Futures Studies – Moving forward in times of uncertainty Stellenbosch Business School Skip to main content
Futures Studies – Moving forward in times of uncertainty
Where the future of your company was once clear

Where the future of your company was once clear, the massive impact of the COVID-19 measures, the crude oil debacle and other global issues may be clouding that vision. Whatever your specific circumstances might be, you are likely wondering how you can plot a path forward in these turbulent times. If this is the case, the Futures Studies field might be of great interest to you.

In his report Futures studies, scenarios, and the “possibility-space” approach, Riel Miller expands upon this in greater detail:

…the emergence of futures studies is closely linked to the growing complexity, diversity and freedom (or indeterminacy) that characterises today’s answers to an equally fundamental question: how might we reproduce daily life in the future?  Futures studies is being pulled by, and to a certain extent helping to propel, an explosion in the plausible – although not necessarily either the probable or desirable – permutations of the ways in which everyday life is reproduced. In terms of how we live our lives, the daily question – what do I do now? – is becoming more open. It is this possibility of a future with greater freedom that calls for the development of more systematic and refined tools for thinking about the future.

But before we get into those tools, there’s another question we need to answer:

What exactly is Futures Studies?

Futures Studies programme is designed to provide you with the skills to more accurately assess how different factors, such as economics, technology and social change, affect the future. With a better understanding of these elements, you can formulate a list of potential futures that lay before you and plan accordingly for each.

In short, while Futures Studies doesn’t allow you to see exactly what the future holds, it does develop the tools you need to better analyse and prepare for the possibilities that lie ahead of you.

What are these tools?

As a developing field with different schools of thought, the answer to this question will depend on who you speak to, or where you study. However, all high-quality Futures Studies programmes focus on teaching frameworks of understanding. For example, how you should approach decision making, or how to better understand the global changes taking place around you. The University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) unpacks this further:

Futures studies, as a scientific discipline, uses multiple frameworks to provide substance to the field. However, as with many other fields, the frameworks that are used may be used in different contexts. In some situations, academics and practitioners may lean towards certain frameworks because of their differing values and views on a theory.

How to make use of these frameworks

Futures studies practitioners recognise that every situation is different, and that a mix of frameworks may be necessary to address any given challenge. That said, regardless of the framework that they use, practitioners will use four methodological stages:

  • a preparation phase
  • a divergent planning session
  • a planning review and scenario development stage
  • a scenario review stage

In addition to these phases, it’s important to consider the following:

  • Have the right questions ready before you begin looking for answers
  • When tackling a problem, understand how additional problems that arise from questioning are related
  • The actual problem to be faced is likely not the problem you are currently addressing (there are conditions that are creating the problems that you need to address)
  • You can shift these conditions through a vision or ideal, or through a new way of doing things
  • You can make new discoveries through , which begins with ideals and specifications, and finishes with a model for excellence
  • Creative stress is necessary to change things. In an organisation, the key players understand the idea that the current direction is not working and progress is necessary to work towards a desirable future
  • There must be buy-in and engagement from all of the key players


Prepare for the future with the University of Stellenbosch Business School

As a field, Futures Studies is still in its infancy. However, our Futures Studies department has been involved in the field since 1974, making us veterans in the field. 2019 marked 21 years of Futures Studies as an academic field of study at USB.

We know that no one can predict the future. However, you can better prepare yourself for it using the right techniques, models and tools to give you insight into trends and patterns.

To learn more about our programme and how it can help you navigate an increasingly complex environment, contact us today. View the different Futures Studies courses available at USB, from a Postgraduate Diploma in Futures Studies to a PhD in Futures Studies.

This would be a good place to link to a resource on “re-creative design”

So I did try to find out what this is and can’t find any references about what it is on Google/Google Scholar. Google Scholar has some references to the term, but doesn’t unpack the definition.

It’s a concept that they refer to in the document here from USB:


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