I am becoming a follower of the learning by doing approach. In a past life, I believed I learned best by reading and reflecting. If I wanted to see a practical example, I would try it in practice at work (or more realistically, I'd inflict it on my staff), or I would seek out an example sourced from an internet search. It never occurred to me to ask my teachers for a case study or an example - as far as I can remember anyway. I always thought that it was my job to work out how to use the process. Now when I do a presentation or work with small groups doing training in foresight methods, I am usually asked for a case study or an example. I usually resist, and then the people in the room resist back. The last time this happened, their resistance was strong and one person said something like well, in my MBA classes, we work through case studies and it's a good way to learn. I replied with something like the MBA is a different beast to foresight and what works there doesn't necessarily automatically apply here. She left the class early, so she might not have appreciated that dismissal of her viewpoint! Another time I was berated by a senior bank official for not providing examples because that, she asserted with much confidence, was how adults learned. Hmmm.
On the one hand, MBA case studies seem to assume that using an example from 'real life' will give you an approach to use in practice. This assumes there's a single right way to do something in particular contexts; it assumes there's a high degree of certainty in what actions should be chosen and what outcomes will then result. And perhaps because the MBA is about doing business today this may be true.
On the other hand, using foresight is about engaging with such uncertainty that it usually produces those wicked strategic problems that have no easy answers, arising from contexts that may never have happened before. There is no rule book for unique situations - what was reasonable before is no longer reasonable or useful when you are facing the unknown. I teach foresight processes and ask people with me in the room to think about how they can apply those processes in their organisational contexts. People seem not to like this. They want a template, a set of heuristics that they can use 'off the shelf'. They want to skip the thinking step.
Learning to use foresight needs application in practice. No doubt I believe that because it's how I learned about foresight, how to design processes that were effective, how to talk to people about it, how to communicate outcomes, how to present a case for the value of using foresight in strategic processes. Every organisation I've worked with has received a tailored approach to some degree; I don't think I've done the same exact foresight process ever. And I'm still learning - there's no best practice guidelines that can just be applied in every case.
It's not the foresight process that matters in the long run. It's what people in the organisation do with it. It's how you design the process to gain commitment to using it, to encourage many and deep strategic conversations, to challenge now unhelpful assumptions about work and organisations in the future, and to move strategy development beyond conventional to futures infused that matters. Only you can do that based on your knowledge of your organisation today. It's why external consultants come in and run a process and it doesn't work. Now I know that very serious business schools have built their curriculum around case studies but foresight is not just about business. It's about new ways of thinking about the future that are more than copying the present or locking thinking into pre-defined parameters.
I look forward to the day when someone comes to me and says: I've been learning about foresight, I think it will be valuable in our organisation for these reasons. These are our strategic issues, this is our context, and here's the process I've designed. What do you think? That will be a sign that foresight is being treated seriously in organisations.