities have
been proposed: sensing the environment, seizing opportunities and reconfiguring
resources . The role of foresight in enhancing dynamic capabilities has been
explored for innovation in firms . Other authors have conceived of scenarios as
dynamic capabilities and have put forward six cognitive aspects, including ‗Framing‘
and ‗Reframing‘ . Doz and Kosonen [21, 22] also highlight the importance of
Foresight in the meta-capabilities that are needed for strategic agility.
2.4 Scenarios: the role of theory
Strategic foresight is situated in the rich discourses of social theory, strategy,
organizational theory, learning and understanding of knowledge – to name but a
significant few. Within more ambiguous conditions of significant change, firms can
often be at the ‗edge of chaos‘ . These situations can crop up both within and
outside the structural and conceptual boundaries of what is known and challenge the
continuity of ways of seeing and doing. Strategic management has recognised the
challenges of adjusting frameworks to address systems functioning in complex
emergent reality . In novelty rich environments strategic improvisation is the only
way to actually engage the capacities of the organization with the potential of the
emergent present. The dynamic capabilities of the firm are experiential and iterative
processes – relying on improvisation as ‗real time foresight‘ .
Several decades‘ worth of development and application of the scenario method have
provided a stock of knowledge for analysis and reflection. Among the many useful
analyses completed over recent years are those on typologies of the scenario methods
used [56, 57, 58]. Whereas knowledge has been accumulated on the scenario method
and its application, there is a view that there has been a lack of theorising around
scenarios [1, 2]. Chermack  sets out a framework or process for developing theory
in scenarios, based on (neo-) positivist principles. Voros  uses an established
typology of research paradigms (positivism, post-positivism, critical theory,
constructivism and participatory) and traces a general shift within futures from the
objectivist to the subjectivist. This mirrors the overall movement in socio-economic
disciplines. There have been notable contributions to theorising foresight and
scenarios work, including the Post-Structuralist Causal Layered Analysis , multi-
ontology frameworks [61, 62], structuration , disruption theory , and social
practices . One relatively recent contribution to the development of new, theory-
informed scenario creation methods has been Miller‘s FL HSS Method . It draws
on a number of theories and contributions in the fields in complexity and anticipatory
Strategic foresight activities are influenced by organisational culture and processes,
and may dovetail with other rational analytical techniques in supporting decision-
making. Experimentation and creativity are important for strategic foresight activities
– as they are for the firm as a whole. Improvement of ‗mainstream‘ scenario methods
may pay dividends  but the greatest potential for innovation, progress and insight
in strategic foresight may be found in the richness of contemporary debates on the
organisations, strategy and social theory – and their epistemological and ontological
3. Futures Literacy: Hybrid Strategic Scenario Method
Scenarios have been widely used for strategic purposes by companies and other
organisations, particularly to explore uncertainties and to consider how current trends
and drivers might shape the future. There has been a weighty critique of some
scenario methods for their predictive assumptions, models of change and the value
that they can offer. These critical discussions have been played out within the fields
of strategic management and strategic foresight. One of the fundamental disciplinary
challenges is ‗how to deal with the unknowable and novelty rich future. For a long
time now futurists have accepted that prediction and probability are limited ways of
thinking about the future. But knowing what does not work is not the same as
knowing what does‘ .
This section discusses an approach, the Futures Literacy - Hybrid Strategic Scenario
Method (FL-HSS), which has been designed to enhance strategic management and
decision-making, based on the principles of rigorous imagining and reframing – to
understand the potential of the present. The FL-HSS approach is grounded in the
theoretical perspectives of emergence, complexity and anticipatory systems. A full
account of the method has been published elsewhere  but here we summarise the
principal elements of its implementation.
The FL-HSS process builds capacity and produces knowledge at the same time. It is a
learning-by-doing exercise that enables participants to become more sophisticated in
how they use the future while at the same time generating new knowledge about the
present by using the future. Table 1 summarises the levels, tasks and techniques used
within the framework. At each step in the process collective intelligence knowledge
creation occurs because a group of people are engaged in shared sense-making. Of the
knowledge generated, a considerable proportion is of necessity related to the
anticipatory assumptions that people are obliged to use in order to describe the
imaginary future. From an anticipatory systems and processes perspective the primary
source of information or data consists of anticipatory assumptions. The phases of the
FL HSS process make anticipatory assumptions evident to both participants and
observers. Drawing attention to this data, produced by the participants themselves, is
one of the main starting points for developing an awareness of anticipatory systems
and processes, the first step towards greater FL.
