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Article
Publication date: 10 December 2018

Kent Thorén and Martin Vendel

Backcasting helps managers involve and align the organization throughout a strategy process. Its core idea is creating a logical path from a depicted future back to the…

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Abstract

Purpose

Backcasting helps managers involve and align the organization throughout a strategy process. Its core idea is creating a logical path from a depicted future back to the present, to share, analyze and manage strategic challenges. Still its use in strategic management is under-researched. The purpose of this paper is to verify the relevance and validity of backcasting as a strategic management tool. It also analyzes and structures knowledge about backcasting and its practical application in strategic management.

Design/methodology/approach

This paper employs desktop research method to outline the benefits and limitations of backcasting for strategy formation under VUCA conditions.

Findings

Backcasting can help organizations overcome cognitive barriers and broaden the scope of options when analyzing future positions. The research provides insights regarding the potential and limitations of backcasting when addressing uncertainty and its drivers. For instance, it helps managers to assess and align visions; increase the understanding and clarity regarding complex dependencies; as well as improve strategic agility.

Practical implications

Backcasting is exceptionally useful for investigating possible futures and alternative paths to it. Backcasting is an interactive workshop-based method that challenges prevailing mindsets by assuming we are in the future, looking back towards today to find a feasible path when major transitions are necessary. With it, managers can deal with even the most uncertain decisions in a structured manner.

Originality/value

Backcasting for many reasons has a great potential as a tool for strategy development. It has been successfully applied in other fields but only to a limited extent in business. This paper formally examines its applicability in this context and demonstrates its relevance for dealing with VUCA challenges.

Details

Journal of Strategy and Management, vol. 12 no. 2
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1755-425X

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Article
Publication date: 11 September 2020

Annukka Näyhä

In Finland, new forest-based sector (FBS) businesses are seen as important for the transition to the circular bioeconomy. The purpose of this study is to explore the…

Abstract

Purpose

In Finland, new forest-based sector (FBS) businesses are seen as important for the transition to the circular bioeconomy. The purpose of this study is to explore the transition of Finnish FBS companies to new business models. The aim is to understand how FBS companies define their ideal future states and related business models for the year 2030.

Design/methodology/approach

This study uses thematic interviews with managers from various FBS firms and companies from interfacing sectors. In the interviews, the key idea of backcasting was pursued when respondents discussed the desirable future states of their business.

Findings

The effort to achieve growth of the business and the appearance of new products characterize the company-specific desirable future states. In these desirable futures, expanded businesses will be based on strong knowledge. Resource efficiency and collaboration create a strong basis for the desirable future state of the whole FBS to create a sustainable and innovative “Wood Valley.”

Research limitations/implications

The key limitations are that the backcasting process has been conducted only through interviews and a participative approach with stakeholder dialogue is lacking in the process. This means that the desirable futures are created by the FBS companies only.

Originality/value

As a practical contribution, the study shows the future-oriented thinking and goals of FBS firms. As a theoretical contribution, it extends research on sustainable business models and discussions on the novel field of corporate foresight.

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Article
Publication date: 3 August 2015

Keith Jones, Api Desai, Mark Mulville and Aled Jones

The purpose of this paper is to present an alternative approach to facilities and built asset management adaptation planning to climate change based on a hybrid backcasting

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present an alternative approach to facilities and built asset management adaptation planning to climate change based on a hybrid backcasting/forecasting model. Backcasting envisions a future state and examines alternative “pathways of approach” by looking backwards from the future state to the present day. Each pathway is examined in turn to identify interventions required for that pathway to achieve the future state. Each pathway is reviewed using forecasting tools and the most appropriate is selected. This paper describes the application of this approach to the integration of climate change adaptation plans into facilities and built asset management.

Design/methodology/approach

The researchers worked with various stakeholders as part of a participatory research team to identify climate change adaptations that may be required to ensure the continued performance of a new educational building over its life cycle. The team identified 2020, 2040 and 2080 year end-goals and assessed alternative pathways of approach. The most appropriate pathways were integrated into the facilities and built asset management plan.

Findings

The paper outlines a conceptual framework for formulating long term facilities and built asset management strategies to address adaptation to climate change.

Research limitations/implications

The conceptual framework is validated by a single research case study, and further examples are needed to ensure validity of the approach in different facilities management contexts.

Originality/value

This is the first paper to explore backcasting principles as part of facilities and built asset management planning.

