Psychologists have told us that humans are distinct in their ability to think forward. To what degree is foresight an innate human function of our brain power, or thinking preferences?
In late 2008 I finished my PhD dissertation to evaluate an existing foresight measure. I examined whether there was sufficient theoretical and empirical support for Natalie Dian’s Foresight Styles Assessment (FSA), which is envisioned as a six styles of foresight, identified as Futurist, Activist, Opportunist, Flexist, Equilibrist, and Reactionist, from both the diffusion of innovations and temporal perspective literature.
As a quantitative study, this dissertation tested Dian’s Foresight Styles Assessment (FSA) through factor analysis using orthogonal rotation from a development sample of 3,154 knowledge workers. Principal components analysis resulted in a four factor solution of empirical factors: framer, adapter, reactor, and tester. These factors explained 41.72% of the variance with scale reliability ranging from .66 to .89. Based upon results, the shortened four factor FSA is a valid and reliable instrument with construct validity. Its usefulness, limitations, and future development are discussed in the context of developing a leadership theory of strategic foresight.
This dissertation was not filed in Dissertation Abstracts, but a synopsis of the empirical results was later published by the Journal of Futures Studies, from Tamkang University Press. See:
Gary, J. E. (2009, August). Foresight Styles Assessment: Testing a new tool for consulting futurists. Journal of Futures Studies, 14(1), 1-26.http://www.jfs.tku.edu.tw/14-1/A01.pdf
So what is the bottom line on the FSA? My independent quantitative study could be compared to a consumer protection study. An agency is tasked to protect the public from unreasonable risks in using a new baby monitor. Tests are performed. Findings are confirmed. The agency then reports to the public whether the product is safe or whether it should be recalled.
My study found Dian’s Foresight Style Assessment transmits a baby’s cry, but a sharper signal could be provided if the instrument was further calibrated. Eighteen months later, Luke Van der Laan focused his PhD dissertation on the FSA, and published a follow-up journal article.
Van der Laan, L. W. (2010). Foresight competence and the strategic thinking of strategy-level leaders. Unpublished doctoral dissertation, University of Southern Queensland, School of Management and Marketing.
Van Der Laan, L., & Erwee, R. (2012). Foresight styles assessment: A valid and reliable measure of dimensions of foresight competence. Foresight, 14(5), 374-386.
In short, Van der Laan confirmed the validity and reliability of the shortened FSA measure of a three-factor scale (excluding the Reactor factor) but suggested future studies should confirm validity and reliability of the scale among more diverse populations. With further use, the FSA could be a an important tool in strategic management research to understand the full range of managerial cognition.
Dr. Jay Gary is president of PeakFutures.com, a foresight consulting group. Over the past twenty years he has helped non-profits, foundations, civic leaders, and strategic alliances to create more promise filled futures. He also teaches strategic foresight, innovation and leadership at the graduate level and through professional development courses.