<TABLE 1 >
Over recent years, the Futures Literacy Hybrid Strategic Scenario (FL HSS) Method–
has been developed and used in a range of organisations to re-conceive the potential
of the present as a way to improve strategic decision-making . FL HSS is a three-
phase process in which organisations build strategic scenarios of a possibility space
(through rigorously imagined changes in systemic conditions) that lead to different
strategic options for decision-making in the present. These are contrasted with the
more probabilistic thinking practices that tend to guide strategic management. FL
HSS provides a Foresight framework for addressing re-framing conditions and
strategic choices for firms.
4.1 Development of survey evaluation tool
Following multiple applications of the FL HSS method in a range of contexts
internationally, a survey tool was developed to evaluate participants‘ views and to
capture the learning from the scenario process
. The survey evaluation tool was
designed to be used during FL HSS processes – typically in intensive 2-day scenarios
workshops. The survey evaluation tool also assesses the context and ‗starting point‘ of
the individual: previous experience of futures and foresight projects; and foresight
Much of the survey evaluation tool focuses on participants‘ conceptualization and
cognitive categories of the future – which inform any strategic foresight practice.
These questions focused on the concept of the future; reason to think about the future;
the nature of surprises; metaphors; views on the success of the workshop and what
participants had gained.
Contributions to the development of this tool were made by a number of participants in UNESCO
foresight project, Scoping Global/Local Anticipatory Capacities, that was supported by The
Rockefeller Foundation in 2013-2014. Members of this project who contributed to developing the
survey include: Cristiano Cagnin, Keri Facer, Roberto Poli, Pierre Rossel, Ilkka Tuomi.
4.2. Data collection and evaluation
Data was collected during a 2-day Futures Literacy UNESCO Knowledge Lab (FL
Knowlab) held in Brazil in July 2013 – Exploring the Future of Science in Brazilian
Society: Imagining 2040. The aim of the workshop was ‗to give participants an
opportunity to learn about anticipatory systems, how we use the future‘ by
considering the topic of the future of science in Brazilian society. The workshop was
designed to facilitate collective intelligence processes that surface knowledge and
assumptions in an explicit way by generating shared meaning and sense-making about
the future. A key design principle underpinning the choice of methods used to
conduct the workshop is that creation of knowledge through collective intelligence
processes exposes the anticipatory assumptions that we use to imagine the future. As
such, it constitutes one of the main ways to conduct research into individual and
collective anticipatory systems and processes. There were 24 participants in the
workshop: the largest representation came from companies and NGOs (both with 6
representatives). Participants were given time at the end of the workshop programme
to complete the (self-) evaluation survey. For ease of use and to encourage response,
most of the questions consisted of options to be selected.
The main proposition is that the Future Literacy scenario method provides dual value
to individuals: helping them both to create new strategic choices in their field of work
and (in so doing) to learn how to use the future in a new disciplinary way.
5.1 Prior knowledge of foresight
To ascertain the point of departure for participants within the FL Knowlab, they were
asked about their existing expertise and knowledge in foresight. Given a range of
options from ‗No previous expertise‘ to ‗expert‘, the majority stated that their level of
expertise was ‗beginner‘ (14/24). Whilst 6 of the participants described themselves as
‗experienced‘, and one as ‗expert‘, only 3 out of the 24 did not have previous
Participants were asked about sources of foresight knowledge, with 6 options (Chart
1). For this question, 22 out of 24 respondents gave answers; 2 participants gave 2
answers; 3 participants gave 3 answers; and 1 participant gave 4 answers. The most
common sources of knowledge were books or articles, and general presentations. A
total of 7 participants reported that they had participated in foresight projects.
5.2 Reasons for thinking about the future
Participants were asked to identify the main reason for thinking about the future. The
instruction was to select only 1 option but 2 participants selected more than one. Chart
2 presents the results from the responses of 22 of the 24 participants. The most
common reason given was ‗to invent new possibilities‘.
