Are you seeing what you’re looking at?

Are you seeing what you’re looking at?


Horizon scanning is an integral part of effective business continuity management, and should be carried out pretty much continuously. The best analogy I could come up with is the driverless car, where in order to not crash into anything, it must constantly analyse real time data and take the necessary action to stay on course.

In his book, Superforcasting: The art and Science of Prediction, Philip E Tetlock reinforces the idea of constantly updating and assessing data as he reveals details and the methodology of the good judgement project that harnessed the wisdom of the crowd to forecast world events. An engaging read, which I would thoroughly recommend. Interestingly, the top amateur forecasters in the project were around 30% better than those in the intelligence community that had access to classified material, so the approach looks good.

“How can I do that for my organisation?” I hear you ask. Well, before I can explain what works for me, you have to read the poem below, because I think it presents a perfect mind-set with which to approach horizon scanning. It is a sonnet, so won’t take long.

W.H. Davies

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

For me, horizon scanning is about taking time to stand and stare, to take a step back from the daily routines and have a look around. We very often look but don’t see – do you know the colour of your partner’s eyes for instance? Some will know, but many wont.

Try this experiment in looking and seeing, (and it doesn’t matter if you can draw or not) – simply take 10 minutes to draw an object from real life. I will guarantee that once complete, you will have “seen” more of what that object really looks like in all of its detail.

My grandad used to say” never buy a car in the rain” (they always look better wet) and “always polish a new car the day you get it”. (you will find all the scratches you missed when you first looked). It’s all about seeing what you’re looking at.

So when your horizon scanning, take time to stand and stare, to look and really see what’s happening in the world and around you. This will help you to spot the juggernaut that’s heading in your direction and possibly present an early opportunity to jump on board, get out of the way, defend against or exploit the situation.

Its a bit like sifting through piles of mud, and occasionally being left with a glittering diamond - well worth the doing.

Question: How did the foot and mouth crisis 2001 /02 affect the clothing industry and amateur steam railways? (Answer next week)