There is a variety of methods that can be used in Foresight, each producing different results. The underling ideas of choosing which method, or methods to use was described earlier but the precise choice of the appropriate combination of methods will always be a matter of judgment based on the particular context and nature of the issue being examined. It is important to emphasise that no one method is a panacea. Each method is best suited to certain specific objectives, context, resources, culture and the mind-set of the team and participants, and will prove inadequate if these conditions are not met. This guide enumerates some of the core ideas but it is highly recommendable to exchange views with experienced Foresight practitioners.
Ability to Perform
Although the suitability of a method to the task should always be the primary selection criterion, in practice it will never be the only one. There are a number of practical considerations to be taken into account when actually choosing the methods you will be using.
Build on existing material
A sound ‘common-sense’ approach can replace a more formal and resource-consuming method if a lot of material is already available; So, for instance, when there are a number of studies on the competitiveness of a sector, a sectoral Foresight exercise will not necessarily have to carry out a SWOT analysis from scratch to fulfil the diagnosis function.
Mind the cost
The cost of the various methods is widely differing. Therefore availability of resources should be carefully taken into account when selecting a method. It is dangerous to choose a method without having the adequate resources as the outcome is very likely to be little satisfying. Rather select a less sophisticated tool that you can handle well within the existing limits! You will find hints on the resource intensity in the description of each method.
Mind participants’ availability
Some methods rely heavily on the participation of some key actors (e.g. expert panels), specific experts (e.g. roadmaps) or a wide range of societal groups (e.g. citizens’ workshops) or even a large number of participants (e.g. surveys). It is not always easy to secure the adequate level of participation for any method. Therefore, before you chose a method it is advisable to carefully check whether you will be able to engage the participants as needed.
Mind the time
The implementation of every Foresight method takes its time! However, some methods are particularly time consuming. Therefore, when selecting the method you should keep in mind the timeframe of the exercise. So, for instance, you should consider when the first results are expected, and check whether you can meet these expectations with the selected method. Also it is vital to check whether you can finish the exercise within the planned timescales.
Mind the skills
Each method needs certain competencies to be implemented. So, for instance, a scenario approach needs skilled facilitators and creative scenario writers while an online survey requires programmers and an understanding of statistics. Before you embark on a method make sure you either have these skills in the team or the possibility to recruit them.
Meet the needs of the sponsor – but wisely
In some cases sponsors of a Foresight exercise have a certain method in mind that they want the exercise to use, often because they have heard of a successfully application somewhere else. While this should be certainly taken into account it is vital not to rely on the sponsor alone. The process should not be driven by the desire to use one or another method just because they are fashionable or because the sponsor has a positive image of them. Sponsors do not necessarily have an in-depth knowledge of the specific advantages and drawbacks of each method.