Details

Facilities, vol. 33 no. 11/12
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 0263-2772

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Article
Publication date: 20 July 2012

Sirkka Heinonen and Ville Lauttamäki

The objective of this paper is to present an example on how futures studies methodologies, especially backcasting, can be used to assist public policy formulation

Abstract

Purpose

The objective of this paper is to present an example on how futures studies methodologies, especially backcasting, can be used to assist public policy formulation. Backcasting is particularly interesting method in this context, since it allows the key characteristics concerning the state of the future to be fixed according to the goals policymakers have set to achieve.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper is a case study presenting the goals, progression and the results of the backcasting exercise of the Finnish Prime Minister's Office.

Findings

The backcasting methodology, as applied in the exercise presented in this paper, is a useful tool in public policy formulation. It is important to note, however, that in the way the exercise was carried out in this case, it is only possible to view future development through qualitative arguments. The key element for successful application of the method is the choice of expert group that produces the information.

Originality/value

Even though backcasting seems to be very well suited for discussing and designing alternative ways of achieving predetermined policy goals, experiences of using this methodology in the policy context are quite rare in the scientific literature. This paper addresses this deficiency and presents experiences of one such case. These experiences should be of interest to those involved in long‐range strategy planning.

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Article
Publication date: 13 February 2009

Artie Ng

This paper aims to explore the use of backcasting approach in dealing with the indeterminate future performance of the emerging renewable energy sector, based on the case…

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963

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to explore the use of backcasting approach in dealing with the indeterminate future performance of the emerging renewable energy sector, based on the case of China. Through backcasting analysis of the emerging sector under uncertainties and concerns of the stakeholders, it acknowledges a range of hurdles ingrained in the current energy system and issues related to technology management within the Chinese context.

Design/methodology/approach

This is a conceptual paper with integration of relevant contemporary knowledge.

Findings

This study points out the challenges in plausible developments for the renewable energy sector harnessing such approach. Particularly, the pursuit of end‐points under a multitude of optima can be associated with goal‐seeking embedded in backcasting for sustainable developments, whereas economic and technological constraints inherent to the processes of technological innovation in the cultural environment are recognized. Formulating an integrative framework, this study suggests the relevance of the approach of backcasting to augment dynamic policy analysis and planning for plausible developments in time, and to consequently optimize resource allocation in the renewal of necessary technological infrastructure.

Originality/value

This paper structurally reveals critical issues in the development of an emerging technology sector of growing importance and the pertinent implications to policy making in China for sustainable development given the underlying quantitative and qualitative constraints.

Details

Journal of Technology Management in China, vol. 4 no. 1
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1746-8779

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Article
Publication date: 30 July 2019

Rob Aitken, Leah Watkins and Sophie Kemp

The purpose of this study is to understand what a sustainable future would look like and the nature of the changes needed to achieve it. Continued reliance on economic…

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this study is to understand what a sustainable future would look like and the nature of the changes needed to achieve it. Continued reliance on economic growth to meet the demands of a growing population is unsustainable and comes at an unacceptable social and environmental cost. Given these increasing demands, radical changes to present practices of production and consumption are needed to enable a sustainable future.

Design/methodology/approach

To address this the projective technique of backcasting was used in a pilot study to explore student visions of a sustainable future. An integrative framework comprising housing, clothing, travel, leisure and food provided the structure for six focus group discussions.

Findings

Thematic analysis identified three key characteristics of a sustainable consumption future, namely, efficiency, sharing and community and three critical elements, namely, the role of government, education and technology, necessary for its achievement.

Research limitations/implications

Demonstrating the usefulness of backcasting will encourage its application in a wider range of consumption contexts with a broader range of participants. The vision of a sustainable future provides a blueprint that identifies its nature, and the basis upon which decisions to achieve it can be made.

Originality/value

The research introduces the technique of backcasting and demonstrates its usefulness when dealing with complex problems, where there is a need for radical change and when the status quo is not sustainable. Unexpectedly, results suggest a commitment to prosocial values, collaborative experience, collective action and the importance of community. Research and social implications demonstrating the usefulness of backcasting will encourage its application in a wider range of consumption contexts with a broader range of participants. The vision of a sustainable future provides a blueprint that identifies its nature, and the basis upon which decisions to achieve it can be made.

