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Deep uncertainty now permeates everyone's thinking. Nothing can be taken as certain. SCANS help you to consider trends, uncertainties, and, potential predictable surprises so that you are prepared with your response before they happen. Banks knew the possibility of a Great Recession in 2007 and Aerospace companies were warned about their unpreparedness for a novel virus in 2015 but both did nothing and carried on regardless, only to be mostly bailed out by Governments. We believe that bailouts will be a thing of the past and organizations will be allowed to die if they do not keep a proper weather-eye on the future. Preparation is going to be key in this increasingly uncertain world and a very useful learning experience for organizations whether they happen or not.

So, in response, we built this scanning method after Philips asked us to create digital scans of India and China healthcare in 2007. Philips wanted to automate their existing manual method: a very early example of taking different vantage points to see potential futures. The process we jointly developed was as follows and is still used by most of our clients today.

First, the client determines the key topics they want to follow and the sub-topics they associate with each. These are fed into the system.

Then, they assign a person to each SCAN to report on new trends, uncertainties, and surprises.

Each week clients hold a weekly meeting lasting no more than 30 minutes. Each reporter gets just two minutes to tell the team what new things they had found that week. For a ten person review the time taken us just twenty minutes.

Then they take five minutes to share what new patterns. trends etc. they see from different vantage points.

The last five minutes determines who should know and what next steps should begin.

This an excellent method to keep potential futures front of mind.


Here's how I populate the SCAN charts:

IMPACT: The y-axis is a measure of the aggregated, average strengths of the forecasts being made.

TIMESCALE: The x-axis is a measure of how quickly the aggregated, average forecasts will likely arrive and before the public will accept them as the existing paradigm.
Bottom left of the background banding is a close in and strong signal and top right is a further out and weak signal positioning. The banding gives an approximation of who or what is looking further in and further out. Shaping Tomorrow looks across all these bands to present a comprehensive view of future issues.

These forecasts are analyzed on a 3-year rolling average.

I then present these as radars showing:

Emerging waves = new and potentially transformational changes for entrepreneurial players (Top right)

Differentiating waves = high differentiation from slower players (Middle)

Business value waves = well recognized by all players (Bottom left)

There is no right positioning on the SCAN chart. And, positioning should be viewed at a box or banding level rather than trying to discern differences within a box or band (the data is not yet sufficiently granular and extensive to do that).

You can set up your own charts on any SCAN OR Organization if you are our client and have them updated and displayed each week. We recommend that you follow the future of work and surprise as a matter of course apart from marketplace foci.

Contact us using the free-form dialog box below to become a potential client or to suggest a missing SCAN.