What's beyond the horizon?

Navigating the unknown using horizon scanning

Organisations have long recognised the need for medium to long-term planning and with the accelerating pace of change, it has never been more important to explore what the future might look like.  The purpose of these future-gazing initiatives is not just to prepare for any eventuality, but to allow the business to take best advantage of the emerging trends that will impact it. 

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Horizon scanning is a powerful technique used by some organisations to identify emerging opportunities, potential threats and risks. Most are balancing the opportunities of unprecedented scientific discovery and ground breaking innovation with the realities of a changing consumer, a harsher regulatory environment and emerging disruptive business models.

It is those organisations that can keep abreast with developments that will be able to maximise their potential and mitigate any potentially negative impacts.

At Oakland Innovation, we offer science and technology-based consultancy services and market intelligence to global markets, helping companies to benefit from breakthrough innovation and to develop new technologies and services that fuel growth and revenue-generating opportunities. 

That is why it’s important for us to understand what organisations are doing not only to assess what opportunities may be on the horizon but to ensure they are adequately prepared for any upcoming threats now or into the future.

We wanted to really get to the heart of the matter and find out how horizon scanning is currently being implemented, who within organisations is responsible for the process, how often it is undertaken and understand the barriers (if any) to successful horizon scanning. 

This report outlines the findings of a horizon scanning survey we carried out with professionals from a range of industry sectors. It provides a useful snapshot of how organisations are using horizon scanning to prepare for the future in an increasingly uncertain world characterised by significant, rapidly evolving technological, economic, political, environmental, social and regulatory changes.

Part 1: summary of key findings and recommendations

Our survey set out to understand how organisations define horizon scanning and how the process is actually being used. We also wanted to shed light on who, if anyone, is responsible for the process; how it is structured and carried out and what the main barriers (if any) are to horizon scanning.

We learned that there is no clearly defined, ‘one size fits all’ strategy for horizon scanning nor is there any agreed, formal process around which organisations structure horizon scanning activity. Instead, horizon scanning is largely carried out in an informal, ad hoc way in response to identifying opportunities for rapid growth rather than as a way to mitigate potential risks or threats to the organisation.

There is a real appetite to use horizon scanning to take advantage of emerging technologies and to stay tuned in to rapidly changing consumer preferences.

Horizon scanning is viewed by many as an effective tool for enabling strategic planning and risk management by helping organisations to prepare for regulatory and legislative changes.

It is this drive for opportunity and further growth that overrides any strategic focus on risk mitigation and management.

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