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Predicting Change

By John McCormick  |  Posted 12-19-2007 Print

Futurist James Canton foresees the CIO motivating the rest of the organization, including the CEO and the board, to change.


You talk about predicting change and seeing competitive threats before they emerge. In your book, you say predicting change isn't so much art as science. How does one go about getting the skills needed to predict what's going to happen next?

The first step is to actually believe that it's possible.

I have many big clients who have a culture that says, "We can't predict anything, so, therefore, we're just going to be reactive."

So the first step is a mindset shift to where you believe that it's possible to make accurate predictions.

The second is to assign a cross-functional group--could be two people--to take on forecasting emerging opportunities.

The third is to come up with a plan about how to execute on that. And here's part of the secret: A lot of where to focus on predicting what's next is outside your industry.

If you're in healthcare, take a look at what's happening in gaming. If you're in entertainment, take a look at what's happening in manufacturing. Oftentimes, by going to tradeshows or being able to hire consultants who have specific domain expertise in industries outside of yours, you can learn about emerging opportunities, even new strategies, that might be essential to your ability to solve a problem, integrate new applications, change your infrastructure or even come up with new product or service ideas.

You need to develop a capacity to talk to customers on an ongoing basis.

I am amazed; I have been asking CIOs at meeting for 20 years to tell me, by a show of hands, how many of them have spoken to a customer in the past 30 days. Generally, it's below 10 percent. But guess who sees the future first? Guess who knows what's next? Guess who doesn't always articulate problems, the potential solutions to which could be the basis for entire new business strategies? The customer.

CIOs must get involved with customers to understand how their world is changing and identify their needs and then use that as a way to build back into the business real-time information.

The last piece of this is trend analysis. I've developed analytic engines to look at different kinds of trend information, particularly news.

At the Institute for Global Futures, we look at about a 100,000 news stories across a hundred different countries and then we map it with a product of ours we called Trend Trakker.

Next page: Identifying Key Trends


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