Scanning the horizon: one case

Ford’s in-house futurist describes her environmental scanning method.

First, she emphasizes trend identification:

Q: So how do you track trends? Are you constantly on Twitter or how do you do it?

A: Well, I’ve been doing it for nine years, so it’s gotten a little easier over time, but it’s really about pattern recognition — looking for recurring themes, and seeing things that re-emerge and starting to have an eye for something, what are the drivers behind this, why does this seem like it’s going to be important, and will it have staying power?

Next, environmental scanning:

I have this title of Futurist, and people think it sounds so exotic, and I have to explain, it means 95% of my time is spent reading. And I read anything and everything. Now, the things that I read when I first started out are quite different from the things that I read today. It’s a little bit easier for me to spot trends. But I have an informal database of over 200 trends, and I go, well that’s an example of information addiction, or information overload. And I just start to save those, and keep those running. But I enjoy reading things like the New York Times, the Guardian, the Economist, Wired magazine has really interesting examples. But I also like long-form books. I’m particularly fond of the inspiration I get from the TED conferences, which feature technology, entertainment, and design, showcasing thought leadership from around the world. You just never know. So I just read anything that crosses my desk. (emphases added)

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