Defining Value

An excerpt from The Guide to Natural® Foresight Framework:

In an attempt to define the exponential change that is reframing our traditional operating systems and social structures, sociologist and futurist Ziauddin Sardar coined the phrase “Postnormal Times.” Based on the concept of post-normal science — in which facts and values are constantly in flux — Sardar’s framework captures the unique aspects of the ambiguous and shifting world in which we find ourselves. As described by Professor Sardar (2010), Postnormal Times are an “in-between period where old orthodoxies are dying, new ones have yet to be born, and very few things seem to make sense” (p. 435-444). Most organizations today have spent considerable time and resources to ensure that they can successfully create (or at least sustain) value in an environment characterized by innovation and disruption. However, very few are prepared for a world in which the concept of value itself is completely redefined:

  1. Postnormal Value Creation is Future Empowered. As we accelerate toward a new world of education, work, and community, the present-day definition of value that stems from short-term agendas, incremental development, and historical forecasting is becoming just as antiquated as the system for which it was coined. We must learn to pull from the future to create robust value in the present. In a world that is being rapidly reshaped by networked matter, artificial intelligence, and digital lifestyles, creating value requires an emphasis on foresight rather than hindsight.
  2. Postnormal Value Creation is Organic and Complex. Beyond recognizing that an increasingly complex environment is a natural and organic sign of maturity, researchers and professionals alike are realizing that complexity is the seedbed of unlimited human creativity. This generative idea reframes our view of complexity from being a force that opposes progress to one that enables us to unearth creative solutions to our greatest challenges. Much like an ever-growing canvas, accelerating complexity is giving us more space on which to paint an unending series of unique masterpieces.
  3. Postnormal Value Creation is Intangible. The past several years have seen the dominance of intangible companies such as Uber (which owns no physical fleet of cars), Airbnb (which owns no physical properties), and Facebook (which creates no content) — but the bigger potential for impact exists around the growing intangibility of every single person on the planet. As tangible value takes a backseat to intangible benefits, the hard skills we have craved for so long are giving way to skills such as sense-making, creativity, and empathy.

Access a full and complimentary copy of “The Guide to the Nature Foresight® Framework” here.


Sardar, Ziauddin (2010, June). Welcome to postnormal times. Futures. 42 (5): 435–444. doi:10.1016/j.futures.2009.11.028