Complexity science approaches to the application foresight
Title: Complexity science approaches to the application foresight
Author(s): Averil Horton, (Visiting Fellow at Brunel University Business School, Uxbridge, UK)
Citation: Averil Horton, (2012) "Complexity science approaches to the application foresight", Foresight, Vol. 14 Iss: 4, pp.294 - 303
Keywords: Complexity, Complexity theory, Disruptive events, Emergence, Policy making, Reframing, Strategic planning, Uncertainty management, Variation
Article type: Conceptual paper
DOI: 10.1108/14636681211256080 (Permanent URL)
Publisher: Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Purpose – This paper aims to present an exploration of recent work in complexity theory to explain why and how disruptive events happen in systems and how responses could be better, particularly in the policy-making arena.
Design/methodology/approach – The main method applied is critical thinking combined with a review of selected aspects of complexity theory and a general experience of applying foresight. Several new and practical implications for foresight techniques and their application are derived. Promoting variation is examined as one way to make policies more resilient in a complex system.
Findings – Complexity science demonstrates that disruptive events do not need an associated trigger, as they are a normal part of a complex system. This insight implies that if we are always looking for
weak signals we will certainly be caught unawares.
Practical implications – The assumption that disruptive events can be managed by planning and forecasting is not a workable option. Instead, policy making needs to assume that unexpected disruptive events will happen even with the best horizon scanning system in place. Foresight
techniques need to be developed to embrace emergence and to provide capabilities such as reframing to visualise systems from very different perspectives, including those considered impossible now.
Originality/value – Although neither complexity theory nor the concept of reframing is new in the area of foresight, the derivation of practical implications for foresight techniques is original.