5.3 Conceptualizing the future
Participants were asked a series of questions to explore their conceptualization of the
future, and to surface ontological and epistemological assumptions. The first question
focused on the nature of surprises, participants were provided a scale from ‗strongly
disagree‘ to ‗strongly agree‘. They were given 7 statements, as outlined in Chart 3.
The strongest levels of agreement were recorded with the statements that the world is
too complex, that the world is open, and that the world changes too fast.
To assess how participants conceive of time, they were presented with 5 different
metaphors. The metaphors which had the highest level of agreement were ‗a spiral‘
and ‗a river‘.
To probe anticipatory and other factors and their link to action, participants were
asked to respond to the actions of a bird sitting on a rock – both responding to what
has just happened and anticipating what comes next.
5.4 Participants views on scenario workshop process
Participants were asked about the learning they had gained from the workshop. They
were asked to rank from 1 to 5 with 1 being most important. A total of 18 participants
completed this part of the survey evaluation questionnaire; 2 or 3 criteria were equally
Given the nature of the questionnaire there was no further feedback on the metaphors, so specific
interpretations are not available. What is of interest is the extent to which the flow and recursive
images resonated more than constructed, repetitive or linear ones.
ranked by 9 participants. The two key learning aspects that were ranked most highly
by participants were a better understanding of their alternatives and a better
understanding of their future.
However, participants were less convinced they knew the ‗best way to act‘ – even if
they understood the future better and understood their options better. This offers a
potentially important insight into what it means to become more futures literate. Even
as participants become more articulate regarding the assumptions that underpin their
descriptions of imaginary futures they also become aware that there are different
kinds of future and different ways of thinking about these different kinds of future. As
participants become more futures literate they begin to distinguish closed from open
futures and understand that planning to colonize tomorrow with today‘s idea of the
future is not the same as searching for the emergent novelty that may be hidden by an
excessive focus on extrapolatory futures.
The aim of the paper has been to understand the value and learning that participants
derive from scenario processes. The main proposition was that the Future Literacy
scenario method provides dual value to individuals: helping them both to create new
strategic choices in their field of work and (in so doing) to learn how to use the future
in a new disciplinary way. The FL scenario method has been co-designed and
implemented in over 60 specific cases, with companies and other organizations
around the world. In this paper, we present the results of first use of an evaluative tool
designed to capture some of the learning of individuals that have engaged in intensive
2-day scenario workshops. Given the scope of the paper and current knowledge of
scenario theory and practice, here we focus on three broad themes that appear to be
significant. First is the value of Futures Literacy in generating learning. Second is the
extent to which the greater development and application of theory within scenarios
can enhance learning. Third is how this approach relates to some of the academic
critiques of strategic foresight practices.
Several authors have cited the importance of scenarios and strategic foresight in
organizational learning [35, 36, 34, 42, 43, 10, 20, 23] although very few pay
attention to the effect of these processes on individuals‘ learning and cognition. Bootz
 distinguishes between ‗foresight attitude‘ – the learning cultivated by individual
managers – and the programmed ‗foresight activity‘ within the organizational setting.
In our study, the focus is on individuals‘ learning, addressing one of the gaps in
foresight knowledge. Within FL in general – and manifested in the FL KnowLab
process – there are, at least, two different types of learning for participants. The first
is the more obvious domain-based learning as participants make explicit and negotiate
shared meanings with respect to their understanding of the selected topic of the FL
KnowLab (in the Brazilian case the future of science in society). The second type of
learning is arguably even more valuable: developing the capacity to understand the
theory and practice of using the future, what might be called the discipline of
anticipation. Both kinds of learning are associated with one of the inherent aspects of
any attempt to describe the future – such descriptions necessitate the use of a model or
models that enable the construction of imaginary situations. Thus, when participants
attempt to articulate their ideas regarding the not yet existent later-than-now they are
obliged to deploy a set of assumptions. The FL Knowlab is designed in such a way,
different in different cultures and contexts, such that the participants become aware of
their anticipatory assumptions and the role that such assumptions play in their
attitudes towards the future and crucially their perceptions in the present.
