Skip to main content

Business is full of jargon. Some terms are familiar-sounding, some have misleading meanings and there’s the phrase “Horizon Scanning” used by me and many other futurists.

When thinking of Horizon Scanning as a component of strategic planning or foresight, a few key questions come to mind, mainly what the horizon is, how do we scan it, what is it for?

Horizon Scanning Definition

The horizon is the farthest point at which warning might come of future threat or opportunity.

It could be physical like a specific new process, product, or technological breakthrough.

Societal for example, a trend that begins to catch on that could either render your product or service obsolete or the opposite – make it hotter than ever.

Governmental – regulations that could cause your organization trouble or give a competitive advantage to it.

The key to defining the horizon is basically looking for the farthest point in time and space at which warning of a key change could manifest.

How do we scan it

  1. First, it’s necessary to know what your organizational leadership needs to know. To do so, brainstorm the possible threats and opportunities that are facing your firm. The opportunities are „nice to know”, but threads you will need to know because that will help you secure the position of your brand and avoid many challenges.

Ask yourself, is there a decision that your company will be forced to make (or might want to make) as a result of discovered threat or opportunity?

Remember, horizon scanning is only a part of huge strategic planning you must do. The planners need to map out how the scanning information is integrated into business strategy, goals and objectives ( team may be very helpful at this point).

  1. Come up with early warning indicators for each threat or opportunity. Brainstorm: What events could indicate that the insight may become reality?
  2. Prioritize the threats and opportunities based on resource constraints. Prioritize based on the impact of the potential threat or opportunity – not the probability (that’s a common mistake we see that business owners make).
  3. Report regularly to executives on the early warning indicators you have identified.
  4. Regularly reassess the list of threats and opportunities to ensure that they contain the ones that are essential. Remember, you will make mistakes, you will be wrong but you will learn from mistakes (at least that should be the case).
  5. Since the horizon for your organization is in some senses infinite, the team who does the horizon scanning should include people who see the world differently, who are curious about a range of offbeat topics, and how to connect the dots.

In short, you need people with qualitative intuition to support a more traditional view ( team may be the solution).

And there are a few things for you to remember.

Horizon Scanning needs to be regular. I promise you it is a high-value source of valuable insight and fresh thinking to any executive. Regular briefings and strategic planning are necessary not only for the company’s decision-makers but also strategic planning teams.

And although there’s a growing number of digital scanning tools available, human judgment and imagination remain at the heart of it. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. Logically looking, you need to first imagine the horizon (threats, opportunities) before you can ever scan for details, right?

Let’s check how horizon scanning can work in favour of your company’s growth. Leave an email. Our consultant will reach out to you to schedule a call at a time that suits you best.

    By checking the box below you agree to be contacted in order to handle this request.

    Patrycja Franczak

    Author Patrycja Franczak

    She runs company where she cooperates with many fashion companies helping them to strategically define, move toward and manage the future amid the challenges of uncertainty and change - to improve business performance and manage change.

    More posts by Patrycja Franczak

    Leave a Reply

    All rights reserved