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How to think about the future

People often ask how they can make reference in conversations to the future. It’s inportant to do that if you are to be seen as strategic by others. Here’s a couple of simple ideas:

Look for trends in news sources: Lots of people read the newspaper or an on-line news source everyday and are certainly not strategic thinkers. The trick is in how you view the information. Strategic thinkers look for concepts, trends and practices that are likely to change some aspect of the future and then consider what that might mean for their organization. It’s also useful to have reliable information. Reading just one newspaper or on-line source is unlikely to be very reliable unless that editor happens to have amazing insight. Reading a variety of newspapers and/or on-line sources and watching for trends is likely to be more reliable. It may seem obvious to keep up with business trends, but this is not the only useful information. Look for articles about technology, demographics and lifestyle trends. Think about your organization and customers and what impacts on your product or service. Look out for information about those elements.

Notice the less topical news: Editors tend to focus us in on what they think is newsworthy and topical at the time. Sometimes relevant and ‘trend’ information can be missed while some other high profile event is occurring and getting most of the coverage. Take note of the small updates and not just the ‘big’ stories. Find other sources of news that might cause impacts on your industry. These are likely to be specialist magazines and journals, and more in-depth news publications. The reliability of this information is also likely to be greater than in daily news sources because journalists spend longer researching and there is greater credibility at stake.

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