The rigorous imagining phase that is central to the FL KnowLab design encourages
participants to create and play with completely different frames and framing
conditions – an alternative set of anticipatory assumptions and hence very different
futures. As a result participants in the FL KnowLab report that they gain a better
understanding of why they perceive the present as they do and that there may be a
wider range of options, not only for imagining the future, but also understanding the
utility of thinking about the future. This is line with some of the benefits and learning
reported of scenario processes [34,36] and in using counterfactual reasoning [42, 43].
Several participants noted that they understood the future better through the
workshop. The pedagogical value of a FL experiential learning process is a valuable
learning outcome – one that adds to what is learned about the particular theme in
question. Developing Futures Literacy provides a more advanced grasp of the
epistemology and ontology of the future, as manifested in participants‘ responses to
the ‗bird on a rock‘ questions.
Recent research has represented foresight as a dynamic capability [16, 24] and an
important part of the meta-capabilities that enable strategic agility within companies;
[21, 22]. There is something of a paradox in the sensing aspect of dynamic
capabilities in organizations. Even though dynamic capabilities form part of firms‘
strategic routines, cognition is the domain of the individual rather than the
organization [67, 68]. As a result, the micro processes through which individuals learn
and challenge mental models appear to be antecedent resources to collective mental
model changes within organizations. FL facilitates individual learning through group
participatory processes. In this sense, it offers a framework that externalizes shared
learning amongst a group of individuals within organizations. This suggests that
companies should invest in pedagogically rich scenario processes that develop the
capability of everyone in the organization to sense and articulate the difference and
repetition that characterizes complex emergent reality. Teece [70, p.1398] highlights
an important managerial function, ―to achieve semi-continuous asset orchestration
and renewal, including the redesign of routines‖. We suggest that the learning
derived from strategic foresight (FL) can act as an antecedent resource within
managerial capacity to re-frame search processes and to design new routines. Whilst
we agree that ‗top management‘s entrepreneurial and leadership skills around sensing,
seizing, and transforming‘ [70, p.1398] are critical, FL can also support the sensing
dynamic capability on a wider, participatory basis through the organization. In terms
of progress and maturity, it could be argued that the dynamic capabilities theory is at
an important juncture. Peteraf et al. argue for greater clarity in relation to core issues
to progress dynamic capabilities from a ‗promising construct into a fully developed
theoretical model‘ [71, p.1396]. Strategic foresight has an important role in this
Acknowledging the importance of the individual level (in learning) brings into play
additional theoretical frames from the behavioural school [72. 73]. Most
organizational study owes at least a partial debt to behavioural theory; strategy
arguably more than most [74, 75]. Strategy scholars interested in organizational
capabilities  have been influenced by behavioural theory via the contributions of
evolutionary economics on routines and search processes . We propose that the
macro-level strategic routines represented by dynamic capabilities need to be
examined alongside, and in relation to, the behavioural level. This is particularly
apposite in the context of learning , as addressed here. In 1963 Cyert and March
highlighted how the role of ‗search‘ is integrated with notions of choice but that
searching becomes foreclosed. The techniques we have explored in this paper have
been shown to be effective in extending and deepening this ‗search‘ capacity at an
individual level. The challenge is to ensure the individual cognitive development is
coupled appropriately to the organizational routines and search processes. Some
work has already been carried out by, for example Marengo et al  and Ethiraj and
Levinthal  and we argue that the Futures Literacy Hybrid Strategic Scenario
method opens up possibilities to extend this important thread further. We might in
this way contribute to the call from Gavetti et al  for behavioural theory to
―…incorporate forward-looking decision making…‖.
Although scenario methods have become increasingly mainstream in strategic
management and decision-making, there has been a critique of a significant gap
between practitioner experiences and the standards of assessment, theorizing and
theory building expected by the academic community [1, 2]. It has been suggested
that the Shell ‗intuitive logics‘ approach of scenario building – with its variants –
represents the ‗mainstream‘ in practice  but that this approach does not adequately
address the blind spots in a way needed by managers . Chermack  develops a
framework for building theory for scenario planning. This includes several hypotheses
that link participation in scenario planning with learning, altered mental models and
improved decision-making. Although this paper reflects a different epistemological
starting point to the neo-positivist approach of Chermack, we find a positive
association in our proposition that the FL scenario processes assist individuals in
developing the capacity to understand and use the future more effectively.
