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It is important to distinguish between transformative and strategic foresight. Transformative foresight is oriented toward creating fundamental or systemic change. It seeks not only to anticipate future developments but to envision and bring about significant transformations that address the root causes of current challenges. This approach is often applied in contexts where incremental change is insufficient, such as addressing climate change, social inequality, or systemic organisational issues. Transformative foresight:

  • Focuses on deep, systemic changes: It aims to identify and influence the underlying structures, patterns, and assumptions that shape the future.

  • Encourages visionary and speculative thinking: It goes beyond what is currently deemed possible or probable, exploring radical alternatives and innovative solutions that can lead to substantial shifts in society or organizations.

  • Involves a broad, participatory process: It typically engages a wide range of stakeholders in imagining and co-creating futures that are more equitable, sustainable, and resilient.

  • Seeks to empower and mobilize: By envisioning desirable futures and the pathways to achieve them, transformative foresight aims to inspire collective action and strategic interventions that can alter the course of future developments.

Strategic foresight, on the other hand, is more directly focused on informing and enhancing the strategic planning process of organisations or governments. It is used to identify emerging trends, potential threats, and opportunities, helping leaders make more informed decisions about the future. Strategic foresight, while also forward-looking and innovative, operates within the existing strategic and operational frameworks of organisations. It focuses on making better-informed decisions today that will ensure success in the future, based on a thorough understanding of potential developments and disruptions. 

The primary distinction between transformative and strategic foresight lies in their scope and objectives. Transformative foresight is broader and more ambitious in its goals, seeking to imagine and bring about significant changes that can fundamentally alter societal or organizational trajectories. It challenges existing paradigms and encourages radical thinking about what the future could be. In practice, the two approaches can complement each other. Transformative foresight can broaden the horizons of strategic foresight by introducing more radical and innovative future scenarios into the strategic planning process. Meanwhile, strategic foresight can ground the ambitious visions of transformative foresight in actionable strategies and plans, making it possible to navigate toward those desired futures.

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