Future Studies

Future Studies

By David Willden

Rick M. Profohl, D.S.L. presented on future studies and strategic foresight at the 2012 Annual Conference of the Association of Strategic Planning. It was an illuminating and engaging presentation.

Background on Rick Profohl

Rick Profohl was raised in a family of entrepreneurs. He has been a CFO and CEO of medium-sized companies. He has 20 years of executive leadership experience as a strategist / management consultant for Fortune 100 and Global 250 organizations throughout the world. Rick founded Navigos that provides leadership, strategy, performance and future studies – strategic foresight consulting.

What is Strategic Foresight?

Rick answered the question by sharing the following:

Strategic Foresight is the ability to create and maintain a high-quality, coherent and functional forward view, and to use the insights arising in useful organizational ways” (Slaughter, 1999, p. 287).

  • Foresight is the capacity to think systematically about the future to inform today’s decision making. It is a capacity that we need to develop as individuals, as organizations, and as a society.
  • Futures refers both to the research, methods and tools that are available for us to use to develop a foresight capacity…

Why is Strategic Foresight Important?

Those that can more accurately understand the future, can better prepare for and benefit from that foresight. In 2000, a survey was conducted with corporate strategists to identify the top strategy related challenges:

  • Challenging assumptions
  • Translating strategy into action
  • Communicating the strategy
  • Identifying discontinuous change
  • Adapting strategy to rapid change

Three of the top challenges could have been better addressed through future studies and strategic foresight. Today, the same challenges exist but to greater proportions due to the substantive changes that are all around us.

Where Does Strategic Fit in Strategy?

Rick shared a comprehensive way at identifying the ideal phases leaders should go through to develop strategy.

  • Strategic Thinking involves gathering insights about the future
  • Strategic Decisions entails determining what decisions need to be made and making those decisions
  • Strategy Planning answers the question, “how will we do it?” It is planning how you will take action
  • Strategic Change involves answering the question, “which needs to change” so that you can move towards the future
  • Strategic Alignment entails determining how to best leverage everyone’s talents to achieve the desired future
  • Strategic Action involves making it happen

Example of Foresight Tools and Techniques


  • Genus based – sampling of expert opinions, reducing divergence over a series of surveys – Delphi

Environment Scanning

  • Environmental scanning refers to the macro environment which comprises industries, markets, companies, clients and competitors. It is the “study and interpretation of the political, economic, social and technological events and trends which influence a business, an industry or even a total market’. ” (Kroon, J. (1995), “General Management” [2nd Edition])


  • Extrapolating based on historical trends

Cross Impact Analysis

  • Identify how trends could interact and impact each other

Trend Analysis

  • Involves analyzing historical trends and identifying the assumptions that explain the trends

Causal Layered Analysis

  • Causal layered analysis (CLA) can help organizations to create a desired future. It seeks to integrate empiricist, interpretive, critical, and action learning modes.
  • Empiricist: Learning through direct and indirect observation or experience.
  • Interpretive: Learning through interpretative deductions
  • Critical: Learning through conducting a critical examination
  • Action: Learning by working on real challenges and using the knowledge and skills of a group of people.

Scenario planning

  • Involves identifying what future conditions or events are likely, outlining the possible consequences of each, and determining how to respond or benefit from them.


  • Stakeholder analysis
  • Issue analysis
  • Critical futures

Examination Environmental Scanning

  • Leading/lagging indicators
  • Trend tracking
  • Driving-force analysis


  • Bellwether analysis
  • Cross impact analysis
  • Delphi method
  • Emerging issue analysis
  • Gaming/simulation
  • Scenario planning
  • Statistical modeling
  • Trend analysis


  • Causal layered analysis
  • Implication analysis
  • Visualization
  • Futures search


  • Decision modeling
  • Risk analysis
  • Strategic planning

Helpful Future Studies and Strategic Foresight Websites

Future Prediction Articles 

To access the National Intelligence Council future trends report visit - click here.  

To learn more about Future Studies - click here.  

Future Studies