The FL scenario method is informed by several theories, including complexity and
. The Rigorous Imagining (Level 2) process within FL
challenges decision-makers to conceive of discontinuities – changes in the conditions
of change – rather than trying to ‗limit‘ uncertainties through a predictive lens (which
is not sufficiently distanced from how the present is perceived on the basis of futures
imagined using assumptions forged in the past). The construction of rich narratives
(strategic scenarios) that follow robust action research and scientific principles
provides a cognitive aid to re-thinking real strategic options in the present - that are
more alert to the possibility spaces created by novelty (unknown unknowns). FL as a
capacity enables individuals and organizations to encompass both open and closed
ways of thinking. Amongst others, the approach of Aaltonen and Holmström  in
developing a multi-ontology framework in three different strategic environments –
linear, disruptive, visionary – indicates that new approaches that combine practical
utility and solid theoretical foundations are being developed and applied.
From our work we see a number of implications and potentially interesting questions
for research on strategic foresight. As noted above, relatively little attention has been
As a quick aid and reminder, Level 1 surfaces participants‘ current expectations and values; Level 2
takes participants through a process of rigorously imagining quite different framework or systemic
conditions; Level 3 focuses participants on (new) strategic choices in the present – reflecting on the
richness and novelty of the frames created in Level 2 and the values and expectations identified in
paid to what individuals learn from strategic foresight (particularly scenario)
processes. This seems to be a worthwhile topic for further investigation. Second,
strategic foresight researchers can contribute rich perspectives to dynamic capabilities
(RBV) and behavioural theories; the following are examples. How do strategic
foresight processes influence organizational search processes and routines? If
strategic foresight is a sensing dynamic capability, does it influence changes in/
selection of routines? This seems particularly interesting where strategic foresight
processes indicate the need for a business model change. How is the learning
generated through strategic foresight – for individuals and small groups – transmitted
and used in the organization?
Foresight and strategic foresight processes produce value for companies in a number
of ways. This paper addresses one of the themes – learning – where the literature
indicates that there are benefits for organizations. However, relatively little attention
has been paid to the role of scenario processes for individuals‘ learning and cognition
– what and how managers learn from participating in these activities. Here we have
presented an evaluative tool that captures the learning within intensive 2-day FL HSS
scenario workshops, with results from the FL Knowlab case. The experience of this
case – supplemented by the knowledge accumulated from multiple applications of FL
HSS – point to ‗learning value‘ for individuals in two key respects. First is the
domain-based learning where participants explore and reveal shared meanings and
understanding of the given topic. Second is the capacity-building process of learning
how to use the future – what can be termed the discipline of anticipation. The focus
on the individual is important as other evidence suggests that cognition is the domain
of the individual rather than the organization [67, 68].
Individual learning is then linked to corporate value, akin to connecting individual
learning and ‗foresight attitude‘ to ‗foresight activity‘ . Here we draw on the
strategic management literature of dynamic capabilities – particularly the sensing part
of dynamic capabilities within organizations. We suggest the processes by which
individuals learn are antecedent resources to collective mental model changes within
organizations. The implication is that companies should benefit from investing in
pedagogically rich scenario processes that enhance the sensing dynamic capabilities
throughout the organization, giving managers a potentially decisive approach to
sustaining competitive advantage.
FL HSS offers a practical, learning-by-doing approach to using the future for strategic
management in the present. The FL HSS has been deployed over sixty times in large
corporate businesses, national agencies and other organisations. One of the key
challenges for many participants, unsurprisingly, is to create frames that explicitly
identify changes in systemic conditions. Conceptually, FL HSS provides an action
research framework that ‗uses the future‘ by re-imagining fundamentally changed
conditions contained with descriptive narratives. It then engages participants to reflect
on differences between the predictive/probabilistic assumptions that are routinely held
by managers and the strategic options generated by envisaging radically different
outcomes. Recent academic critiques have identified the need for robust theory to
inform and assess scenario practice. FL HSS and the Knowlab case
Research efforts with other cases are ongoing, with a series of FL KnowLabs around the world.
scenario approach that purposefully builds on robust theory. As such, it is one
approach – amongst several – that seeks to reconcile utility and application with
 T. Chermack, Studying scenario planning: theory, research suggestions, and
hypotheses, Technol. Forecast. Soc. Change 72 (2005) 59–73.
