Reports from the Knowledge Labs about our recent findings, research topics, and interviews with lifestyle leaders who are creating their own futures.

How to stimulate your own powers of foresight. Consider the following thought provokers. Ask yourself, in these categories what are the brand new trends and forces? Which are the ones growing in importance? Which current forces are loosing their steam? Which have peaked or are reversing themselves? Which are the "wildcards" about to disrupt us in the future? POLITICAL AND TECHNICAL thought for food: Electronics, Materials, Energy, Fossil, Nuclear, Alternative, Other, Manufacturing (techniques), Agriculture, Machinery and Equipment, Distribution, Transportation (Urban, Mass, Personal, Surface, Sea, Subsurface, Space), Communication (Printed, Spoken, Interactive, Media), Computers (Information, Knowledge, Storage & Retrieval, Design, Network Resources), Post-Cold War, Third World, Conflict (Local, Regional, Global), Arms Limitation, Undeclared Wars, Terrorism, Nuclear Proliferation, Weapons of Mass Destruction, Governments (More/Less Power and Larger or Smaller Scale), Taxes, Isms: Nationalism, Regionalism, Protectionism, Populism, Cartels, Multinational Corporations, Balance of Trade, Third Party Payments, Regulations (OSHA, etc.) Environmental Impact, U.S. Prestige Abroad. SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC Food for thought: Labor Movements, Unemployment / Employment Cycles, Recession, Employment Patterns, Work Hours / Schedules, Fringe Benefits, Management Approaches, Accounting Policies, Productivity, Energy Costs, Balance of Payments, Inflation, Taxes, Rates of Real Growth, Distribution of Wealth, Capital Availability and Costs, Reliability of Forecasts, Raw Materials, Availability and Costs, Global versus National Economy, Market versus Planned Economies, Generations: Y, X, Boomers, Elderly, Urban vs. Rural Lifestyles, Affluent vs. Poor, Neighborhoods and Communities, Planned or Organic Growth. Got Knowledge?

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The Journal of 2020 Foresight
Friday, February 07, 2003  

Hannibal’s Prism Reframes our Perspective

Chapter Two: The Ridge

By Steve Howard, CKO
The Knowledge Labs

Table of Contents
Chapter One: Basecamp
Chapter Two: The Ridge
Chapter Three: The Outpost
Chapter Four: The Tribal Territories

"It is a place where men plow planes into skyscrapers, where lunatics send anthrax spores through the mail, where maniacs snatch little girls off sidewalks or from their bedrooms, where snipers casually shoot people pumping gas or loading packages into their cars. It is, alas, a real world, though perhaps one that is not all that different from the world before 9/11, where atrocities also occurred. What makes it seem so different is that everything is a piece (of a new reality) now that we have reconceptualized the world to demonstrate the terror we have seen and felt. It is a world made in the image of our new paradigm, and it is frightening."

Neal Gabler “In Hannibal Country” LA Times Opinion, 11/10/02

The Polls are open. We’re asking people like you to rate trends and predictions that have the greatest direct impact on your livelihood and future plans?

Today’s top three:

86 – Boomers will become speculators to increase their wealth (Russell)

85 – A new industry will be created to appeal to boomer need for experiences (Russell)

83 – In the year 2010 American social consciousness will reawaken (Russell)

Register your vote

Journal of 2020 Foresight: You’ve described strategic exploration as the process of shifting your perspective, if even for a brief moment. Why should I care?

Trailblazer: Take our world before and after the terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers in New York. No one predicted the attacks. And, yet the signals were there. We now have a new prism through which we view our daily lives. For many of us the glass shifted from being half full to being half empty.

J2020F: So, while people in other parts of the world assimilate threats from “random evil” as part of their “normal” life, New Yorkers and the rest of Americans never had to accommodate threats to their physical safety and security in their daily activities.

TB: Prior to 9/11 advertisers engaged in “fear mongering” to pedal products and services. But, Americans took all that commercial persuasion in stride within a collective positive outlook.

