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Susan Cramer, Ph.D. 

University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA

Wow, did the economic roller coaster catch you by surprise? Futures forecasting is considered by many to be a crystal ball type of activity. But, it doesn’t have to be. If one continually scans the environment, they are less likely to be caught off guard. This type of activity is formally known as “environmental scanning.”


Paul Saffo has a great article (Six Rules for Effective Forcasting, Harvard Business Review, July 1, 2007) on futures forecasting that you might want to read and share with your Board. Then, engage them in an environmental scan in an attempt to tease out what factors are or might influence your organization in the near future. A couple of websites explaining environmental scanning are:


Lastly, are you familiar with TED? TED is short for TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design): Ideas worth spreading.  On this website you will find short (17 minutes or less) talks by “the world’s leading thinkers and doers.” These are the world’s most innovative, creative, cutting edge researchers, scientists, entrepreneurs, artists, authors, musicians, and more. Hear what they have to say and think how the world might change. Become renewed by seeing and hearing these unique voices. Jump start the conversation at your next Board or committee meeting by sharing one with the group. Treat yourself to a quick look and be prepared to be amazed.

How does TED relate to environmental scanning? Use voices in many different modes and from many different places to inform your thinking and understanding of the world. Keep your eye on the future so it is less likely to catch you unaware! Open your eyes to new opportunities that are waiting for you to discover and implement.