 B MacKay, P Tambeau, A structuration approach to scenario praxis,Technol.
Forecast. Soc. Chang. 80 (2013) 673–686.
 Coates, J., Durance, P., & Godet, M. 2010. Strategic Foresight Issue: Introduction.
Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 77(9): 1423-1425
 G.S. Day, P.J.H. Schoemaker, Driving through the fog: managing at the edge,
Long Range Plann. 37 (2004) 127–142
 Sarpong, D., & Maclean, M. (2011). Scenario thinking: A practice based approach
to the identification of opportunities for innovation. Futures, 43(10), 1154—1163.
 Costanzo, L. A. (2004). Strategic foresight in high-speed environment. Futures,
 Bradfield, R., Wright, G., Burt, G., Cairns, G., & Van Der Heijden, K. (2005). The
origins and evolution of scenario techniques in long range business planning. Futures,
 Daheim, C. (2008). Corporate foresight in Europe: from trend based logics to open
foresight. Technology Analysis & Strategic Management, 20(3), 321—336.
 F.A. O'Brien, M.Meadows, Scenario orientation and use to support strategy
development, Technol. Forecast. Soc. Chang. 80 (2013) 643–656.
 R. Vecchiato, C. Roveda, Strategic foresight in corporate organizations:
Handling the effect and response uncertainty of technology and social drivers of
change, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Volume 77, Issue 9,
November 2010, Pages 1527-1539
 Efstathios Tapinos, Perceived Environmental Uncertainty in scenario planning,
Futures, Volume 44, Issue 4, May 2012, Pages 338-345
 C. Amorim Varum, C.Melo, Directions in scenario planning literature – A
review of the past decades, Futures, Volume 42, Issue 4, May 2010, Pages 355-369
 Tobias Heger and René Rohrbeck, 2012 ‗Strategic foresight for collaborative
exploration of new business fields‘, Technological Forecasting & Social Change 79,
 R. Vecchiato, Environmental uncertainty, foresight and strategic decision
making: An integrated study, Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Volume
79, Issue 3, March 2012, Pages 436-447
 Bodwell, W., & Chermack, T. J. (2010). Organizational ambidexterity:
Integrating deliberate and emergent strategy with scenario planning. Technological
Forecasting and Social Change, 77(2), 193—202.
 R. Rohrbeck, H.G. Gemünden, Corporate foresight: its three roles in enhancing
the innovation capacity of a firm, Technol. Forecast. Soc. Chang. 78 (2) (2011) 231–
 G.S. Day, P. Schoemaker, Peripheral vision: sensing and acting on weak signals,
Long Range Plann. 37 (2004) 117–121.
 S.G. Winter, Specialised perception, selection, and strategic surprise: learning
from the moths and bees, Long Range Plann. 37 (2004) 163–169
 M. Pina e Cunha, R. Chia, Using teams to avoid peripheral blindness, Long
Range Plann. 40 (2007) 559–573
 J.P. Bootz (2010). Strategic foresight and organizational learning: A survey and
critical analysis. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 77(9), 1588—1594.
 Y.Doz and M. Kosonen, ―The Dynamics of Strategic Agility: Nokia‘s
Rollercoaster Experience‖, California Management Review, 50/3 (Spring 2008): 95-
 Doz, Y. and Kosonen, M. (2008) Fast Strategy: How Strategic Agility Will Help
You Stay Ahead of the Game, London: Wharton School Press
 René Rohrbeck, Exploring value creation from corporate-foresight activities,
Futures, Volume 44, Issue 5, June 2012, Pages 440-452
 R Ramírez, R Österman, D Grönquist, Scenarios and early warnings as dynamic
capabilities to frame managerial attention, Technol. Forecast. Soc. Chang. 80 (2013)
 P. van der Duin, E.d. Hartigh, Keeping the balance. Exploring the link of futures
research with innovation and strategy processes, Technology Analysis & Strategic
Management 21 (2009) 333–351.
