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Is ownership a human right?

Posted By Ruth Lewis, Friday, September 27, 2019

Ruth Lewis a member of our Emerging Fellows program evaluates ownership as a human right in her ninth blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

Every minute of every day data about us is created, collected and stored somewhere. As more and more of the goods and services that we use every day become digitised, it is inevitable that the service providers and their downstream supply chains will want information about their customers (or potential customers), so that they can ‘service you better’, or create a supply-driven market-place. Our liberty to live the lives that we choose is scrutinised and forecast to drive demand, and thus supply. Who owns this data that is created and collected about you? Is it the service provider? Or should it be the ‘data subject’, the person about whom the data is collected?

 

There are rules and interpretive algorithms set up around the data, but have you stopped to consider what if these systems could be wrong, that the data is flawed? That the data does not really describe what you want or believe in, or what you want to do? And after you die, your digital representation may live on well after your death, like a digital Henrietta Lacks.

 

Our data selves live a shadow life that resides within the world’s data warehouses, often located far away from where we live. Economic decisions were made to locate our data there, and often our data selves are traded between various companies for a fee, so that they can get to know us too – or their representation of us. However, that is where human values and the freedom of the individual, and economic value sharply collide. Because ‘human values’ and ‘liberty’ are only considered where legislated imperatives such as the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation are in operation, which forces the user of the services to explicitly consent to their data collection and storage, and the service provider to have some accountability for collection of private information.

 

How can human value and human values be used to protect our shadow selves that exist in the internet’s servers and data warehouses of the world? Only by thinking about data as part of ourselves, and valuing it with the same care. We, as consumers of digitised services, should and must demand that our shadow selves be given the same digital rights as our human selves. We must be able to trust that the representation of ourselves is shown in truth, and is not abused or compromised.

This assurance should be the noble principle on which to base our aspirations for a better future.

 

In the future, could each of us fully embrace the online world, and create and own a digital avatar existing in cyberspace? A representation of our own personal human values, beliefs and thoughts that we are willing to share with others, and more importantly, owned and controlled by us? Could our digital agent be entitled to the human rights law under codified International Law? Could we use this personal image to ‘play’ with futuristic representations so that we can build a better world together? To try out different economic, governance, legal, technology and social structures through a range of scenario building, in much the same way as online gamers try out different virtual worlds? Perhaps this could create participative governance, citizen engagement and dialogue, as well as resultant political structures to promote the common good for society.

 

How would we then protect our own personal avatar from the creeping tendency for governments and corporations to undermine human rights to privacy under the guise of cyber security, ‘for the purpose of securing morality, public order and general welfare’?

© Ruth Lewis 2019

Tags:  ownership  right  value 

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Could social impact dominate consumer behaviour?

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 11, 2019

Esmee Wilcox writes her fourth blog post in our Emerging Fellows program. She asks about the dominance of social impact over consumer behaviour. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

In one generation my family has seen starvation and rationing through war and genocide. These experiences have hardwired how they think about value and consumption. My generation hasn’t lived through that, and we’re caught between our concern for environmental limits and our experiences, our expectations, of personal gain through consumption. With so much opportunity still to consume right in front of us, why might we choose to displace this with something more relevant? What is changing around us that might lead us to think differently about what we value through how we consume?

 

In a number of spheres, we’re seeing the rise of networks of use displacing inefficient ownership models. Our status doesn’t come from owning a particular make of car or having the best gym membership but being part of a network of users. These networks of (re-)usage may create social and environmental benefits alongside economic efficiency. You can now uber-chicly rent and rent out your wardrobe as a means of “fast fashion”.

 

Networks add value because they realise what would otherwise be latent potential. We can add small parts that create something much bigger. Participation requires an element of reciprocity, in giving and taking, in producing and consuming. We might start to meet our wants to be inventive and productive and our needs to consume, by being part of more open networks. The enjoyment we get from reciprocal relationships is different from the instant hit of private consumption. It might dominate where we can see the value of a more sustaining activity over an instant hit.

