The role of foresight in adaptive organising : coping with change and creating advantage.

Cobbledick, Michael (2010-12)

Thesis (MPhil))--Stellenbosch University, 2010.


It is broadly accepted that our post-modern society is characterised by unprecedented levels of change, coupled with increasing complexity and uncertainty. In this context, the ability to successfully anticipate and adapt to changing circumstances is crucial for an organisation‟s survival and prosperity. Long-standing traditional models of organising, managing and knowing, as well as many contemporary formulations, are found to be inadequate in dealing with the challenges of high-velocity change. This study conducts a conceptual review of the diverse literatures on organisational adaptation and foresight to, first, synthesise the essential characteristics of adaptive organising; and secondly, to determine whether and how foresight can be applied to improve the effectiveness of organisational adaptation. A model of adaptive organising is developed that describes how, by adopting an emergent strategy approach via processes of exploration and experimentation and by balancing change and preservation, firms can derive new advantages from volatility. Recognising the limitations of anticipatory foresight in fast-paced environments, a socially embedded foresight practice that links macroscopic thinking and microscopic action is proposed as an enabling infrastructure for emergent strategy. It describes how foresight provides context for broad-based action, the outcome of which keeps foresight refreshed with how reality is unfolding. Finally three foresight methods, visioning, scenarios and peripheral vision, are reviewed drawing links to adaptive organising from which three propositions are put forward for future research. These foresight practices are shown to produce shared understanding and direction which stimulates collective exploratory action, and encourage alternative perspectives and interpretations of the organisation‟s situation allowing strategic variety to flourish and new advantages to emerge.

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