 Miller, Riel. "Futures literacy: A hybrid strategic scenario method." Futures 39,
no. 4 (2007): 341-362.
 George Wright, George Cairns, Ron Bradfield, Scenario methodology: New
developments in theory and practice: Introduction to the Special Issue, Technological
Forecasting and Social Change, Volume 80, Issue 4, May 2013, Pages 561-565
 G Wright, R Bradfield, G Cairns, Does the intuitive logics method – and its
recent enhancements – produce ―effective‖ scenarios? Technol.Forecast. Soc. Chang.
80 (2013) 631–642.
 C. Andriopoulos, M. Gotsi, Probing the future: mobilising foresight in multiple-
product innovation firms, Futures 38 (1) (2006) 50–66.
 Sarpong, D., & Maclean, M. (2012). Mobilizing differential visions for new
product innovation. Technovation, 32(12), 694—702.
 H.A. von der Gracht, C.R. Vennemann, I.-L. Darkow, Corporate foresight and
innovation management: a portfolio-approach in evaluating organizational
development, Futures 42 (4) (2010) 380–393
 Ph.W.F. van Notten, A.M. Sleegers, M.B.A. van Asselt, The future shocks: On
discontinuity and scenario development, Technol. Forecast. Soc. Change 72 (2005)
 C. Bezold, Lessons from using scenarios for strategic foresight, Technological
Forecasting and Social Change, Volume 77, Issue 9, November 2010, Pages 1513-
 K. Van der Heijden, Scenarios: The art of strategic conversation, John Wiley and
Sons, Chichester, England, 1996.
 P. Wack, Scenarios: Shooting the rapids, Harvard Business Review 63 (5) (1985)
 P. Schwartz, The Art of the Long View: Planning for the Future in an Uncertain
World, Currency Doubleday, New York, 1995.
 H. Tsoukas, J. Shepherd, Coping with the future: developing organizational
foresightfulness, Futures, Volume 36, Issue 2, March 2004, Pages 137-144
 H.I. Ansoff, Strategic Management, Macmillan, London, 1979.
 H.I. Ansoff, Implanting Strategic Management, Prentice-Hall International,
Englewood-Cliffs, NJ, 1984.
 L. Ilmola, O.Kuusi.(2006).Filters of weak signals hinder foresight: Monitoring
weak signals in corporate decision making.Futures,38(8),908–924.
 K.E. Weick, Sense-Making in Organizations, Sage, Thousand Oaks, CA, 1995.
 R.B.Mackay, P. McKiernan,P. (2004).Exploring strategy context with foresight.
European Management Journal,1(1),69–77.
 R.B.Mackay, P. McKiernan,P. (2004).The role of hindsight in foresight: Refining
 L.A. Costanzo, Strategic foresight in a high-speed environment, Futures 36 (Mar
 E. Antonacopoulou (2010). Strategizing as practising: Strategic learning as a
source of connection. In L. Constanzo & R. B. Mackay (Eds.), Handbook of research
on strategy and foresight (pp. 169–181). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar.
 R. Rohrbeck, J.O. Schwarz (2013) The value contribution of strategic foresight:
Insights from an empirical study of large European companies, Technological
Forecasting and Social Change Vol 80 Issue 8 pp. 1593-1606
 Wernerfelt, B. (1984) ―A resource based view of the firm‖, Strategic
Management Journal, 5/2: 171-180
 Prahalad, C.K. and Hamel,G. (1990) ―The core competences of the corporation'‖,
Harvard Business Review, 68/3: 79-91
 Barney, J.B. (1991) ―Firm resources and sustained competitive advantage‖,
Journal of Management, 17/1: 99-120
 D.J. Teece, G. Pisano, A. Shuen, Dynamic capabilities and strategic
management, Strateg. Manage. J. 18 (Aug 1997) 509–533.
 K.M. Eisenhardt, J.A. Martin, Dynamic capabilities: what are they? Strateg.
Manage. J. 21 (Oct–Nov 2000) 1105–1121.