 

To realise this changing pattern of consumption towards the primacy of social impact, the drivers for allocating capital resources would need to evolve from where they are now. Instead of defining and measuring a linear relationship between costs and benefits, we might see allocations that understand the complex relationship between inputs that are constantly evolving and social system benefits. The accumulation of capital is not as important as its continued flow and use around the network.

 

In this space social investors might be more concerned with describing the emerging changes within social systems instead of reducing the gains to known pre-existing cost sources. We might allow the change to happen before fixing the evaluation criteria. We might then look for what does help the community in practice to self-organise around birth, adolescence and bereavement for families under economic and social stress. Instead of the known, but limited, cost gains around children staying within the family unit and not going into the formal care system. In this future, social enterprises might still be tackling the issues of health, housing and education but they might be formed more around acting as access platforms. As super-connectors of the ecosystems in which poverty exists. To extend the reach of separated systems and the flow of social action.

 

Let’s not forget though the strength of our behavioural patterns that concern us with private accumulation instead of system flow. We could still see an increase in social impact in this future. But having the capacity to consume in a socially beneficial way might determine social and political status and perpetuate inequalities. Think about how Aribnb only helps property owners. It’s making it harder for private renters to access rented accommodation and enter property ownership. You have to have capital to access the benefits, and Airbnb raises the threshold for those that don’t.

 

Moreover, the step-change to recognise that the social issues of our time that affect us all require networked and systems working obliges us to step out of atomised and ‘now-ist’ frame of thinking. Scarcity has had the tendency of driving narrowing competition and closing down thinking about tomorrow. Rule bound and closed cultures develop in response to sustained threats. Resource constraints can make us less trustful of our fellow citizens.

 

It takes imagination to perceive of how we might deliberately choose to displace personal desires to consume with behaviour that is more sustaining. As we head into the next 30 years, people and communities that have choice over what they consume might be compelled to start consuming less. Where this act of consumption can also create wider system benefits, we might start to conceive of consumption very differently. This future that generates more from social system production than private gain may be viable should we start to notice, value and enjoy our own role in that complex network. If we perceive of a collective working towards that future together.

 

New technologies might be the way in which we can start to understand our collective contributions. That make it easier to see how we are tackling systemic social issues. The development of these new technologies might create the space for self-organising patterns of socially beneficial consumption and production to emerge. It is within this future that we may find, unleash and make visible our preferences for social impact to dominate our patterns of consumption.

 

© Esmee Wilcox 2019

Tags:  consumption  social impact  value 

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In a fully digital economy will the dollar still be king?

Posted By Administration, Thursday, April 4, 2019

Paul Tero a member of our Emerging Fellows inspects the supremacy of dollar in digital economy in this blog post. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

 

We trade in what we value. Whether it be a young child trading a small coin for a sweet at a corner store, the consistent portion of a wage over many years in exchange for a house, or the complexity of financial transactions to fund a manufacturers expansion. If we value something we will participate in a fair exchange with the seller.

 

We are all aware of the barter economy, of an era long past, where that form of trade was the primary mechanism to establish fair exchange between parties. Over the course of time it was hard currency that first supplanted this ancient mechanism, then promissory notes, until now where digital representations of cash are the means through which value is exchanged fairly.

 

Also today, it is a sovereign currency, the Dollar (or Euro, Renminbi or Yen) if you will, that is king. It is this fiat currency, this legal tender of value backed by an issuing government that is implicitly trusted so that we can fairly exchange value. Whether it’s that young child at the corner shop, or the insurance company guaranteeing the importation of that machinery, we all implicitly trust that issuing authority.

 

We pay, and governments collect, taxes based on that trust. Businesses leverage the inherent strengths of the banking system to invest in growth, based on that trust. Governments trust other governments based on that trust.

 

But in a fully digital economy, what entity will be the foundation of that trust? The case could be made that a single global currency could become king. Where, over the coming decades, a currency founded on blockchain principles could supplant the many sovereign currencies in existence today. The case could also be made for a return to the barter system. Where, again over the coming decades, the nascent peer-to-peer sharing economy becomes the most trusted mechanism for the fair exchange of value.

