Elements in the construction of future-orientation: A systems view of foresight

Mikko Dufva, Toni Ahlqvist

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 Citations (Scopus)


Foresight is currently perceived as a critical activity in the development of innovation policies and corporate strategies. While there are many descriptions of the benefits of foresight, there is little research into how these benefits are created. In addition, although the view of innovations has shifted towards a systems understanding, the same has not happened with foresight, which is largely seen as a process. The process view and focus on the outcomes has created a situation where the dynamics between agents involved in foresight is still not well understood. One emerging approach to improve the understanding of the dynamics of foresight, and to embed foresight more closely with innovation management and policy, is the systems view. In this paper, we build on the systems view of foresight, and study what the elements in foresight as a system are and how they contribute to the creation of futures knowledge. Based on the literature, we propose six elements that are useful for understanding a foresight system and the creation of futures knowledge: agents, cognitive schemes, strategic objects, mediating events, memory objects and metaphors. We illustrate the systems view, the elements and their interaction with two case examples: one on creating future-orientation in a research and technology organisation and one on renewing a forest industry through roadmapping. Based on the elements and the case studies, we argue that the strategic objects and mediating events are important leverage points when steering foresight as a system.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-125
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • complex adaptive systems
  • foresight system
  • future-orientation
  • innovation systems


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