Map of levels of complexity
and indetermination for
foresight studies
Javier Medina Vásquez
Full Professor, Universidad del Valle
Head of the National Program on
Technological and Industrial Foresight
Colciencias – Colombia
“Second International Seville Seminar on
Future-Oriented Technology Analysis (FTA):
Impact on Policy and Decision-Making”.
IPTS, Seville (Spain) , 28-29 September, 2006
Agenda: Learning and
Analytical Perspectives
Technology Futures Analysis
Epistemological
Onthological
Praxilogical
Axiological
Cfr. Bedard, 1998
1.Cognitive preparation to continually plan a changing society
Figure 1 Relationship Between Change and Learning
Source: Boisot, 1996.
Cognitition and Learning

The cognitive processes involved in the strategic decision are similar to those
involved in chess.

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Life like chess is an open ended game,
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where the dinamicity of the environment forces the rethinking of strategy move after
move. Embarking upon this constant feedback demands tools and attitudes,
methodologies and manners of work to manage this double quality of facing a game of
multiple options and continuous transformations.
Learning to create sense implies the capacity to think in terms of alternative
futures


According to famous world champion Gary Kasparov (2005), after only three openning
moves, there are more than nine-million possible positions. With this information, it is
necessary to imagine all the possibilities or possible futures faced by an organization in
real life, which respond to hundreds of variables, dozens of social players and multiple
tendency combinations, change factors, events, and players.
through the method of scenarios, but also the capacity of conducting a constant follow
up of the environment through technological watch and competitive intelligence
A turbulent environment demands greater capacity for dynamic analysis of social
change

and to modify, in real time, underlying suppositions that guide the institutional
direction. This exercise represents an important collective effort to practice planning
as a permanent learning process.
2. Epistemological: Map of Relationships
between complexity and indetermination
W ork Space
A mb ig uity
U nc e rta inty
R is k
C e rta inty
Source: Author´s elaboration
Fundamental Principles
Level 1
Level 2
Level 3
Level 4
Basic concept
Certainty
Risk
Uncertainty
Ambiguity
Orientation
toward the
future
Prediction
Forecast
Foresight
Complex Thought
Type of social
change
Short
Medium
Long
Crisis, chaos,
ruptures abrupt,
explosive situations
Type of
behavior
Routine
Adaptation &
Incremental
change
Transition &
long term
change
Exploration
Methods
Monitoring and
scanning of the
environment
Analysis of
tendencies and
quantitative
scenarios
Expert
consultation,
qualitative
scenarios
Simulation & nonlinear modeling,
Creativity
Source: Medina and Ortegón (2006).
3. Praxilogical:
On the TFA tool box

The construction of an integral tool box based on the concept of
levels of complexity and indetermination introduces the following
advantages:
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It facilitates understanding the technical dimension of problems and the
construction of more adequate methodological solutions.
It offers a common structure of concepts and theoretical frameworks on
the validity of the predictions, forecasts, and diffuse wagers made on the
future, from which multiple methodological design strategies can be
elaborated.
It facilitates the explanation of the ways in which current tools of
foresight and systematic analysis should be used and combined.
It discusses some voids in which new tools should be developed to solve
problems in the greater levels of uncertainty.
It offers a conceptual structure that facilitates gathering and systemizing
cases in the formulation of strategies by level of complexity and
indetermination.
It stimulates the development of new skills to face growing levels of
indetermination and ambiguity.
4. The axiological dimension :
Management of foresight knowledge
Source: Medina and Ortegón (2006)
Planning as a learning process
Co- Evolution
Planning
Tools
Strategy
Scenarios
Technological
Watch
Organizational
Culture
Monitoring of the Environment
Disposition to Change
Source: Medina and Ortegón (2006).
5. The ontological dimension
Continuous cycle of foresight
aimed at social construction
PERM ANENT CYCLE
A P R O P IA T I O N
A N T IC IP A T IO N
A C T IO N
L E A R N IN G
Source: Medina, 2000.
Complementation between anticipation
and construction of futures
T
Anticipation
Construction of Futures
Focal
point
Exploration of alternatives of
possible, probable, and
desirable futures
Development of collective
intelligence and social, technical,
and political capacities
Purpose
Observe and understand
change occurring and
structural evolution
Development of permanent
response and collective action
capacities in foresight and
technological watch
Focus
Clarify current decisions and
actions
Improve social dialogue and
collective learning
Mechanis
ms
Development of Methods and
Processes
Development of Methods,
Processes, Living Systems
Source: Medina and Ortegón (2006).
Conclusions

On the limits of prediction

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Abandoning the illusion of neo-classic foresight on the prediction of
future events with total certainty is important to make better
decisions in ever-changing environments.
Work criteria

Choosing the tools and the way of combining them varies
depending on at least four fundamental elements:

The level of complexity and indetermination.
The scientific paradigm that validates the statements made about the
future.
Characteristics of the structure of the problem under study; and
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The cultural context where the exercise is conducted.
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Conclusions
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Foresight as construction of futures
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In this manner, foresight, understood as the construction of
futures, broadens its functions and utility with relation to foresight
understood merely as anticipation. Basically, the the educational
and organizational function is added, stemming from the
sociocultural dimension.
TFAs are not a mere tool box!

They are an instrument for the social construction of futures,
under the ethical principles of responsibility, agreement, and
caution (Porter, 2005). They are the tip of the iceberg of a way of
thinking and living oriented toward the construction of a better
future.
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