Prepare the future by observing the present differently
Prospective analysis is indispensable today to respond to ever faster technological changes. Yet, this requires that we can lucidly project ourselves in the future… How can we acquire a real strategic thinking tool?
With the current proliferation of innovations and new technologies, it is difficult to evaluate which will develop and cause disruption. It often happens that we ignore for a long time technologies that subsequently drastically change a sector of activity—and equally often that we overestimate the potential of an innovation that will not ultimately find its market! These mistakes can be made by brilliant individuals such as Ken Olsen, founder and leader of the pioneering IT firm Digital Equipment Corporation, an American group employing 120,000 people at its peak. In 1974, he declared: “I see no reason for any individual to have a computer in their home.” For various reasons, he did not measure the changes unfolding before him on the microcomputer market. This lack of understanding of the present and of its implications for the future cost his group its life.
Conversely, a reading both imaginative and analytical of the present has enabled enterprises such as Nintendo, IBM or Apple to navigate several big waves of mutation in their sectors of activity. The quality of their prospective analysis has enabled them to detect technological trends that they were then able to draw from.
Prospective analysis does not claim to predict the future. It rather invites us to look at the present and to ponder, in the proliferation of innovations that sometimes seem strange to us, what unexpected trends could carry a great future.
- Beware of our tendency to extrapolate the future on the basis of the present.
- Collect the weak signals: we often find in them information that reveal heavy trends.
- Interpret those signals to distinguish the real trends from passing vogues.
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