 

Given the possibility that either of these two paths could be realised, it may well be a fool’s errand to just assume that the future of financial transactions is just a more efficient version of what we experience today. Where this more efficient version still relies upon the sovereign entities of trust. And where these entities of trust are the anchor for computerised exchanges of value. Just as it occurs today at the retail level, at the commercial and at the government level.

 

Consider two scenarios. First, what if the world moves to a type of universal basic income or universal basic services model? Where the accumulation of wealth is a foreign concept to most and bartering is de rigueur. Secondly, what if the digital economy transforms into the intelligence economy? Where real value is no longer held in varying compositions of bits, but in prized abstractions of knowledge stored in quantum computing machines. In either of these two scenarios, what would be sensible: to have a single global currency, a ubiquitous barter system, or just more efficient version of the current way we conduct financial transactions?

 

Finally, if we accept that human nature will fundamentally remain unaltered in the coming decades, we can appreciate the logic in the following propositions. We can accept that in a fully digitised economy there will continue to be shining examples of our “better angels” and likewise examples of those with more sinister intent. We can also accept that, because of our human nature, we will still form systems of governance and administrative oversight. We will still need the ability to enforce exclusion upon those who are a danger to society. We will still participate in fair exchanges of value. For people will still be people. At our core we’ll be motivated by the desire to either work toward goals, to work with people, or to work to accumulate power.

 

Given all this, and as we look far over the time horizon, will the dollar still be king in a fully digital economy? More than likely, the literal dollar won’t be king but the metaphorical dollar will be. Even though human nature is not likely to change, the mechanism for the fair exchange will continue to change. For each of us will continue to have something of value that is worthy of trading.

 

© Paul Tero 2019

Tags:  dollar  economics  value 

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To what degree is the economy digitized

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, January 22, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Paul Tero a member of our Emerging Fellows program investigates the concept of digitized economy in his first blog post in 2019. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

Let’s explore the digital economy that we currently experience.

Consider how ubiquitous digital technology is in our daily retail transactions. Recently I was on assignment to a far-flung Pacific Island. During my time there I enjoyed a latte at a cafe. The ease with which I paid for my beverage with a common payment card through an electronic terminal at this very remote establishment is a wonder of modern technology. Years ago this story would have been much different. Different, for example, in the planning for this most prosaic of first world transactions. This planning in years past would have included making sure I had enough of the local currency by actually visiting a banking outlet, during office hours, and conversing with real people behind a physical counter! No doubt you have similar stories to this.

Consider too, the actual things that we purchase. No longer common, for example, is the youthful experience of excitedly carrying home the latest 12-inch vinyl disk. Now, we enter into some form of electronic agreement to gain access to artists that please our ears.

I could continue. But now, wherever we are on Earth and whatever sector we can think of, we intuitively grasp that so much of today’s economy, so much of what is produced, traded, and consumed, has digital written all over it.

What is the digital economy? Building on the foundational understanding that an economy is comprised of the production of, the trade in, and the use of goods and services, we can add digitisation to each of these three factors. For example, the digitisation of labour, of transactions, of decisions, and of value. The list goes on. We have indeed shifted from the economics of atoms to the economics of bits.

The digital economy is this. It is the economic and social activities that information and communication technologies deliver. Yes, it is about how the internet has changed business, but the digital economy is about so much more. Various estimates put the value of the digital economy at about $5 trillion. Considering that the global economy as a whole is worth more than $80 trillion. This growth in the digital economy is from a standing start twenty years ago. What we are witnessing is no doubt historically significant.

The componentsof this phenomena include, for example, ICT hardware, software, and services at over $3 trillion (the enablers of this revolution) and electronic games at over $100 Billion (its fruits). For some countries, up to 10% of their GDP relies upon the ICT sector (its importance). The impact of this phenomena is witnessed in the speed at which companies of scale are built. Harley Davidson took 86 years to get to a billion-dollar valuation, Twitter just 3 years. The ease at which we can find answers to almost any question (40,000 questions are asked of Google every second), and in the explosion of data (90% of the world’s new data is only 2 years old).

