Structured Foresighting

Crawford School of Public Policy | Executive course
Policy Essentials


Develop visionary organisational leadership in preparation for change and uncertainty.

Foresighting is a tool for discerning the potential organisational impact or business disruption that can be caused by social, environmental, political, economic or technological trends and drivers. In this workshop, structured foresighting is used as a contextual tool uniquely adapted for achieving responsive and transformational behavioural change in individuals who may be leaders, managers or workers, and developing organisational agility, flexibility and resilience.

See related courses: Cultivating a High Performing Mind & Excellence in Leadership and A Behavioural Science Approach to Communication.

Course date: 
9.30am–4.30pm 2 September 2020
#132 Crawford Building, Lennox Crossing, ANU

Before 18 August 2020: $1,195

After 19 August 2020: $1,495

OR $3,195 for enrolment in the Series (saving of $390 off the price of purchasing each day separately).

Group discounts available.

Course overview

This course will prepare decision-makers and managers for the complexities of dealing with change and proactively steer their divisions or departments through times of uncertainty, turmoil, ambiguity and volatility toward the realisation of a preferred and probable future and creation of shared value. It is about broadening perceptions and providing coherent contexts within which leaders, managers and their teams can mobilise and work proactively to achieve strategic goals.

This workshop harnesses the latest research advances from the field of contextual behavioural science in shaping and moulding groups and individuals to recognise ingrained systemic behaviours and habitual, patterned responses that are self-defeating and unproductive. In this workshop, foresighting exercises are used to systematically replace these attributes with adaptive thinking and acquiring a level of organisational plasticity for strategic responses in dealing effectively with a range of foreseeable futures being shaped by global or local trends and drivers.

The workshop is led by the behavioural psychologist Dr Robert Styles, an ANU PhD whose research focus is on the application of behavioural science principles within organisational contexts.

Topics to be covered:

  • Define a set of strategic agenda questions and from this develop a focal question(s)
  • Identify Critical–Uncertain trends and drivers in the system and chart adaptive challenges
  • Define ‘Axes of Uncertainty’ that will delineate the scenarios
  • Draft future scenarios – particularly preferred and probable scenarios that explore a portfolio of outcomes including no-regrets moves, real options and big bets

Learning outcomes:

  • Perspective on adaptive challenges your organisation is facing now and in the future
  • Identify responses to trends and drivers impacting and shaping the behaviour of your organisation
  • Strategically influence or coordinate organisation-wide efforts in realising tangible goals
  • Communicate with impact in creating a robust organisational vision for the future
  • Become a strategic-thinking and influential leader and advisor


Participating individuals and organisations will be more adequately equipped to response to the challenges of this century. For example, in the areas of food, water and energy security while taking into consideration gender equity and social inclusion. The issues being faced by the public and associated sectors are complex and seeming intractable. An effective response, I believe, will necessarily be multi-disciplinary for those who rise to the challenge. Hence the design of the program – an accessible, well informed, deliberative process that catalyses innovative responses from individuals within nested and interrelated team and community arrangements to the challenges they face within their sphere of influence.

Anticipated behavioural and business impacts of the course include:

Participants will learn to:

  • Explore probable (predictable), plausible (contingent) and preferred (chosen or desired) futures through reflection and research
  • Deconstruct the barriers, uncertainties, hurdles and other mental mindsets that mitigate against strategic foresighting
  • Plan for preferred futures, assess the weaknesses, inflexibilities or strengths of present leadership, strategies, structures or processes and their appropriateness or fitness-for-purpose
  • Expand and optimise a repertoire of strategies, structures and skillsets (e.g. adaptive, prosocial leadership) that can best respond or adapt to different preferred scenarios at both an individual as well as an organisational level
  • Explore systematically the steps required for an agile and responsive organisation, and which players within an organisation will need to drive such change

Who should attend?

Leaders (SES Band 1&2) and managers (EL1&2).

Selected participants should hold a mid or senior-level policy, practice, research or reform role, in either government, civil society or the private sector. Ideally, they should have completed at least an Undergraduate or Masters level tertiary qualification, have at least five years’ work experience at mid to senior levels, and have a good understanding of the discipline they are representing.

Course presenter(s)

A/Prof Robert Styles

Dr Styles is an academic at the Crawford School of Public Policy, Australian National University. As a Contextual Behavioural Scientist, his applied work has been a study of how language and cognition functions to influence psychological and social wellbeing, particularly the enhancement of team and institutional productivity, collaboration and performance. This work has been part of an international initiative stemming out of the University of Nevada and The Evolution Institute, Florida, aimed at applying evolutionary and behavioural principles to solving real-world problems.

Within ANU, the ongoing application of Dr Styles’ research is at the operational nexus of a number of different disciplines including applied behavioural psychology, organisational and cultural sociology, evolutionary science, and systems engineering. Currently this work is being applied in Australia, SW Asia, Africa and the Pacific within corporations and public-sector agencies striving to improve strategic and behavioural approaches to human capital development. Particular areas of impact include food, water and energy security, gender equity and social inclusion realised through the sustainability of individual and collective endeavours.

Over the last decade Dr Styles has advised and mentored over 300 top executives and leaders and consulted to a range of clients including: the Australian Public Service Commission, NSW Health, Australian National University, Department of Prime Minister & Cabinet, Australia Federal Police, NTU Executive MBA Singapore, Australian Government Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Bhutan Electricity Authority & Senior Government Officials and the China Ministry of Education. Between 2008 and 2012 he was a principal leadership consultant for the APSC-DFAT Leading Australia‘s Future in Asia-Pacific (LAFIA) SES training program; he led the design of the SES leadership development suite of programs implemented by the APSC from 2011-12; and, he designed, lead and researched the impact of an approach to applied behavioural psychology with systems engineering within the Museum of Australian Democracy and Australian Government Department of Finance between 2014 to 2017.

Previous positions include:

  • Contextual Behavioural Scientist, The Australian National University (ANU) 2010 – Present
  • Deputy Director (Strategic Engagement), Australia Pacific Security College, ANU 2019-present
  • Advisor, International Development, Crawford School of Public Policy, ANU 2017 – 2019
  • Director, Organisational Leadership & Performance – ANU Enterprise (commercial arm ANU) 2013 – 2017
  • Senior Consultant – Human Resources Division, ANU 2009 – 2012

Updated:  2 June 2020/Responsible Officer:  Crawford Engagement/Page Contact:  CAP Web Team