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Business Futures now available electronically
Dated: Thursday, August 31, 2017
​As the flagship publication of the Institute for Futures Research (IFR), Business Futures is a useful reference for the latest developments in the field of futures. Launched in 1976, this publication was already a forerunner in this field back then. 
In the article titled Measuring and making the future: The contribution of the IFR to strategic thinking in South Africa, Prof Phillip Spies explains how this publication came to be and how it assisted in shaping the future focus of the IFR.  “The Unit of Futures Research (UFR) published its first strategic overview of the South African business environment in 1976 entitled A review of some long-term trends in South Africa (Van Wyk, 1976). This publication was a synthesis of some 27 bulletins and newsletters, which the UFR collated, researched and published in the two years after its establishment. These documents were distributed as an exclusive service to ‘Associates’, which were the South African companies and institutions who supported the UFR research programme.

“This type of exclusive service to Associates – which consisted of reviews of multiple perspectives followed by a general synthesis of the reviews – is still the current practice at the Institute for Futures Research. Rias van Wyk’s Review was a forerunner to what later, in 1984, became known as the Business Futures publication. Its purpose was to provide a scan of the business environment, and the focus of this service was to improve strategic thinking in organisations. The Review covered only certain aspects of the economic, demographic, infra-structural and physical/natural resource dimensions of the business environment. At that stage, the broader social, technological, institutional and political dimensions of the business environment were still on the UFR’s future research agenda.

“The style and tenor of the Review reflected the practice at the UFR (and IFR) for years to come, which was a focus on changes in the business environment (Van Wyk, 1976:3) rather than on ‘key issues’ or on ‘global dynamics’ – which was then the more common practice at other futures studies institutions. It also tried to steer clear of singe-focus, long-range “predictions” by carefully discussing the assumptions, alternatives and contingencies of a particular prognosis. 

In 1974, corporate planners saw useful long-range forecasting as the very basis of their planning process. Rias van Wyk’s environmental scanning approach to futures studies directed the UFR’s (and IFR’s) conceptual and institutional development towards ultimately supporting ‘strategic learning’ and multiple perspectives in planning towards adaptive, more behavioural, concepts of planning, such as the social systems approach to change management” (Spies, 2001).

Providing foresight for strategic planners

Therefore, Business Futures does not describe any specific future. However, by scanning the environment and by identifying, analysing and monitoring trends in a systemic and structured way, the IFR provides its associates with the ability to acquire foresight to determine how their futures could unfold. While it is not possible to describe what will happen in the future, we can think about what might happen. This publication is therefore a must-have for all strategic planners. 

From 2017 onwards, Business Futures will only be available electronically and will also focus on new themes. This new publication focuses on the following themes:
The New World of Business
Social Capital
Sustainability
Security
Technology
The Art and Science of Decision-Making.

Contact us for more information: To purchase a copy of 2017 Business Futures or to become an associate of the IFR please contact Heilet at heilet@ifr.sun.ac.za or Mike at mike@ifr.sun.ac.za