The futures of futures studies
Pushing the boundaries of futures thinking

In good hands? Australian agricultural leaders’ foresight and strategic thinking capabilities shaping the future

The agriculture sector in resource rich nations are significant
contributors to the revenue base of these nations as well as global food
security. The gross value of agricultural production in Australia is worth over $81 billion. Australian agricultural leaders face progressively unpredictable environmental conditions and volatile domestic and
international demand. As such, these leaders’ futures orientation,
anticipatory capacity, and strategic acumen is of critical importance.
There is a paucity of research literature regarding foresight and
strategic thinking leader capabilities in the context of the Australian
agriculture sector. From a strategic leadership theory (SLT) perspective,
the abilities and characteristics of leaders can reflect the future state of
an organisation or industry. Foresight and strategic thinking capabilities
are leading proxies that can help understand the possible futures of the
agricultural sector and identify areas for prioritised development. This is the first empirical study in this context and adopted a mixed methods approach using a validated and reliable quantitative measure of
foresight and strategic thinking capabilities and the administration of a
Delphi study. The research yielded an indicative baseline of these future-orientated capabilities suggesting leaders are: (1) dominantly present focused, (2) primarily focused on operational and market concerns while showing some consideration of possible futures, and (3)
predominantly adopting an analytical approach to strategy development with a narrow focus on conceptual and generative inputs. The results suggest that traditional notions of strategic leadership are still dominant and that capacity to prepare for the future and innovate are restricted. Further, the study makes a theoretical contribution by including SLT as a meaningful consideration of organisational or sectoral futures studies.

Senior Consultant
Pharos Institute
Australasian Institute of Marine Surveyors