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Systems Foresight Research at Stanford

Welcome. Our vision is to be the world’s premier program committed to researching, understanding, and supporting organizations pursuing innovation in environments of high ambiguity.
— Professor Larry Leifer (SoE) & Professor Michael Shanks (H&S)


To bring the most advanced understanding to how organizations design at the cutting edge of long-range research and technology. Our areas of interest include: future user need-finding; third cycle design; blue sky research models; moonshot program development; organizing for disruptive, radical and architectural innovation; and tools for bringing foresight abilities into organizations.

Research Goals

  • Develop a deep understanding of how organizations invent the future.
  • Openly disseminate our team's learning.
  • Work with industry to identify bottlenecks and approaches to promote the up-take of research findings and best practices.

The Roots of Our Research

Our research builds on work started at Stanford's Center for Design Research (CDR) in 1984. Upon its founding, Prof. Larry Leifer set out to understand how individuals, teams and organizations practice design. CDR has delivered one breakthrough after another in understanding the practice of design engineering and design thinking. The systems foresight focus emerged from conversations Prof. Leifer and Prof. Michael Shanks (Metamedia Lab) were having with organizations in the early 2000s, in which they heard a recurring question; "How do we build a future that's almost unimaginable today?"