At all times – from Ramses II to Napoleon, from Moses to Hitler, information has been a political tool.

Integrated scanning (both societal, economic and technological) is used to manage change and discover new innovation strategies. There are several techniques (monitoring, policy design, strategic forum, global forecasting, serendipity, statistical and predictive analysis), just as there are there are lookouts, observatories and think tanks.

The three types

Technology watch
Who does what ? With what standards?
Typically a short-term overview : 6 months.

Business Intelligence
What is the competition?
A medium term overview : 18 months.

Who are the new customers?
A longer-term overview : 2 or 3 years.

The three stages

Gather the best possible data on changes of the environment: specification requirements, data mining, monitoring of Web pages, alerting, classification, etc.

The analysis and synthesis
Highlight key trends that will be used to convert policies into scenarios: best practice analyzes, experts of interventions by research profiles, modeling and simulation, benchmarking, strategic, knowledge maps, maps by GIS, etc.

Provide decision makers with scenarios that will facilitate decision-making: multiple choice scenarios, long-term strategies, internal distribution, transition plan, anticipated profits, business plan, etc.

Levels of information

During this first stage, raw data organized by sector becomes inside information, external or gray (hidden), available as clips and folders.

Then, when everything is synthesized, the major trends are revealed in the form of potentially useful knowledge. In institutions, there is explicit knowledge (that which everyone knows) and implicit knowledge (existing unconsciously in the environment, but unconsciously).

With this mapping, we can develop scenarios that generate priorities; this is called predictive intelligence (no. 10). By prioritizing certain information and trends, everything is stitched together into choices and then plans, and then become actions:

Here is an American version of the triangle:

And here is the model of a marketing campaign which also uses the same pyramid:

The government’s environmental scanning

The Government’s foresight network is a system aimed at helping develop public policies. It first analyzes the needs of ministries, para-governmental groups and the general competitive situation vis-a-vis neighboring countries. It develops scenarios that will allow the Council of Ministers to set up a development plan and Parliament to enact policies (see below). The committee is composed of Assistant Deputy Ministers, representatives of the Priorities Committee and the Treasury Board, all of which direct the scanning via intranets.

Scenarios (pink, gray or black) are drafted based on the guidelines and priorities already established, to then be forwarded to the Priorities Committee, which in turn are relayed to the Council of Ministers. This then sets the stage for developing (for example) the plans for evolving towards a digitally-enabled society:

See, below, the example of President Obama in the Situation Room (decisions organized around data visualization) during the BP oil crisis in the Gulf of Mexico (2010):

Foresight in the enterprise

Developing the objectives for looking into the future is organized based on corporate objectives (see below). Scenarios are developed to identify and offer perspectives on the desired competitive advantages in/for a changing economy.

Below, there are the dynamics of first down (top down) and back (bottom-up), and then back down again: