Knowledge creation in foresight: A practice- and systems-oriented view: Dissertation

Mikko Dufva

    Research output: ThesisDissertationCollection of Articles


    This dissertation studies the creation of futures knowledge in the practice of foresight. By futures knowledge I mean the perceptions about futures expressed by various stakeholders. Foresight is commonly used for anticipating future developments, scoping alternative futures and creating present actions based on futures knowledge. It is usually depicted as a process, where a group of experts and other stakeholders gather and produce knowledge about the future. This process view is problematic, because it does not usually consider the influence of the events and processes taking place outside a separate foresight process. The foresight process is often viewed as a strategic exercise disconnected from the everyday operations of organisations. Despite the wide use of foresight, the creation of futures knowledge has not received much attention in research on foresight. Instead, the focus has been on the production of outcomes, such as scenarios, roadmaps and visions. In this dissertation, I present a systems view of foresight and study futures knowledge creation from a systems perspective. The theories and approaches on innovation systems, complex adaptive systems and foresight form the theoretical basis. My research methods are based on grounded theory and the research material consists of five foresight projects. The main results include futures knowledge typology, elements of a foresight system, futures knowledge as a network of concepts and a multi-layered foresight framework. Based on these results, I present two complementary views of futures knowledge creation. First, I argue that futures knowledge is created through the conversions between different types of knowledge. Second, futures knowledge is created gradually through the interaction between humans, dependent on the nature of the interaction, and can be seen as the shaping of the network of concepts. The main theoretical contribution of this dissertation is the further elaboration of the systems view of foresight. This includes the elements of a foresight system, the futures knowledge typology and the multi-layered foresight. These can be applied in the study of foresight processes to identify and analyse different ways by which the processes create futures knowledge and support the formation of strategy. The main practical implication of the systems view to foresight is the shift from seeing foresight projects as separate to perceiving them as part of an interconnected whole. In order to enhance the creation of futures knowledge, these processes need to be flexible and enable intensive and broad participation among participants. In addition, futures knowledge should be seen more as a network of perceptions about alternative futures than separate outcomes of foresight projects.
    Original languageEnglish
    QualificationDoctor Degree
    Awarding Institution
    • Aalto University
    • Salo, Ahti, Supervisor, External person
    • Ahlqvist, Toni, Advisor, External person
    Award date22 Jan 2016
    Print ISBNs978-951-38-8383-6
    Electronic ISBNs978-951-38-8382-9
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


    • foresight
    • knowledge creation
    • futures research
    • systems thinking


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