Activate your Future with the language of futurists-Strategic foresight definitions

What do we mean when we say strategic foresight? 

Understanding how to shape your preferred future starts with learning the language of futurists. Decoding the terminology of foresight is the key to unlocking your future mindset. Prescient offers the following introduction to strategic foresight terms and definitions.

Strategic foresight

  • A range of methods used to anticipate, explore, and plan for alternative futures.
  • Whereas strategic planning implicitly assumes that the future will resemble the past, strategic foresight is grounded in systemic uncertainties. Strategic foresight introduces analytic rigor into assessments of uncertain futures.
  • Explore Prescient’s free strategic foresight resources >



  • The notion of multiple potential futures that we create, not one pre-determined future that awaits us.
  • In the context of strategic foresight work, the future is a conceptual space, rich in possibility, that can be proactively influenced by ideas that we form and decisions that we make in the present.
  • Watch Founder & CEO Amy Zalman demonstrate the value of futures thinking >

Alternative futures


  • A way of organizing futures into Possible, Plausible, Probable, and Preferable futures.
  • Futures are products of three things: patterns that are already unfolding, emergent events for which it is impossible to plan, and decisions that we make today. Informed decision-making about possible, plausible, and probable futures can empower us to shape our preferable future.
  • Learn about the Cone of Plausibility, a tool for mapping alternative futures >

Scenario planning


  • The art of crafting well-researched stories that can help people experience alternative futures.
  • We create scenarios at the intersection of systemic changes, with a specific time horizon and stakeholder in mind. Scenarios help decision makers empathize with future stakeholders, discuss the risks and opportunities that different futures may hold, and explore strategies to adapt or leverage opportunities.
  • Read about different drivers of change that may affect your workforce scenarios >

Signals of change


  • Early indicators of change in an external environment.
  • By scanning for weak and strong signals of change, we can recognize potential opportunities and avoid potential disasters. This process can help organizations make strategic pivots and sage investments before their competitors.
  • Read why identifying weak signals is vital for strategic foresight >



  • Historical patterns of change in events over time.
  • A stable trend in an upward or downward direction is one instrument that analysts use to attempt to predict future events. However, futurists take other contextual factors into account to determine how reliable forecasting based on a trend may be. Prescient considers the rate of change in that trend, the drivers or factors of change, and other contextual information.
  • Dive into Prescient’s research on important trends to consider in your long-term plans >

Drivers of change