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Edited by Laura Anna Costanzo and Robert Bradley MacKay
Chapter 2: Anticipating Critique and Occasional Reason: Modes of Reasoning in the Face of a Radically Open Future
David Seidl and Dominik van Aaken Introduction Despite the importance that is generally placed on the investigation of the future, our understanding of the phenomenon of strategic foresight is still rather limited. Traditionally foresight has been framed in terms of extrapolating from past experiences. Such an approach, however, as Ansoﬀ (1975, 1980) and many others have argued, is completely inadequate in the ﬁeld of strategy, where the focus is less on continuity than on discontinuity. If people base their view of the future exclusively on past experiences, they will not be prepared for new strategic threats or opportunities, which by deﬁnition mark a break from the past. Strategic discontinuities are thus systematically out of sight. Particularly in our times of increasingly turbulent environments with accelerated and fundamental changes such approaches are proving more and more inadequate (see Waterhouse 1992; Ansoﬀ and Sullivan 1993; D’Aveni 1994; Kirkbride et al. 1994; Bettis and Hitt 1995; Lombriser and Ansoﬀ 1995). The faster and the more radically the world changes, the more important does it become for organizations to sense discontinuities as early as possible in order to leave enough time for appropriate reactions. As such, strategic foresight is mostly conceptualized as the ability to pre-sense discontinuities; in particular by being open to so-called ‘weak signals’ (Ansoﬀ 1975, 1980; Seidl 2004), which point to impending discontinuities. The classical example here is that of the petroleum crises in the 1970s, which could have been foreseen if the organizations had been more responsive to the...
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