The journey over this series of articles is one of exploration and prospection. Both discovering the pervasiveness of digitisation of our economy and contemplating that which could appear.

A journey that is supported by two purposes. The first: reflections upon the opportunities and costs of a fully digital economy at personal, business and government levels. The second: considerations of contemporary economic themes using the lenses of established strategic foresight models.

A journey with a vista of the world that today’s teenagers will experience during their later life. A time when their own grandchildren are in their teenage years.

A journey that will be worthwhile.

© Paul Tero 2019

Tags:  digitisation  economics  value 

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What value do we place on personal liberty?

Posted By Administration, Monday, January 14, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Ruth Lewis a member of our Emerging Fellows program investigates the concept of personal liberty in her first blog installment in 2019. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

How do we feel about our freedom to do as we wish? How is our perception of our sense of freedom governed by the times and the type of society that we live in, and the type of person that we are? For most people in Western Society, our personal liberty is highly valued, and is fundamental to our sense of well-being. The freedom to be who we are or who we aspire to be, to reach our potential, to acquire wealth or to withdraw from society – these are all seen as personal liberties that we value as a fundamental right. However, of equal value in our society is the ‘rule of law’, which can sometimes constrain our sense of personal liberty, ‘Rule of law’ can be represented by traditional values, by morals and by restraints imposed to ensure the safety of others.

Clearly there will always be tension between these two ideals between liberty which carries with it the absence of restraint on human action, and with the restraint on human action imposed for the good of society.

When we think about our personal liberty, we see the positive image of our freedom, happiness and unbounded pleasure to do whatever we wish – so many choices! Lurking underneath is the negative image of our lack of control, over-consumption, living beyond our means, dissatisfaction, anger, fear and anxiety for future, greed, avarice and jealousy, or wrong-doing. This is the paradox of our free society: having the freedom to do and say as we please, yet a lack of control or accountability over the consequences of our actions.

How do we balance our individual liberty with personal and societal restraint to promote and protect the good of the individual and our society? And how do we react when the society that we live in imposes constraints on our individual liberty?

Current definition of minimum acceptable liberty includes the definition of Human Rights, for example as codified through the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is enshrined within international and national policies and law. Such law protects the individual’s right to life and liberty, including freedom of holding an opinion and being able to express it. It protects the right to education, work, cultural freedom, well-being, privacy and freedom from enslavement or torture, arbitrary detention, discrimination or religious hatred.

Paradoxically, our freedom of expression, coupled with strong beliefs, often results in some of these enshrined human rights being violated. How can we protect our societal human rights, and yet at the same time offer freedom of expression through times of change, complexity and individual uncertainty, which in itself brings an atmosphere of fear? Uncertain times seem to always lead to fear within society. This leads inevitably to protectionism, and to discrimination and harm to ‘the other’. In these times, love of liberty may become less important than protectionism, and freedom held less sacred. Our recognition of the bonds and responsibilities to our fellow human beings may be inverted into violation of the basis of human rights.

Our understanding of personal liberty depends so much on who’s worldview is being described, and in which society we are applying it. To a ‘conventional’ and structured society, personal liberty may be supported by the rule of Human Rights, but too much personal liberty may appear as anarchy, as stepping outside conventions and rules, and may result in sharp censure of the individual. To a success-oriented highly capitalist society, personal liberty means the freedom to acquire success without boundaries or obstacles, and their ideal society will support and promote their aspirations. However, as we have seen so often, some ‘success stories’ built without due care for societal impacts, often have victims of that ‘success’. To a consensus-based community, personal liberty may cause disruption of the social fabric, placing the individual’s desires above the good of the whole.

In my discourse, I plan to examine the checks and balances of personal liberty in the present, the past and the future. I will explore how the individual’s sense of personal power and freedom must be protected. We will discover how we might apply balanced, foresightful justice through obligation and regulation for the good of the society that we live in.

© Ruth Lewis 2019

Tags:  freedom  right  value 

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Do We Need to Own Things?

Posted By Administration, Friday, January 11, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Tim Morgan publishes his first blog post in our Emerging Fellows program by revisiting the concept of ownership. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

Immediately after the painting “Girl with Balloon” sold at auction for $1.4 million, the painting began slowly destroying itself. A malfunction caused it to stop half-way.

