What is the difference between current awareness and horizon scanning?

identifying the trends

An informed perspective is more important than ever in order to anticipate what comes next and succeed in emerging futures”. HBR, October 16, 2015

Article by Clare Brown: “Legal professionals are busy people. They are concerned with doing the best they can for their clients and making sure that their business runs smoothly. Trend spotting or horizon scanning isn’t necessarily at the top of their daily “to do” lists but if they want to grow the firm effectively, everyone – from trainee to managing partner – needs to anticipate future events. 

The best way information people can help to do this is to first understand how everything fits together. We need to look at the difference between current awareness and horizon scanning – and put them both into a wider strategic context. When we present our management teams with evidence that they need automated current awareness, we should also be dazzling them with future information possibilities. 

…The answer might lie in a strategic and collaborative form of foresight, or as Kerstin E. Cuhls defines it, “a systematic debate of complex futures”. Large corporations, governments and intergovernmental organisations have used various methods to use information in their efforts to predict all possible outcomes. For instance, 

Georghiou (2007) reported that foresight activities have been conducted in conjunction with NIS in the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, The Netherlands, Austria, Russia, Australia, New Zealand, Columbia, India, South Korea, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Malaysia, Egypt, Morocco, South Africa and other countries. In Germany, the Fraunhofer Society has taken the lead in progressively applying foresight not only in NIS but also in the preparation of strategic scenarios at the corporate level (Cuhls, 2015). (Yuichi Washida and Akihisa Yahata “Predictive value of horizon scanning for future scenarios in Foresight, 3 February 2021)

The excellent article on horizon scanning I mentioned above explains how they attempt it. In essence, it involves literature searches, conversations, taking a broad view, and being open to any and all possibilities:

  • Structured: it is a systematic approach by applying methods of futures research, science-based, and based on new theories of futures research
  • Debate: it includes interaction of relevant actors, active preparation for the future or different futures, and orientation towards shaping the future
  • Complex: it includes the consideration of systemic interdependencies, takes a holistic view
  • Futures is plural: it is an open view on different paths into the future with thinking in alternatives. We also envisage different types of futures, in futures research we differentiate between possible, probable and preferable futures…(More)”.