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Speaker interview: René Rohrbeck

Speaker interview: René Rohrbeck



“One of the biggest fights that we need to win is about defending a fact-based debate.”

Speaking at the session:
11.15 Don’t miss the future


René Rohrbeck is a professor of strategy and director of the Chair for Foresight, Innovation and Transformation at the EDHEC Business School, France and partner in the Rohrbeck Heger consultancy. He is known for his groundbreaking work in corporate foresight.


What is your approach in the future research?

“The future that we are going to get is ultimately about human choice. And that is the choice that we are making about our personal priorities, living patterns and personal consumption as well as the choices that governments are making. My research is driven by the desire to help to make these choices based on the best possible understanding of alternatives and consequences for our future and the future of the generations after us.”


What is corporate foresight about?

“Brining future consequences into present day decision making is a formidable challenge for individuals and even more for companies. Foresight is first and foremost about building a collaborative understanding about what is desirable and how we can get there. It is also about developing alternatives and anticipating courses of action.

Legitimizing purposeful action starts on common ground, which is why one of the biggest fights that we need to win is about defending a fact-based debate and independent sources of information. In addition, we need to build confidence about our ability to shape the future. I personally like the big history project for its ability to let zoom out, see long patterns and understand our role in preserving our plant.”


How can we explore, predict and shape our future?

“The good news is as humans we are all equipped with the ability to anticipate to engage in mental time travel. The challenge is that whilst complexity in our lives grows so does our presence bias, which makes us prioritize short-term action over long-term goals ultimately focusing most of our attention on debating the means and leaving little room to discuss and agree on desirable ends.

For reperceiving, discovering the new and finding new solutions to challenges we need to connect different planes of thought, engage with people who have a different background, embrace interdisciplinary dialogue and learn deep listening. I strongly believe that in an accelerating world we need to slow down our thinking and planning to build the basis for a sustainable future."


How can technology help us reach the Sustainable Development Goals?

“There are great examples, big and small, grand and humble, where technology can help. Energy remains one of the keys to a sustainable development. A thought-provoking fact is that each hour the sun delivers more power to earth than human activity is using in a year. It is thought provoking and thought liberating, because it lets us imagine which technological solutions we could use if energy would be free, clean and ubiquitous. Carbon could be captured on a large scale, travel could be CO2 neutral, food production could be enhanced, etc. I am a strong believer in the power of human ingenuity to tackle the challenges that we face.”


What is it that you most want to tell to the World? 

“Let us reengage in fact-based dialogue, work actively to reestablish common ground and trust in our ability to build desirable futures. Let us use the power of technology to drive societal cohesion and inclusiveness and use that basis to tackle the challenges that we face on climate change, food and water scarcity, poverty, inequality, education, democracy, human rights and health. Let us train our anticipation muscle, create dialogue around positive visions and work together to shape our own destiny.”


Get to know our line-up of internationally renowned speakers in the Millennium Innovation Forum on 19 May 2021, participate and be part of the global innovation movement for a better life!



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