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ENVIRONMENTAL SCANNING TECHNIQUES

Environmental scanning is usually used at the start of a futures project. It


aims at broad exploration of all major trends, issues, advancements,
events and ideas across a wide range of activities. Information is
collected from many different sources, such as newspapers,
magazines, Internet, television, conferences, reports, and also science-
fiction books. Various tools and methodologies are used by large
corporations to systematically scope their external environment.

Delphi method

The Delphi method is a very popular technique used in Futures Studies. It was
developed by Gordon and Helmer in 1953 at RAND. It can be defined as a
method for structuring a group communication process, so that the process is
effective in allowing a group of individuals, as a whole, to deal with a complex
problem.

It uses the iterative, independent questioning of a panel of experts to assess


the timing, probability, significance and implications of factors, trends and
events in the relation to the problem being considered. Panelists are not
brought together but individually questioned in rounds. After the initial round,
the panelists are given lists of anonymous answers from other panelists
which they can use to refine their own views.

Scenario planning

Scenarios are one of the most popular and persuasive methods used in the
Futures Studies. Government planners, corporate strategists and military
analysts use them in order to aid decision-making. The term scenario was
introduced into planning and decision-making by Herman Kahn in connection
with military and strategic studies done by RAND in the 1950s.

It can be defined as a rich and detailed portrait of a plausible future world,


one sufficiently vivid that a planner can clearly see and comprehend the
problems, challenges and opportunities that such an environment would
present.

A scenario is not a specific forecast of the future, but a plausible description


of what might happen. Scenarios are like stories built around carefully
constructed plots based on trends and events. They assist in selection of
strategies, identification of possible futures, making people aware of
uncertainties and opening up their imagination and initiating learning
processes.

One of the key strengths of the scenario process is its influence on the way of
thinking of its participants. A mindset, in which the focus is placed on one
possible future, is altered towards the balanced thinking about a number of
possible alternative futures.

Cross-impact analysis

The method was developed by Theodore Gordon and Olaf Helmer in 1966 in
an attempt to answer a question whether perceptions of how future events
may interact with each other can be used in forecasting.

As it is well known, most events and trends are interdependent in some ways.
Cross-impact analysis provides an analytical approach to the probabilities of
an element in a forecast set, and it helps to assess probabilities in view of
judgments about potential interactions between those elements.

Simulation and modeling

Simulation and modeling are computer-based tools developed to represent


reality. They are widely used to analyse behaviours and to understand
processes. Models allow demonstration of past changes as well as the
examination of various transformations and their impact on each other and
other considered factors.

They can help to understand the connections between factors and events and
to examine their dynamics. Simulation is a process that represents a
structure and change of a system. In simulation some aspects of reality are
duplicated or reproduced, usually within the model. The main purpose of
simulation is to discern what would really happen in the real world if certain
conditions, imitated by the model, developed.

Trend analysis

Trend analysis is one of the most often used methods in forecasting. It aims
to observe and register the past performance of a certain factor and project it
into the future. It involves analysis of two groups of trends: quantitative,
mainly based on statistical data, and qualitative, these are at large
concerned with social, institutional, organizational and political patterns.

In the quantitative trend analysis data is plotted along a time axis, so that a
simple curve can be established. Short term forecasting seems quite simple;
it becomes more complex when the trend is extrapolated further into the
future, as the number of dynamic forces that can change direction of the
trend increases. This form of simple trend extrapolation helps to direct
attention towards the forces, which can change the projected pattern.