Skills Course: Judgment under Uncertainty. Decision Support through Foresight Analysis

Decision-making in a volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous world can quickly become a costly and risky endeavor – especially in the realm of foreign and security affairs. To lower risks in decision-making, to widen decision makers’ perspectives and to provide them with policy options, Foresight Analysis is one of the most powerful analytic methods in an analyst’s quiver. Foresight Analysis helps analysts and political advisors to undertake estimative analysis, which involves thinking systematically about the various ways the future is likely to unfold and what is most likely to determine the eventual outcome.

The objective of Foresight Analysis is not to predict the future, but to generate a solid set of scenarios that can bound the range of plausible alternative futures. Foresight Analysis is most useful when a situation is complex and the outcomes too uncertain to trust a single prediction. It has proven highly effective in helping analysts, decision makers, and policymakers contemplate multiple futures, challenge their assumptions, and anticipate surprise developments by identifying “unknown unknowns” – i.e. factors, forces, or players that one did not realize were important or influential before commencing the exercise.

Key learning objectives of the course include:

  • The definition of foresight and how imaginative – but structured – thinking can help analysts and political consultants consider a future they have not experienced and avoid strategic surprise
  • A taxonomy of foresight analytic techniques
  • The cognitive principles underlying five distinct structured analytic techniques:(a) Key Assumption Check,(b) Structured Brainstorming,(c) Multiple Scenarios Generation,(d) Indicators / Indicators Validation,
  • The circumstances or situations when each of the above tools can be appropriately used, along with proper interpretation of the tools’ results.