The anonymous artist known only as Banksy had secretly hidden an automated shredder inside the frame. The half-destroyed work is now considered a new piece of art, valued much higher than the original painting. The event is an unlikely but apt metaphor for how automation is redefining ownership.

The Eighteenth Century philosopher Adam Smith described capital as owned property used to produce an economic return. Capitalism’s central feature is that owned things are used to produce exchangeable value, be they a farmer’s vegetables or self-sabotaging paintings. Ownership from a capitalist perspective is control of something used to create enhanced value. In turn, exchanges of ownership are synonymous with exchanges of value. Each side gets something they value more than what they are willing to give in exchange. Centuries of worldwide progress and prosperity rest on ownership as capitalism’s bedrock social organizing principle.

Control determines who can create value from property. Capitalism assumes that control and ownership are inextricably intertwined. Yet Banksy’s auction stunt illustrates how automation is changing the current relationship between ownership and control. Traditionally if you own capital then you also directly or indirectly control it. Banksy subverted that control by using automation to go beyond “I don’t want my art sold” to embedded enforcement of “You can’t sell my art, even if you own it”. Automation enables embedding active governance rules into owned items themselves. Legal scholar Lawrence Lessig describes this as “Code is Law”. Banksy’s embedded painting shredder is analogous to copy protection of digital movies and music files. You own the ability to experience, but not the thing itself.

These embedded automation rules constitute an increasing level of external control over owned things. If ownership equals control, then those who are implementing the automation are increasingly the owners, no matter who holds the receipt. Existing legal frameworks have always considered use as a legal component of ownership, but those institutional frameworks are lagging the breakneck pace of automation. A user can own an AI-enabled smart-speaker appliance like Amazon Echo or Google Home, but those same items become expensive plastic bricks without their backend automated services.

But does this loss of control due to automation extend to productive capital? History shows a progression of ever more abstract relationships between owners and control of productive capital. We went from the concrete control of simple property such as farms and animals, to abstract control via corporate shares and investment funds. Even in the past few decades innovations like millisecond flash-trades and complex financial derivatives make it unclear who owns what at any given time. At each stage the use of capital to create value appears to become more tied to its control than to its ownership.

It is ironic that Banksy’s automated assertion of control over “Girl with Balloon” increased the piece’s value, rather than destroying it as intended. The work has been appropriately renamed “Love Is in the Bin”. The new owner adapted to Banksy’s attempt at automated control. By inadvertently relinquishing a bit of control to unknown automation, the new owner gained more value than they originally purchased.

Love may be in the bin, but for now capital still hangs on the wall.

© Tim Morgan 2019

Tags:  automation  capitalism  value 

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Agency and imagination

Posted By Administration, Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Bridgette Engeler Newbury  shares her thoughts with us about “the empires of mind” in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

The empires of the future are the empires of the mind. ~Winston Churchill

Design and its outputs may reflect our individual and collective imaginations, but design is first and foremost a philosophy, based on a system of values, which seeks to solve problems. What are we creating? Why and for whom? These are questions, in no particular order, to which answers are manifested tangibly and most often in the form of a new product or service or organisational or business model.

Designers are practical agents of visual imagination, both anticipating futures and creating the sensory blueprints for the objects and experiences to come. The images, objects and technologies that surround us are rich with desirable images and symbolism; they’re powerful and persuasive, well-crafted and covetable, and often very well made. Designers can turn abstract futures-oriented concepts and ideals into visible or tangible form. Designers and design thinkers are agents in articulating futures, and therefore have individual and collective agency for humanity more broadly to sense, see and negotiate (or refuse) the transition.

Not all design is good (by any definition). So I’m contemplating what something like long-range design – ‘design with foresight’ – could be. AKA prospective design, it’s what I suggest is design that emerges when futures thinking and design thinking are used together, in a structured manner, to develop an idea that may not exist until sometime in a long-range future, or which will not be to the detriment of preferred futures.

