Elina Hiltunen: Finpro and Crowdsourcing Foresight

This is the first in a series of interviews with futurists using state of the art network based approaches to foresight work. Network based approaches can be seen as those which utilize ICT technologies together with collaborative cultural frameworks (e.g. peer to peer) to co-generate futures thinking, strategy and policy. In this first part, I interview Elina Hiltunen, director of What’s Next Consulting.

I consider Elina Hiltunen’s work outstanding in this regard. In her recent article in the Journal of Futures Studies, called Crowdsourcing the Future, Elina Hiltunen discusses the impressive foresight initiative at Finpro. Finpro has run a crowdsourced foresight program for a number of years, which helps inform decision making for Finnish industry. She writes “When an organisational foresight process is linked to the strategy process, foresight becomes a serious asset.” What I find intriguing are new metaphors and language discussing collective intelligence and the wisdom of crowds:

The wisdom of crowds is a concept that has become more popular in public discussion because of a couple of bestselling books: the Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki and Wikinomics – How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything by Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams. The idea behind the wisdom of crowds is that a crowd of people, without knowing each other’s opinions, make better choices than selected experts. According to Surowiecki (2004: XVII) “[if] you put together a big enough and diverse enough group of people and ask them to ‘make decisions affecting matters of general interest’, that group’s decision will, over time, be ‘intellectually [superior] to the isolated individual’, no matter how smart or well-informed he is.

In this interview she discusses her work, how she helped create Finpro and the crowdsourced foresight model, its strategy, key principles, the rationale that drives the approach, and the ideas, authors, books, theories that  guide her work.

The consistent question that is raised in my mind and that I raise here is, can such approaches be used to enable popular foresight engagements and channeled into action projects which address the world’s great 21st century challenges? What can we learn here toward building super-charged approaches to large scale collaborative inquiry and action that will help us to navigate a turbulent 21st century?