September 18, 2018

“If the rate of change on the outside exceeds the rate of change on the inside, the end is near”

-Jack Welch

Understanding what is happening across the intelligent-systems landscape is necessary but not enough to understand the key drivers that will shape the future. A key part of the Explore stage in our foresighting process is examining the global forces shaping the future. These forces impact the future of intelligent systems because they shape the world in which intelligent systems will exist. Understanding major driving forces like urbanization, demographic shifts, or the changing climate will help us Envision alternate futures. As described in Module 1 and Module 2, we will use a common foresighting framework to scan Social, Technological, Ethical, Economic, and Political (STEEP) drivers, trends, and potential barriers to change.

Recall that one of the guiding principles of the SPRING program is that bringing confidence and conviction to your organization through a strategic foresight process requires more than a single report. In Module 3, we provided a curated set of resources for scanning the intelligent-systems landscape. This module expands the scope of our scanning activities. We invite you to explore the broader STEEP landscape and determine the drivers and trends that could shape the future of your organization.

The goal of this module is to provide a curated set of resources for you to scan the STEEP landscape, looking for drivers and trends that will shape the future.

The trends and drivers that we identify during the Explore phase become the inputs to the Envision phase of the foresight process.

In Module 2, we introduced an organizing framework to assist with our exploration. Module 3 covers scanning resources for Levels 1–4. This module focuses on Level 5.

To understand the possible futures that could unfold, it is insufficient to simply look at technology developments, emerging applications, or trends in the intelligent-systems ecosystem. We must look at the broad drivers and trends that will shape the world as a whole. The intersection of STEEP drivers and trends with the intelligent-systems landscape provides one of the primary lenses for future scenario creation.

The STEEP framework and its “sibling” frameworks, PEST, PESTLE, STEEPLE, and other variations, have been used by foresight practitioners and business strategists for decades as a tool for examining drivers impacting organizations. The STEEP framework will help us explore current drivers and envision alternate futures later in our foresight process.

Our STEEP framework includes the following lenses:

    • Socio-cultural
    • Technological
    • Ethical and Legal
    • Economic
    • Political

Note: We have replaced the traditional STEEP “Environmental” E with “Ethical and Legal.” Looking at the future of intelligent systems raises some very important concerns around data privacy and ownership, bias, transparency, and more. Thus, we made the strategic decision to include ethics as one of the primary lenses for exploring key drivers.

Want the rest of the module?  IRI members and SPRINGBOARD attendees can download it here.

Nonmembers may request one module free of charge.  Subsequent modules can be purchased as a bundle here.  To request this module, please email Lee Green at