J2020F: So the post 9/11paradigm feeds all of our “data points” through the Hannibal filter. Our daily lives have been disrupted by surprise attacks. We’ve had to accommodate the “capriciousness of fate” in our national grief -- finding no satisfactory explanation for why some survived and some didn't.

TB: In a sense, we joined the rest of the world beyond our national borders where citizens can be murdered routinely by heinous evil "beyond our comprehension."

J2020F: So the point is prior to 9/11 we selectively filtered the known threat of terrorism – “news at eleven” – out of our daily consciousness. None of our dreams, aspirations, goals and plans included a terrorist contingency.

TB: Right. When we intuitively “moved” within the great currents of trends and common sense, we didn’t factor in the terrorist threat as a “wild card” capable of stopping us in our tracks for weeks, months, and years.

J2020F: Understanding what influences our thinking together with thinking both divergently and convergently is the antidote?

TB: Yes, And as we already said, mapping and imaging round out the core skills required for strategic exploration.

J2020F: How does it work?

TB: On three levels. To remove our own collective or individual blinders we need to anticipate dynamic changes in the macro (economy, technology, political, social / demographic) landscape, the organizational (industry, market, competitor) responses, and the micro (personal and professional) opportunities and options.

J2020F: And we really want to discover what are the growing, brand new forces -- or -- current forces loosing their steam, or reversing themselves -- or -- the "wildcards" about to disrupt us in the future, right?

TB: That’s right, as the bumper sticker says, “Change Happens.”

J2020F: And, then happens again. And, then again.

TB: The frequency and velocity will vary according to industry, business cycle, and a host of mitigating forces. We can and should monitor factors more critical to our well-being.

J2020F: What do you mean?

TB: Well for over a decade I tracked the accuracy of the 253 predictions Cetron, Rocha, and Luckins published in an article for “The Futurist” in August 1988, entitled “Into the 21st Century.”

J2020F: What did you discover?

TB: I figured the approach was quite straight forward. Collect research reports, articles, opinions and other relevant information. Categorize and update. And I'd be well ahead of the investment, career, and strategy management games.


J2020F: Why?

TB: I soon discovered that the 253 predictions, while framing the future, were interdependent. In the early ‘90s I remember waking up in the middle of the night. My categorization scheme broke down.

J2020F: What do you mean?

TB: How do you categorize the impact of baby boomers (social) on the acceptance of PCs and the internet (technology) as a means of corporate productivity (economic) that also makes it easy to track government expenditures of public resources as a tool for social responsibility and accountability (political)?

J2020F: So, you learned the hard way that the job is way too big unless you use a different process?

TB: Yes. Now with my clients I get them to begin with a decision or plan first.

J2020F: How is that different?

TB: If you try to track all the macro forces – political, technical, social, and economic trends – you fall victim to “analysis paralysis.” By the time you come to a conclusion the window of opportunity has already shut or the threat has nailed you between the eyes.

J2020F: So you frame only the most relevant future events and ignore the infinite combinations of possibilities? How?

TB: In an 8-step process of strategic exploration.

1. State the specific decision to be made
2. Identify the major environmental forces impacting the decision
3. Develop four plausible and qualitatively different possibilities for each force
4. Assemble the alternatives for each force into internally consistent stories
5. Construct both a matrix and a narrative
6. Identify opportunities and scenarios focusing on links and synergies.
7. Rehearse the future: play out the original decision.
8. Pick relevant signposts and indicators to monitor -- translate shifting indicators into specific implications

Instead of looking in from the macro sea of changing trends to your decision, we start on the inside and work out. Instead of viewing earth from the space station orbiting in infinite space, we begin with our feet firmly planted on the ground and look up.

J2020F: So, if you really wanted to launch a socially responsible watchdog organization, you probably don’t need to concern your self with “A New Kind of Science”, in which author Stephen Wolfram predicts an algorithmic key to the universe that can compute quantum physics - or, say, reality TV - in four lines of code.

TB: Wanna bet? Those four lines of code may turn out to be the long fuse, big bang phenomenon of the future.

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