The value of experiments in futures and foresight science as illustrated by the case of scenario planning

James Derbyshire*, Ian Belton, Mandeep Dhami, Dilek Onkal

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

An already pressing need to evidence the effectiveness of futures and foresight tools has been further amplified by the coronavirus pandemic, which highlighted more mainstream tools’ difficulty with uncertainty. In light of this, the recent discussion in this journal on providing futures and foresight science with a stronger scientific basis is welcome. In this discussion critical realism has been proffered as a useful philosophical foundation and experiments a useful method for improving this field’s scientific basis. Yet, experiments seek to isolate specific causal effects through closure (i.e., by controlling for all extraneous factors) and this may cause it to jar with critical realism’s emphasis on uncertainty and openness. We therefore extend the recent discussion on improving the scientific basis of futures and foresight science by doing three things. Firstly, we elaborate on critical realism and why the experimental method may jar with it. Secondly, we explain why the distinction between a conceptual and a direct replication can help overcome this jarring, meaning experiments can still be a valuable research tool for a futures and foresight science underpinned by critical realism. Thirdly, we consider the appropriate unit of analysis for experiments on futures and foresight tools. In so doing, we situate the recent discussion on improving the scientific basis of futures and foresight science within the much longer running one on improving the scientific basis of business, management and strategy research more broadly. We use the case of scenario planning to illustrate our argument in relation to futures and foresight science.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFutures & Foresight Science
Early online date25 Nov 2022
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 25 Nov 2022

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