  • Prospective design relies not on technology but on human interaction, deep thought and reflection
  • Prospective design embraces design’s potential to shape conversations, to (re-)frame problems, and to drive participation by understanding the needs and resources of all the differing functions in a consuming world
  • Prospective design is inherently good and not just because it’s always intentional and sociological
  • Prospective design does not produce novelty for the sake of novelty
  • Prospective design makes a product, service or organisation truly useful. Things are purchased, used, adopted and recommended because they serve a purpose and deliver value: value that improves people’s lives and makes them happier. This is the real measurable value people desire. Prospective design optimises the feelings and experiences of customers, while being responsible to community, planet and what is yet to come
  • Prospective design satisfies form and aesthetics, without compromising usage or need. Designed artefacts do not simply fulfil desire or need; they can actualise and reflect wants.
  • The look and feel of something, its materiality and substance, ethereality and intangibility, ephemera and sensation are all part of the feelings it arouses – which are in turn a strategic and integral part of the user’s realisation of value
  • Prospective design helps us to make sense of things. ‘Value’ (as perceived by the user) creates engagement. Good design creates curiosity and engages its audience in meaningful, valuable ways. It also conveys the intentions and trustworthiness of the organisation behind the design and helps people make informed choices
  • Prospective design can be a catalyst or guide, a means for people to create their unique and evolving stories, and their own individual meaning
  • Prospective design is durable and enduring. It increases the value of something over time. It remains relevant as its users, community or culture develops and matures. It may not exert influence or manipulate buyers, but it often takes risks to provoke worthwhile change.

Prospective design is concerned with context and environment. It’s unobtrusive and meaningful, enhancing people’s experience; it’s not about dominating strategic decisions. Prospective design draws together futures thinking with the principles and practices of design to frame a strategic conversation without an elitist position. Design may be part of a complex, living ecosystem, but prospective design can strive to be a positive agent of transformation that contributes to better-being.

Tags:  design  imagination  value 

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Looking at next year’s list

Posted By Administration, Monday, December 29, 2014
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Bridgette Engeler Newbury  shares her thoughts with us about the “future possibilities” in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

It’s that time of year. Celebrations and traditions. Endings and beginnings. Promises and provocations. Reflections and resolutions. And now that the tinsel, incandescent holly and Santa-shaped shortbread are on sale, the flurry of ‘top ten’ lists will appear as quickly as the hot cross buns do (across supermarkets in the UK and Australia at least).

As Jim Carroll says here it’s relatively easy to extrapolate current trends into a ‘Top Ten for 2015’; it’s quite a different matter to look further ahead, as he does to 2025.

Some of those lists will posit that we’re in an era of innovation, entrepreneurship and technology to transform cities, economies and lives. Spurred on by wearables, rapid urbanisation, smart cities and rising popular demand for access to high-quality (and sometimes sustainable) infrastructure, it all leads to seemingly ‘good’ growth that is assumed to follow globally.

So I want to highlight Mashable’s list of notable innovations in 2014.

Few of the innovations that improved the world in 2014 will make onto the top tens for greatness in 2015 or beyond, and only a couple might be considered trend-setters. Why, I wonder? Compare it to a list of tech predictions like this one – just who are the incredible innovations on this list intended for? What worldview or model of subjectivity is inscribed in the scenarios and technologies offered by the developers of such marvellous wearables and other remarkable tech wizardry? And who stands to benefit? When you compare this with the Mashable list, it’s pretty obvious that most espouse a pronounced way of thinking about the world and civil society, with rather limited implications for people, planet and participation.

It is one thing to reinforce the beliefs, value systems and infrastructures that underpin particular ways of life; quite another to expound the importance of technologies that privilege a few when reliable access to electricity, clean drinking water, somewhere safe to sleep or sanitary facilities are not part of everyday life for too many. I’m not denying the need for or value of innovation, invention or experimentation (that Mashable list embraces all of those) but I am questioning the way value and need are prioritised, and by whom, based on what, and the kinds of futures that are being shaped by the infrastructure, innovation and technology these choices deliver.

