Selecting futures: The role of conviction, narratives, ambivalence, and constructive doubt

Fenton‐O'Creevy, Mark and Tuckett, David (2021). Selecting futures: The role of conviction, narratives, ambivalence, and constructive doubt. Futures & Foresight Science (Early access).

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1002/ffo2.111

Abstract

Institutional decisions about the future, that matter, are usually made in a context of considerable uncertainty. Although the intention is success the possibility of failure must inevitably be present, whether recognized or not. The principal purposes of this study are twofold. First, we argue that uncertainty contexts require that decisions to create the future are supported by a particular type of future oriented or foresight narrative which we call a conviction narrative. Its essential function is to combine available knowledge about how to achieve desired outcomes with the feeling that the selected action will achieve the aim. Second, we introduce two states, in which conviction may be achieved, divided, and integrated, to argue that research into how conviction is achieved by individuals or institutions making decisions, can be an extremely promising and practical avenue for foresight studies, throwing light on several issues, particularly the oft-noted reluctance to change course and attachment to single stories of the future. The focus on the reality of uncertainty and the two states in which it can be met, can also enhance the research and practice of narrative foresight, through more systematic theorization of the role of emotion and ambivalence in narrative thought and in the processes through which future-focused narratives generate action under uncertainty.

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