The futures of agency
Exploring the liminal spaces between action and responsibility
26 October 2023 (Thursday), 10:00-11:00, imagine2

Bridging anticipation and strategic planning: case of forward-looking reform in a Finnish university of applied sciences

In organizational foresight key question is how to balance between the need for a unifying future direction, and the ideal of a futures-oriented culture, rooted in organization-wide anticipatory capabilities and participation. Top decision-makers are responsible for creating clear strategic direction, which often results in top-down visions. While a robust futures-oriented culture may enable agility and value-based engagement of the entire personnel, it can be challenging to find and maintain a common direction. This tension has many implications for organizational foresight. In scenario work, alternative futures often too early turn into a locked-in strategic plan, thus sacrificing the ability to maintain diversity in futures preparedness. Without proper engagement with the organization’s internal implicit assumptions, expectations and future visions, foresight risks remaining externalized information without real impact. Here we present a case study of a Finnish University of Applied Sciences where bottom-up futures work was employed as a tool for pedagogical reform. There, the entire personnel, along with a large representation of students, alumni and other stakeholders participated in foresight workshops that combined basic futures literacy exercises (“foresight for emergence”) with strategic planning (“foresight for the future”). The process produced vision statements, future development ideas and scenarios, as well as concrete measures ready for implementation. As additional outcomes the process created new networks among the participants and strengthened the organization’s overall foresight capability. We discuss the process from the perspective of the organizational enablers and challenges and conclude by modeling the key features of the process for future research on organizational anticipation.

Senior Scientist
VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland