Foresight and Transformation: Observing Pioneers in Our Changing Societies: Dissertation

    Research output: ThesisDissertationCollection of Articles


    At times when change seems to be the only constant, long wave theories help in conceptualizing periods of systemic transition. The Kondratieff wave theory describes the functioning of the socio-economic system as fluctuations of growth and decline in a 40-60 year cycle. Socio-economic transformations typically affect broadly societal structures, practices, technologies, and organising models. In this study, the societal change process was studied by focusing on emerging ways to use the future as basis of good decisions in the present. In this study, novel approaches to forward looking were examined in case studies on low hierarchy organisations and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs. Studies were made by interviews, and in one case also by non-participatory observation. From the cases, it was found that the studied network organisations orient themselves towards the future by using a unifying purpose as guide to information seeking. This is combined with a constant day-to-day monitoring of the state of the organisation and its environments. The approach may be proactive (fulfilling a mission) or reactive (focus on survival and finding new opportunities). A particular feature of the studied organizational models is the decentralization of authority over strategic decisions to the individual level. Thus, the organizing model enables making full use of the anticipatory capabilities of the individuals constituting the organisation. The analysis of the novel form of foresight was connected with the analysis of the key drivers for the next Kondratieff wave. There, one effect of advancing ICT is that individuals have an enhanced capability to connect to novel kinds of information sources. As result, more traditional ways of applying futures research methodology may come across as an artificial narrowing down of the scope of relevant futures related information. The other key driver, limits of planetary bio-capacity, may explain the surprisingly strong ethical argumentation that guides the operations in some of the studied organisations. The Reflexive Foresight approach, presented as the summary of findings from the novel approaches to foresight, describes the structured way in which the guiding ethos or purpose, observations and anticipations, combined with autonomous motivation are comprising the forward looking attitude. For understanding the studied cases in the context of broader systemic change, two cases from the established fields of foresight were included in the thesis. The first of these cases studies the views of an international loose network of foresight professionals. Another analyses the foresight approach in three processes conducted for the preparation of the Finnish Government report on the future. The purpose of these case studies is to find out if the novel approaches to forward looking are making an impact on the more established processes. Findings there reveal efforts made towards the utilization of systemic models. However, the novel approaches are not easy to combine with the existing paradigm, resulting in conflicting aims and tensions between competing approaches. The results were interpreted as indicating an ongoing transition in the regime. The thesis’ theoretical contribution is a theoretical concept of Reflexive Foresight, built on the observations from the pioneering cases and related literature. Methodologically, the combination of long wave analysis and pioneer analysis is a new tool for anticipating effects of societal innovation in socio-economic systems.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor Degree
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Turku
    • Wilenius, Markku, Supervisor, External person
    • Heinonen, Sirkka, Supervisor, External person
    Award date18 Sept 2020
    Place of PublicationTurku
    Print ISBNs978-951-29-8126-7
    Electronic ISBNs978-951-29-8127-4
    Publication statusPublished - 20 Aug 2020
    MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


    • anticipation
    • kondratieff long-wave theory
    • pioneer analysis
    • case study
    • social change
    • organisational culture
    • self-managed organisation


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