Category: Basics

When Risk Management Meets Strategic Foresight and Warning

Risk management, codified by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO), allows since 2009 for an almost perfect correspondence with the ideal-type process of strategic foresight and warning (SF&W), as we use here, even though SF&W was developed mainly out of public service – notably intelligence and defense – practice and experience, and with international and national security issues in mind.

CIA NYSE scThe new risk management process thus lays the foundation for easily incorporating geopolitical and other national and international security issues within risks usually managed by businesses, and should facilitate discussions and exchanges between the corporate world and the public sector, including in terms of data, information, and analysis, according to the specificities and strength of each.

We shall here detail the risk management process, Continue reading When Risk Management Meets Strategic Foresight and Warning

Intelligence, Strategic Foresight and Warning, Risk Management, Forecasting or Futurism?

Our focus is usually strategic foresight and warning (SF&W) for national security, the latter being understood in terms of traditional and non-traditional security issues, or, to use a military approach, in terms of conventional and unconventional security.[1] Building upon Fingar, Davis, Grabo and Knight, we define it as “an organized and systematic process to reduce uncertainty regarding the future that aims at allowing policy-makers and decision-makers to take decisions with sufficient lead time to see those decisions implemented at best.”

Broadly speaking, it is part of the field of anticipation – or approaches to the future, which also includes other perspectives and practices centered on other themes. Continue reading Intelligence, Strategic Foresight and Warning, Risk Management, Forecasting or Futurism?

Taleb’s Black Swans: The End of Foresight?

Meteorids and Earth, Taleb, Black Swan Events, Black SwansSince Nassim Nicholas Taleb published his bestseller The Black Swan: the impact of the highly improbable back in 2007, “Black Swans” and “Black Swans events” have become part of everyday language. They are used as a catchphrase to mean two different things. First, as was the case recently in the Brookings interesting interactive “briefing book” Big Bets and Black Swans: Foreign Policy Challenges for President Obama’s Second Term, “black swans” represent high impact, low probability events, what is also known as wild cards.[i] Second, “black swans” refer to events that could absolutely not be predicted, as, for example for the Economist in ”The prediction games: Our winners and losers from last year’s edition”. Unfortunately, in this case, the label “black swans” excuses foresight errors. It tends to stop explanations and evaluation. Similarly, some will make statements along the line of “oh, but there is no point to do any foresight (or futures work or forecast), did you not read Taleb’s Black Swan? One cannot predict or foresee anything.”

This is a rather crucial assertion for us and it needs to be investigated. Continue reading Taleb’s Black Swans: The End of Foresight?

Visualising the Steps to Foresee the Future and Get Ready for It

The architecture of the Red (Team) Analysis Society website is built following this process. Each section strives progressively to address the various challenges that are met at each step, to explain and apply various possible methodologies and tools, and finally to deliver real-life strategic foresight and warning products.

Foresight, warning, process, strategic foresight and warning

This graphic description of a step by step process to anticipate the future in an actionable way is grounded in more than a decade of work with and about systems of anticipation, from early warning systems to prevent conflicts for aid agencies to strategic warning and strategic foresight with security and intelligence agencies and practitioners, in research for commissioned reports and teaching on the topic, as well as on more than twenty years experience in the field, in central administration and in research in war, international relations, political science, analysis and policy planning.

See also:


Featured image: Stanley Kubrick exhibit at EYE Filminstitut Netherlands, Amsterdam – The War Room (Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb)- By Marcel Oosterwijk from Amsterdam, The Netherlands [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

SF&W issues

What is an Issue in terms of Strategic Foresight & Warning or Horizon Scanning?

An issue, in terms of warning and by extension SF&W, is “a situation, an objective, an opportunity, a danger, a threat or a risk, which is specific and defined.” (Grabo, 2004)

For example, SF&W issues can be international wars, fragile states, instability, energy security, oil, economic crisis, new opposition nexus, global water security, etc.

An issue can be explored through foresight. During the warning process, it will be monitored, usually thanks to indicators based on models. The analyst will assess its potential developments (obtain a judgment on the future).

Monitoring issues will allow for the identification of warning problems, which will then be surveilled through adequate models and related indicators. If we use the example of energy as meta-issue, then issues could be “oil security,” “peak oil,” “peak uranium,” “the volatility of oil prices,” “coal security,” “the politics of energy between Europe and Russia,” and problems the more specific “Gasprom policies,” “the Keystone pipeline,” etc… If we look at resources as meta-issue, then deep-sea resources security is one of the issues.

Both monitoring and surveillance lead the collection of necessary information, as defined by the model and related indicators.


Grabo, Cynthia M., Anticipating Surprise: Analysis for Strategic Warning, edited by Jan Goldman, (Lanham MD: University Press of America, May 2004).

Strategic Foresight & Warning Analysis

See below for list of articles in this section.

Strategic Foresight and Warning (SF&W) is at once process and analysis.

By SF&W analysis we mean all methodologies and related issues allowing for the development of an understanding grounded in reality that will generate best anticipatory products, useful to decision-makers and policy-makers for carrying out their mission.

The larger SF&W analytical method can be seen as following the following steps, with use of various methodologies and related challenges for each step:

Strategic Foresight and Warning analytical methodology, foresight analysis, scenariosAn example of what is involved in step 1 is given here with the bibliography and links on the one hand, with the Red (Team) Analysis Weekly on the other. A more detailed discussion of step 1 and 6 can be found in the section scan & monitor.

The second (Creating the model I & II) and third steps (Determining criteriaVariables, values and consistency in dynamic networks and finally Using ego networks in foresight analysis) of the foresight part of the method are developed with the use of The Chronicles of Everstate as example. Those steps are also addressed in the series “Assessing future security threats“.

Part of the content of steps 2 and 3 may move from one to the other step. If fully dynamic networks with precise timeline and Bayesian networks were constructed, then the first part of step 3 (identify values, timeline and probabilities) would be included in step 2. Here it is part of step 3.

The monitoring part of step 6 is done for various issues through The Sigils, as well as through The Weekly. These real life indications allow checking the validity of the scenario, and updating the model used for each issue, as done, for example, in the section on end of year predictions. They also allow identifying new emerging issues ( the feedback on step 1).

List of articles