The Innovation Systems Company

The Diamond

About Futures Diamond: The Framework

The Futures Diamond is a practical framework including 44 methods commonly used in strategic foresight and decision-making. It updates the Foresight Diamond developed by Popper in The Handbook of Technology Foresight (Georghiou et al., 2008). The spatial location in the "Diamond" is done in terms of the core type of knowledge source each method is mainly based upon (see figure below). There are three font styles in the Diamond which indicate the type of technique: qualitative (using normal style), semi-quantitative (using strong style), and quantitative (using italic style). Arguably, a forward-looking research and innovation process should try to use at least one method from each pole. Exactly how methods are located will be to some extent contingent on particular forms of use.

A tool aimed to support short-to-long-term strategic decision-making

With regards to the type of tools and knowledge sources (based on creativity, expertise, interaction or evidence) it is important to emphasise that these domains are not fully independent from one another. However, it is helpful to consider characteristics that can be assigned to each of them, as indicated below:

  • Creativity-based methods normally require a mixture of original and imaginative thinking, often provided by technology “gurus”, via genius forecasting, backcasting or essays. These methods rely heavily on (a) the inventiveness and ingenuity of very skilled individuals, such as science fiction writers or (b) the inspiration which emerges from groups of people involved in brainstorming or wild cards sessions. As Albert Einstein once stated: “The only real valuable thing is intuition … Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world” (Einstein as noted by Viereck, 1929).
  • Expertise-based methods rely on the skill and knowledge of individuals in a particular area or subject. These methods are frequently used to support top-down decisions, provide advice and make recommendations. Common examples are expert panels and Delphi, but methods like roadmapping, relevance trees, logic charts, morphological analysis, key technologies and SMIC are essentially based on expertise. A warning note about expertise is sounded by Arthur C. Clarke (1962, p. 14): “If an elderly but distinguished scientist says that something is possible, he is almost certainly right, but if he says that it is impossible, he is very probably wrong”.
  • Interaction-based methods feature in foresight for at least two reasons – one is that expertise often gains considerably from being brought together and challenged to articulate with other expertise (and indeed with the views of non-expert stakeholders); the other is that foresight activities are taking place in societies where democratic ideals are widespread, and legitimacy involves “bottom-up”, participatory and inclusive activities, not just reliance on evidence and experts (which are liable to be used selectively!). Scenario workshops, voting and polling are among the most widely used methods here; of course these often require some sort of expertise to apply the method and inform the interactions. Other methods like citizen panels and stakeholder analysis are becoming popular because of their potential contribution to further networking activities. But it is not always easy to encourage participation and the anonymous saying accurately states that “the world is ruled by those who show up”.
  • Evidence-based methods attempt to explain and/or forecast a particular phenomenon with the support of reliable documentation and means of analysis. These activities are particularly helpful for understanding the actual state of development of the research issue. For this reason, quantitative methods (e.g. benchmarking, bibliometrics, data mining and indicators work) have become popular given that they are supported by statistical data or other types of indicator. They are fundamental tools for technology and impact assessment and scanning activities (see Porter et al., 1980). These methods can also be employed to stimulate creativity (sometimes by challenging received wisdom). And while supporting workshops, evidence-based information is quite useful to encourage interaction and getting feedback from participants. A word of warning here, for both practitioners and users, may be the well-known quote attributed to Benjamin Disraeli by Mark Twain (1924): “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics” – which basically points out that sometimes statistics are used to mislead the public.

About Futures Diamond: The Innovation Systems Company

In Futures Diamond we apply the "Futures Diamond Framework" to provide state-of-the-art technologies and systems for Foresight & Horizon Scanning (FHS) processes. Read more about us