Forum, Futuribles Journal n° 249

Entreprises, travail

La prospective en quête de rigueur. Portée et limites des méthodes formalisées


In the issue of futuribles of October 1999 (n° 246) we published an article by Gilles Bertrand, Anna Michalski and Lucio R. Pench outlining the five scenarios for "Europe 2010" drawn up by the Forward Studies Unit of the European Commission (FSU). The scenarios were constructed using the so-called "Shaping Actors, Shaping Factors" method, claimed by the authors as "specific" to their Unit.
Michel Godet reacts to that article and makes two fundamental criticisms of their methodology.
First of all, he says, it is incorrect to present the method used by the Unit as "specific", if not "original", when it is in fact simply a "flawed copy" of a method that he developed himself. Furthermore, it is unfair to accuse the "French School of futurology" (is there, indeed, a single school?) of misusing "mathematics" and formal tools.
Then, pleading more than ever for greater rigour and, in particular, for the use of methods that attach probabilities to the scenarios, Michel Godet criticizes the FSU for the rather arbitrary character of the chosen scenarios, which in his view do not cover adequately the full range of possible futures.
Over and above the arguments about the authorship and originality of the methods, the article seems to raise two key issues: first, the usefulness of so-called "formal" predictive methods; secondly, and even more importantly, the relevance of the five scenarios chosen by the FSU to represent the spectrum of possibilities for Europe in 2010.
The debate is open. We would be delighted to give space to those who would like to make constructive contributions to the discussion, and hence to advances in the futures studies approach and the analysis of possible European developments.