Details

Young Consumers, vol. 20 no. 4
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1747-3616

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Abstract

Details

Building Blocks for Sustainable Transport
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-0-85-724516-8

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Book part
Publication date: 22 October 2016

Gábor Király, Zsuzsanna Géring, Alexandra Köves, Sára Csillag and Gergely Kováts

The chapter aims to reflectively discuss a participatory research project concerning the future of higher education in Hungary. This project can be understood as an…

Abstract

The chapter aims to reflectively discuss a participatory research project concerning the future of higher education in Hungary. This project can be understood as an ongoing methodological experiment which attempts to engage teachers and students, in order to reveal how key stakeholders think about the future of higher education. In line with this, this methodologically oriented chapter shows how different participatory methodologies can be combined in a so-called backcasting framework. This approach starts by describing the present situation, then moves beyond the present conditions so as to identify the cornerstones of an ideal future state. On the one hand, the chapter gives a detailed introduction to how our participatory research process was set up and what particular methodologies we used during this process. On the other hand, it critically reflects on the methodological and ethical challenges involved.

Details

Theory and Method in Higher Education Research
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78635-895-0

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Article
Publication date: 12 September 2016

Olivia Bina and Andrea Ricci

Drawing on a EU-funded research project on urbanisation in China and Europe (URBACHINA), the purpose of this inquiry is to explore the potential of foresight – through…

Abstract

Purpose

Drawing on a EU-funded research project on urbanisation in China and Europe (URBACHINA), the purpose of this inquiry is to explore the potential of foresight – through visionary scenarios and related participatory processes – in promoting learning and sustainable futures in China’s centrally planned context. Our research explores the use of backcasting, of Donella Meadows’ “levers” and Paul Raskin’s “proximate-ultimate drivers” and of archetypal worldviews to further our understanding of how we think about the future, and of the tension between transition scenarios and transformative, paradigmatic or deep change.

Design/methodology/approach

A review of recent foresight studies and literature provides an overview of the latest approaches: in particular the methods, scope, process, level of participation, themes discussed and wild cards considered. Building on this, the inquiry designs and implements a participatory, normative and qualitative scenario building to explore sustainable urban futures for China, adapting the elements of Joseph Voros’ basic foresight process to include a total of nine steps, with five workshops, two international surveys, an adapted backcasting step and internal consistency mechanisms.

Findings

The combination of a participatory iterative process with normative approaches to envisioning, helped question assumptions and deeply ingrained development models, as well as the narrow space for “alternatives” resulting from China’s centralised, top-down planning and decision-making. The experience confirms the power of scenario/storyline building in helping reflect and question strategic policy choices and enrich urban policy debates. The process successfully proposed a number of steps that ensured triangulation of the envisioning outcomes and additional learning also through backcasting. Finally, the research shows a clear link between the development of scenarios space, the debate on transition and transformative futures and archetypal worldviews, which were shown to be stable even after decades.

Originality/value

The URBACHINA approach to the specific challenge of sustainable urbanisation in China applies a strong normative component combined to more locally accepted exploratory methods and introduces a participatory approach to all key stages of scenario building. This represents an innovative contribution to the country’s foresight practice and the results help Chinese decision makers to reflect on the wider sustainability implications of their urban strategy. The inquiry deepens our understanding of the use of proximate and ultimate drivers of change and of the tension between transition and transformation pathways to our future.

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Article
Publication date: 6 August 2021

James P. Kahan

This paper aims to present “Bouncecasting,” a seminar gaming foresight approach useful for examining “wicked problems” where the path to the future is uncertain and…

Abstract

Purpose

This paper aims to present “Bouncecasting,” a seminar gaming foresight approach useful for examining “wicked problems” where the path to the future is uncertain and malleable and where major stakeholders may have different preferences for different futures. The approach gets its name because it goes back and forth between forecasting and backcasting, provides for give and take among different groups of stakeholders and creates and compares multiple scenarios depicting plausible futures.

Design/methodology/approach

After defining Bouncecasting, presenting its main features and providing a recommended way of conducting Bouncecasting studies, the approach is illustrated by four Bouncecasting projects conducted between 1998 and 2004.

Findings

The four projects taken together show that Bouncecasting can be used to address a range of wicked problems in a practical way. The projects considered in sequence show the evolution of the method.

Originality/value

Bouncecasting is a way of doing foresight that examines in an integrated way multiple characteristics of a policy problem, thereby providing promising solutions for complex issues. Although there have been over a dozen Bouncecasting studies conducted by the author and different sets of colleagues, this is the first general description of the approach.

Details

foresight, vol. 23 no. 6
Type: Research Article
ISSN: 1463-6689

Keywords

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