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Foresight and urgency: The discrepancy between long-term thinking and short-term decision-making

: Cuhls, Kerstin


Montemayor, Carlos (Ed.):
Time's urgency
Leiden: Brill, 2019 (The study of time 16)
ISBN: 978-90-04-40823-4
ISBN: 978-90-04-40824-1
Aufsatz in Buch
Fraunhofer ISI ()

Foresight is the long-term view into the future or different futures, defined as the more action-oriented ‘structured debate about complex futures.’ The academic pendant is Futures Research dealing with possible, probable and desirable future developments. Even if the future cannot be predicted, major developments emerge already today in their basics. The guardrails of the possible, probable and desirable can be determined in this sense by scientific methods and in social discourses. Foresight is thus a concept to prepare for futures and avoid urgent reactions, quick and un-reflected, reactive answers to problematic situations or sudden occurrences. Methods are available to work with the different time horizons (e.g., Delphi surveys), to work with different long-term scenarios in preparation or decision-making, or even to travel in time as thought experiments. But although time scales up to 30, 40 or even more years have to be considered when e.g., investing in new infrastructures, technologies or to change the behavior of people, decision-making is often still ad hoc and does not take the time to think about the consequences. It remains in reaction to urgency. In Foresight and Futures Research, a very linear time concept is still in the forefront, although the thought experiments make it possible to go back and forth in time thinking, prepare for different futures, or even shape ‘the’ preferable future with visioning processes (mainly in innovation research but also in transformative studies). This contribution demonstrates examples from empirical research mainly in ‘government Foresight’ but also ‘Strategic Foresight’ of companies, associations or others with the aim to avoid urgency situations. It tries to explain why both long- and short-term time considerations are so important and what long- and short-term means for the different stakeholders (relativity of time considerations).