CIO Career: Left Behind

As leaders you do not want to see the world in your rear view mirror. The question is: do you have strategic foresight?


How sure are you that your technology company will exist in 2018? Are you ready for the extreme future? Is your company concerned more about winning its next big contract rather than what is necessary to sustain a competitive advantage 10 years in the future? Do leaders in your organization know how to detect threats and opportunities before your competitors? If you are having difficulties answering any of these questions then your company may get left behind. The good news is that your company can be prepared for what is on the horizon if leaders are willing to invest in strategic foresight.
Strategic Foresight
What is strategic foresight? Strategic foresight is an approach which provides leaders the ability to get a perception of the future based on reliable current and historical data as well as expectations. It is equivalent to stepping into the future, seeing the problem and returning to the present with views on how to fix the problem. With this view, leaders can take strategic action in the present which could secure a competitive advantage for their organization's in the future.
On the Horizon Workforce 2018
What will your workforce look like in 2018? Imagine in the year 2012 the United States has elected a president that has decided to be inclusive instead of exclusive and has chosen to remove all borders allowing immigrants open access to America and by 2018 the county is saturated. Recently, the Pew Research Center indicated that by 2050, the Latino population will make up 29% of the U.S. population in 2050, compared with 14% in 2005. What if this huge influx of Spanish speaking people forced the Congress to declare Spanish as a secondary language in America for use in government and commerce? Are you prepared to provide mandatory Spanish language and cultural immersion courses to your current employees to prepare for the possible future or will you wait and risk?
1. running out of time to train them?
2. having large layoffs because non-Spanish speaking employees cannot communicate with customers, clients and vendors?
3. finding out in 2018 that you have employees that refuse the training?
Strategic foresight can provide insight, probable scenarios and implications that could positively or negatively impact your organizations. You can be prepared for 2018.
Deficient Intellectual Capital 2018
Because of the borderless entry, not only will America absorb the next primary language but there will be a huge influx of potential employment candidates from countries which outpace America in reading, science and technology. USA Today Voices Collegiate Readership Program cited the 2003 UNICEF study which stated that the United States ranked number 18 out of 24 nations in terms of relative effectiveness of its educational system. The United States educational systems are getting further behind other countries and by 2018 it may not get better but worse.
It is not likely that technology will decrease in the requirement to be more efficient or the need to innovate will decrease. Leaders must be willing to see the urgency in this area of focus and be willing to employ strategic foresight activities to look at probable futures; otherwise, their organizations may not have the intellectual talent necessary to sustain itself in 2018, let alone a company address.
American technology companies will have multiple areas of focus to consider. How will they educate American employees that are years behind employees from Japan, India, Singapore and South Korea? Will they decide to displace American employees because it is economically cheaper and easier to do because the intellectual talent is readily available? What if employers were able to purchase artificially intelligent robots with the capability to deliver occupational Spanish which is what Amarillo College in Amarillo Texas is offering in the classroom? This method could be powerful because the robot would be available 24 hours, 7 days a week, providing effective and efficient training. The course description according to Amarillo College, provides specific workforce language skills giving non-Spanish speaking employees tools to communicate effectively and perform their jobs? Another possibility is David Kaskel's LanguageLab. It a 3D virtual immersive language learning environment, housed in Second Life, which is a virtual world where users can socialize with each other through voice and text. LanguageLab contains highly qualified native-speaking teachers, from around the world to provide a unique space for formal and informal learning. They are currently testing Spanish courses.
Companies willing to be innovative can prepare for the extreme future.
Why be future-ready?
Why should leaders in technology companies be future-ready? According to Richard Slaughter there are compelling reasons to be future-ready. Organizations that are future-ready are confident that they will be sustainable because they clearly understand the ‘big picture' concerning human purposes, cultural differences and are willing to heed the implications. Future-ready organizations are also able to combat challenges because they are sensitive to the internal and external threats and are open to the positive signals that can alert them to new opportunities and new products and services giving them a competitive advantage. Lastly, organizations willing to be future-ready avoid responding out of a crisis and are able to excel and execute a viable plan in a calm and careful manner.
Getting Future-Ready
Hines and Bishop offer six practices of strategic foresight, which were identified by the Association of Professional Futurists' Professional Development team to prepare organizations to be future-ready. These practices require approximately 8-10 leaders to perform. They are summarized as follows:
1. Framing is setting aside time to determine and clarify the problem requiring strategic foresight. When conducting the framing activity, a positive attitude should be the goal. When negative attitudes surface, identify them and deal with any cynicism immediately. It also helps avoid misunderstandings and wasting time.
2. Scanning is examining internal and external environments for data and trends associated with the problem identified from framing. Leaders should consider the rest of the world when scanning because businesses are impacted by events and forces everywhere. Scanning offers a blend of "basic driving forces that suggest the most likely future, and some insight into potential change-drivers that may lead to alternative future outcomes."
3. Forecasting is creating a wide variety of alternative futures that the organization can consolidate, prioritize and consider as the most useful for their organization. Leading indicators will suggest events that are leaning toward one or more of the alternative futures. Leaders are able to make more informed decisions in the present.
4. Visioning is taking the digested alternative futures and exploring ‘what if' possibilities. The questions should also address implications effecting key stakeholders which are identified during the scanning activity. The result of visioning is a defined preferred future.
5. Planning is the process of translating vision (big picture) and alternative futures possibilities into a strategy which leads to that preferred future.
6. Acting is the activity of clearly conveying how the plans from the planning activity connect with the "organization's mission, purpose, effectiveness, performance, and bottom line..."
Though Hines and Bishop's book "Thinking about the Future: Guidelines for Strategic Foresight" is very comprehensive, it is highly recommended that organizations hire a consultant to facilitate these activities so that the experience will lead to implementation of strategic foresight as both a team and organizational capability.
About the Author
Bridget has over 21 years of technical experience in the computer industry in support of federal and commercial customers. She aspires to lead her own company and return to the days of character, honesty, integrity, and loyalty. Businesses seem to have lost the incentive to have those qualities, but she wants to restore them for the generations to come.
Bridget Gilmore is pursuing her Doctorate of Strategic Leadership with Regent University, Virginia Beach, VA, and anticipates receiving it in the Fall of 2009. Bridget received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Computer Information Systems from Saint Leo University and her Master of Arts degree in Computer Information Systems, Resource Management from Webster University. 
She can be reached at [email protected]

Edward Cornish. Futuring: the Exploration of the Future. (Bethesda: World Future Society, 2004).
 Jeffrey Passell and D'Vera Cohn. Immigration to Play Lead Role in Future U.S. Growth. Pew Research Center (Feb
11, 2008). Retrieved from http://pewresearch.org/pubs/729/united-states-population-projections on
June 1, 2008.
 USA Today Voices Collegiate Readership Program. Retrieved from
http://www.usatoday.com/educate/college/voices/issues/education.html on May 31, 2008.
 Amarillo College. Occupational Spanish. Retrieved from
on June 3, 2008.
 Michael Erard. A Boon to Second Life Language Schools. Retrieved from
http://www.technologyreview.com/Infotech/18510/ on June 3, 2008.
 Richard A. Slaughter. Developing and Applying Strategic Foresight. Retrieved from
http://foresightinternational.com.au/resources/Dev&Apply_Strategic_Foresight.pdf on May 31, 2008.
 Andy Hines and Peter Bishop. Thinking about the Future: Guidelines for Strategic Foresight. (Washington: Social
Technologies, LLC, 2006), 55.
 Ibid. 191.

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