Reflections on Environmental Scanning and Being a Futurist

As someone who entered the workforce (in that full time, leaving-college sense) just when the “internet” was becoming a thing in our daily lives, I still remember what professional office life was like before everyone had a computer on their desk, before everyone had a pager (much less a cell phone), and long before everyone had an email address or even before every company had a website.

Back in those days, reading your (physical) copies of MIT Technology Review, Scientific American, Wired, Fast Company, and Industry Standard would keep you firmly ahead of most other business people you would encounter.  Everyone would read their local newspaper, they would watch the morning news shows, and they would read the (physical) copies of whatever professional industry magazines to which they subscribed.  Yet, access to information was still limited through certain channels, and the cost (read: effort) of obtaining more information outside of those typical channels could at times be significant.

Today, as has been noted ad nauseum for a couple of decades at least, we are awash in news and information.  Each new lab experiment and every new company with a technology or “app” is instantly covered and re-posted across countless (social) media platforms.  The news “hits”, as we call them in environmental scanning, are now incredibly easy to come by, and a foresight professional is harder pressed today to stay ahead of what the mainstream has been made aware.  Today, to generate value and to help clients swim this perpetual avalanche of information, we have to simultaneously look lower down on the s-curve (see figure 1, below) and dig deeper into actual emerging issues analysis.  And beyond that, we have to advance our practice in both methodologies and in tools.

Figure 1: S-curve of scanning sources for Conflict & Security

Everyone gets impacted by a changing world, even futurists.


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