As Andy Hines notes in his latest blog, maybe we could take some time to explore the ‘why’ of values, not just the ‘what’. Because there’s more to life in 2015 than networked information technology. Lasting change has to come from within, whether it’s individual, community or organisation. It won’t come from an app alone or something we plug in.

Tags:  future  technology  value 

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How Can Corporate Foresight Create Value?

Posted By Administration, Monday, December 15, 2014
Updated: Saturday, February 23, 2019

Alireza Hejazi shares his thoughts with us about “creating value by foresight” in this blog post for our Emerging Fellows program. The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily those of the APF or its other members.

Talking to an architecture company CEO recently, I was confronted with this question: “How can corporate foresight create value in my company?” I wanted to offer a “business-as-usual” response, but I changed my mind by remembering Rohrbeck and Schwarz’s (2013) clear-cut response identifying four faces of value creation through corporate foresight. Basing my response on their view, I told my CEO friend that corporate foresight may create an enhanced capacity to perceive, interpret and respond to change, an enhanced capacity for organizational learning, and more impacts on other actors.

In fact, the philosophy of applying corporate foresight is to reduce the uncertainty by scanning the unknown in the environment. If this is the least and perhaps the most value it can create, then employing corporate foresight is worthy enough to be considered by managers and leaders. I also suggested my CEO pal to form a multi-disciplinary team who might lower the risk of disregarding and misunderstanding the change factors. In this way, his company wouldn’t fall into the traps that might be made by personal biased assumptions about future.

My suggestion for shaping a multi-disciplinary team originated from Gracht and Stillings’ (2013) observation maintaining that interdisciplinary cooperation not only could solve the problem of biases, but also satisfies the future needs of the target customer. In this sense, techniques like scenario planning may sound useful as far as they depict the picture of the future market and introduces new product concepts that might provide new opportunities and development routes for the market and the technology. Corporation decision makers can enrich their short-, medium- and long- term decisions significantly through alternative scenarios or by technology road-mapping.

However, as Rohrbeck and Schwarz admit, the implementation of corporate foresight activities is still limited due to uncertainty in getting desirable outcomes and return on investment and the degree of their value creation for strategic planning. On the other hand, too much focus on current conditions and activities makes the organizations inattentive to small changes that are taking place in the wider environment but impactful in the future.

Rohrbeck and Schwarz’s review of foresight research in the European context reveals that foresight can create value for innovation and strategic management through utilizing appropriate methods in the process of decision-making and strategic planning. Companies who practice foresight in different sectors gradually find out that foresight is a tool of value-creation. It contributes to their survival in the competitive business environment, especially in time of discontinuous change. More importantly, the application of corporate foresight methods can lead to the improvement of organizational responses and thereby improving values in innovation management. This shapes Rohrbeck and Schwarz’s (2013) paradigm that links knowledge creation to value generation.

In my view, if the value of foresight is to influence decision, then foresight practitioners should extend their efforts beyond conventional business decision making to discover alternative methods and analyses that might enrich businesses, organizations and policy makers with new solutions. The simple world of Shell Company and its well-known six scenarios in oil crisis is evolved into a complex world of STEEPV interactions and interpersonal relations where the survival of values is tested every day. Today, value networks are drenched in intangible value exchanges that create their strategic advantage in the market.

Corporate foresight is able to aid companies which create value by connecting clients and customers that prefer to depend on each other. These companies create and distribute tangible and intangible values through networks that are webs of dynamic relationships and exchanges between two or more individuals, groups or organizations. In my view, the success of corporate foresight in the future depends on the contributions that it would make to the development and management of these networks. For such success to happen, effective interpersonal networks must be built on a foundation of expertise, trust and shared understanding. I think that APF is exactly established to build that foundation now and in the future.


References

Rohrbeck, R. & J. O. Schwarz. (2013). The value contribution of strategic foresight: Insights from an empirical study on large European companies. Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 80(8), 1593-1606.

Von der Gracht, H. A., & Stillings, C. (2013). An innovation-focused scenario process: A case from the materials producing industry. Technological Forecasting & Social Change, 80, 599-610.

Tags:  company  foresight  value 

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