Sep 9, 2019



In recent years, there has been a significant increase in the number of studies, initiatives, and events exploring Canada’s future. Managing the future has become a shared preoccupation of management consultants, academics, think tanks, innovation labs, and government departments. The competitive pressure to remain resilient and relevant in an increasingly unpredictable world raises the strategic value of foresight analysis.


In today’s strategic environment, the successful execution of a foreign policy doctrine, mega-infrastructure project, or a city-wide planning initiative is contingent on an in-depth knowledge of global trends and their complex interaction. According to the United Nations Social and Economic Council (ECOSOC), foresight analysis is becoming essential to make sense of and to create options for dealing with complex global opportunities and challenges.


  • Foresight analysis is an action-oriented, interpretive framework used to imagine the impact of non-expected futures on current policies and programs. Various forms of foresight methods continue to proliferate in response to the growing demand for more effective decision-making processes and innovative business solutions. Still, foresight analysis is one of the least understood areas of strategic management even though it has been practiced for decades.  
  • As an export-dependent country, Canada needs to anticipate global shifts ahead of its peer-competitor countries (ie., OECD, Asia). Adopting foresight techniques (ie., expert panels, environmental scanning, weak signal analysis, scenario planning, threat analysis, futures workshops) is especially advantageous for municipal administrations that increasingly depend on interdisciplinary knowledge to remain relevant and resilient.   
  • Foresight analysis creates the context for raising thought-provoking questions that generate profound insights about complex adaptive systems, sensitivity regarding second and third order consequences, and improved understanding of how deeply held assumptions perform under different conditions of uncertainty.


  • Adopting a multiple futures perspective is extremely useful for overcoming the constraints of short-term thinking, siloed mandates, and linear planning processes. Because foresight analysis also provides a framework for different perspectives and lived experiences to coalesce around common concerns, it has great potential as a catalyst for proactive decision-making, enhanced resilience, and innovation excellence. 
  • Foresight techniques need to be embedded as an everyday practice to build expertise and new institutional capacity. While proficiency at anticipatory learning builds resiliency and agility, incorporating a flexible action plan at the beginning of the planning cycle is the most effective way to optimize the strategic value of foresight techniques.
  • Institutional and small business leaders who fail to onboard foresight practices as a part of their strategic planning process risk losing their market share. Moreover, an over-confidence in “best practices” and technological “quick-fixes” may conceal the dangers of catastrophic surprise.


Canada’s future prosperity depends on a long-term, outside-in perspective to compete successfully in the global knowledge economy. Growing uncertainty about the current state of international affairs and the global economy presents decision-making challenges for many institutions and business models built in a previous and more predictable era. As Canada faces the future, designing a culture of readiness and adaptability will be critical to seizing emergent opportunities and mitigating identified risks. In that context, strategic foresight provides an intellectual framework to imagine “big” while reducing the constraints on innovation excellence.

Urban Dispatch summarizes and clarifies contemporary city-related trends, strategic management issues, and research questions. It is intended to provide VSIR clients and interested readers with relevant insights for use in making timely and informed decisions. Vancouver Strategic & Integrated Research is a catalyst for agile thinking and organizational learning. Further research and analysis of the issues discussed in the Urban Dispatch series is available upon request. Please forward any correspondence to   

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