Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Strategic Foresight Methods in the Public and Private Sectors

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Strategic Foresight Methods in the Public and Private Sectors

Article excerpt

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed or implied in the Journal are those of the authors and should not be construed as carrying the official sanction of the Department of Defense, Air Force, Air Education and Training Command, Air University, or other agencies or departments of the US government. This article may be reproduced in whole or in part without permission. If it is reproduced, the Air and Space Power Journal requests a courtesy line.

When talking to a person about the future, it can often seem ambiguous and unpredictable. What is the future? What can we expect from it? Some might inquire about predicting the future. The reality is that predictions are impossible to make with perfect confidence; as a result, very few individuals in futurology will use the term. Instead, forecasting is the term of choice. Partially, it removes the stigma around predicting the future, while also clarifying the field more accurately as estimation as opposed to concrete prediction. The goal is not to predict the future; it is to realize the importance of an event before it occurs.1

Nothing will prove to be flawless when it comes to forecasting using various methods. However, there are certain methods that are more reliable than others, with many of the reliable ones important to a variety of sectors. Governments, private companies, militaries, and even individuals seek this ability to be successful in whatever they desire-be it the defense of a nation, economic growth, success for a company or idea, disaster prevention, or some other aim. Defined as the study of the future for developing strategy, strategic foresight is how individuals attempt to make the future less ambiguous. In other words, the focus is on the process used for forecasting. Looking into strategic foresight further, the public sector and private sectors have distinct similarities and differences, derived in part from their differing goals. Summed up in a general sense, the private sector has the goal of maintaining relevance to its consumers and against competing companies-it is unlikely that any company would volunteer to become the next Blackberry or Blockbuster.2 In comparison, the public sector has the overarching goal of exerting influence in one way or another over other nations-the US arguably does this more successfully than most, if not all, other nations.3

Before analyzing how the public and private sectors conduct strategic foresight, we set the stage with an overview of a cross-section of methods commonly used. As a concept, strategic foresight has been around for hundreds of years. Recognized as one of the first military strategists, Carl von Clausewitz is famous for defining the character and nature of war.4 While there is research on both linear and nonlinear strategic development, little is offered in the realm of strategic analysis or development for the future. Unlike trend analysis, strategic foresight reaches beyond forecasting the future of a given entity; it focuses on illuminating actions recommended today to achieve the desired end state of tomorrow. Common methods for doing so include the pursuit of disruptive and sustaining innovations, Blue Ocean Strategy, use of offset strategies for asymmetric advantages, scenario planning, war gaming, futurecasting, and threatcasting.

An overview of different methods begins with disruptive innovations, sustaining innovations, and Blue Ocean Strategy-all intending to identify ways of gaining or maintaining the advantage. Disruptive innovation, one strategy based on technology for the future, is a development that interrupts market processes in unexpected ways. Contrastingly, sustaining innovations are those that persist for an extended period. First coined by Clayton M. Christensen in 1995, disruptive and sustaining innovations identified abstract thoughts in business, developing them into a formal strategy (now called disruption theory). Christensen furthered his claims in his book The Innovator's Dilemma and its sequel The Innovator's Solution. …

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