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Practical Foresight: Discuss the Trends

Thinking about the future comes naturally to humans.  We do it all day long.  Despite that, we don’t often gather together to think about the mid-to-long term future in a structured fashion.  In fact, we will often claim that we don’t have the time to do it.  Fortunately, it doesn’t take very long to have a good discussion about the future.  In fact, ninety minutes will do just fine.


The third of our practical foresight activities is to gather to discuss the short and long-term trends shaping your organization’s futures.  A trend is a change over time.  It is a description of how something has been changing up to the present.  Some trends, like the rate of inflation or consumer preferences, may change direction frequently.  We think of these as short-term.  Others, like an aging population or the values embraced by a community tend to be resistant to quick changes.  Those are long-term trends.  Both are important and both types need to be discussed to better understand the range of threats and opportunities the future may hold.


  1. First, block an hour and a half with your team.  90 minutes, that’s all.  Gather everyone together.  Ideally, have a big white board or a blank wall and a whole lot of sticky notes handy.

  2. Second, spend the first fifteen minutes brainstorming short-term trends.  Get them all out quick.  Keep them together, in the upper left of your board/wall.

  3. Third, spend the next fifteen minutes identifying long-term trends.  What are the long-run changes that have been affecting your operating space?  What trends might continue to gradually exert pressure in the years ahead?  Keep these to the lower left of your board/wall.

  4. Fourth, for the next thirty minutes, discuss the impacts each group of trends will likely have on your operating space.  Place these to the right of each group of trends.

  5. Fifth, and finally, spend the last thirty minutes exploring if and how the short-run trends might impact the long-run trends, and vice versa.


Conducting this discussion will yield some useful information about the array of different forces driving change and the impacts they might have on the organization.  It will also help to develop a shared understanding of these forces among your team.  When having this discussion, don’t forget to use something helpful for brainstorming, like STEEP, which simply stands for Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, and Political.


In our next piece, we will take a look at the basic contingencies you and your team should plan around.


To learn more about how your team can have an expanded version of this conversation, reach out to us today at or at 1-808-724-1440.

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