 D.J. Teece, Explicating dynamic capabilities: the nature and microfoundations of
(sustainable) enterprise performance, Strateg. Manag. J. 28 (13) (2007) 1319–1350.
 Kauffman SA. 1995. At Home in the Universe: The Search for Laws of Self-
Organization and Complexity. Oxford University Press: New York.
 Beinhocker, Eric D. "Strategy at the edge of chaos." McKinsey Quarterly (1997):
 Miguel Pina e Cunha, Stewart R. Clegg, Ken Kamoche, Improvisation as ―real
time foresight‖, Futures, Volume 44, Issue 3, April 2012, Pages 265-272
 Börjeson, L., Höjer M., Dreborg K., Ekvall T. and Finnveden G.(2006) ‗Scenario
types and techniques: towards a user‘s guide‘, Futures 38 (7) : 723-739
 van Notten, P., Rotmans, J., van Asselt, M.B.A, Rothman, D.S. (2003) ‗An
updated scenario typology‘, Futures 35: 423-443
 Bishop, P., Hines, A. and Collins, T. (2007) ‗The current state of scenario
development: an overview of techniques‘, Foresight 9 (1): 5-25
 Voros, J.(2008) ‗Integral Futures : An Approach to futures inquiry‘, Futures 40
 Inayatullah, S. (1998) ‗Causal Layered Analysis‘, Futures 30, 8
 M. Aaltonen (2007) The Third Lens. Multi-ontology Sense-making and Strategic
Decision-making. Aldershot: Ashgate
 M.Aaltonen, J. Holmström (2010) Multi-ontology topology of the strategic
landscape in three practical cases, Technological Forecasting and Social Change,
Volume 77, Issue 9, pp. 1519-1526
 G. Burt, Why are we surprised at surprises? Integrating disruption theory and
system analysis with the scenario methodology to help identify disruptions and
discontinuities, Technol. Forecast. Soc. Change 74 (2007) 731–749
 D. Sarpong, Towards a methodological approach: theorising scenario thinking as
a social practice, Foresight 13 (2011) 4.
 Theo J.B.M. Postma and Franz Liebl, ‗How to improve scenario analysis as a
strategic management tool‘, Technological Forecasting & Social Change 72 (2005)
 R. Miller , ―Being without existing: the futures community at a turning point? A
comment on Jay Ogilvy‘s ‗Facing the Fold‘‖, Foresight 13/4 (2011): 24-34
 C. Eden, F. Ackermann, Managerial and Organisational Cognition, Sage
Publications, London, 1998.
 P.H. Grinyer, A cognitive approach to group strategic decision taking: A
discussion of evolved practice in the light of received research results, Journal of the
Operational Research Society 51 (2000) 21–35.
 F. Liebl, The anatomy of complex societal problems and its implications for OR,
J. Oper. Res. Soc. 53 (2002) 161–184
 D.J. Teece. Dynamic Capabilities: Routines versus Entrepreneurial Action,
Journal of Management Studies 49: 8 (2012) 1395-1401
 M. Peteraf, G. Di Stefano, G. Verona. The Elephant in the room of Dynamic
Capabilities: Bringing two diverging conversations together, Strat. Mgmt. J., 34:
 H.A. Simon, (1947) Administrative behaviour: A study of decision-making
processes in administrative organizations, New York, NY: Macmillan.
 R.M. Cyert, J.G. March, (1963) A Behavioral Theory of the Firm, Englewood
Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.
 G. Gavetti, D. Levinthal, The strategy field from the perspective of management
science: Divergent strands and possible integration. Management Science, 50(10),
 G. Gavetti, H.R. Greve, D.A. Levinthal and W. Ocasio, The Behavioral Theory
of the Firm: Assessment and Prospects. The Academy of Management Annals 6(1)
 R.R. Nelson and S.G. Winter. An Evolutionary Theory of Economic Change,
Belknap, Boston, M.A., 1982
 L. Marengo, G. Dosi, P. Legrenzi and C. Pasquali, The structure of problem-
solving knowledge and the structure of organizations. Industrial and Corporate
Change, 9 (2000), 757-788.
 S.K. Ethiraj, D. Levinthal, Modularity and Innovation in Complex Systems,
Management Science, 50, (2004) 159-173.