The story of Vesuvius
In 79 A.D. a powerful volcano known as Mount Vesuvius erupted, decimating the ancient Roman civilizations that surrounded it. Tens of thousands of people perished, along with the vast riches of their cities.
This event is as ironic as it is tragic. Like any active volcano, Vesuvius had long been warning of an eruption. While Romans used "portents" to predict the future, their understanding of Vesuvius’ activity was woefully misguided, and this mistake resulted in mass destruction for those living in its shadow.
Disaster rarely strikes without warning, and opportunities present themselves to those who know where to look. Understanding threats to your organization through a holistic risk-management plan is known as a horizon scanning strategy. To learn more about where your organization fits into the Rewriting Vesuvius story, explore the personas below.
The dormant city of Pompeii was located at the base of Vesuvius and ignorant to the oncoming eruption. Pompeii's need for horizon scanning is high due to its location, but its capability to implement a strategy was low due to its lack of warning of the impending doom.
If your organization was identified as dormant in the horizon scanning assessment, that means your need for horizon scanning is high, but your capability to implement it is low. Having a sufficient horizon scanning strategy gives you confidence that you will not miss emerging risks or opportunities for your business and will be able to react to disruptions in a measured, data-driven manner.
The vulnerable city of Herculaneum was located on the backside of Vesuvius. Although it was safe from the lava, it was quickly blanketed in deadly ash and toxic fumes. Herculaneum's need for horizon scanning is low as it was spared from the first wave of the eruption, but its inability to respond to the threat resulted in disaster.
If your organization was identified as vulnerable in the horizon scanning assessment, that means your organization may be safe from emerging threats, but a weak information-management strategy prevents you from capitalizing on opportunities or avoiding unprecedented risk. A vulnerable horizon scanning strategy keeps your business from responding to catalysts in a timely and data-driven manner.
The resilient, high-ranking commander of a naval fleet known as Pliny the Elder misunderstood Vesuvius's warning signs and was caught off guard by the eruption. Though his hasty rescue mission saved a few thousand lives, an accurate source of information would've spared many more, including his own. Due to his status and duty, both his need for horizon scanning and capability to implement it are high.
If your organization was identified as resilient on the horizon scanning assessment, that means your business is vulnerable to a variety of threats, but you value market intelligence and have incorporated it into your organization. You are ensuring that emerging risks and opportunities are identified early, and your organization is well-equipped to respond.
The vigilant Pliny the Younger, nephew of Pliny the Elder, witnessed the first wave of Vesuvius’ eruption across the Bay of Naples. He quickly assessed the enormous threat and knew he needed to flee immediately. His vigilance allowed him to execute an evacuation plan which saved his life.
If your organization was identified as vigilant on the horizon scanning matrix, that means your business is safe from a number of different threats, but you have still prioritized a seamless consumption of vital information that is valued at all levels of your organization. You are ensuring that emerging risks and opportunities are identified early, and your organization is well-equipped to respond.
Your guide to horizon scanning
The concepts listed below recognize the complex ecosystem that global organizations exist in. It is essential for today’s businesses spot disruptions before they occur as this allows them to adapt, plan, or even lead their industry with a revolutionary response. To learn the bascis of a horizon scanning strategy, review the terms below or contact a representative directly.
In a horizon scanning strategy, "need" refers to the context that an organization exists in. A company’s need for horizon scanning is determined by its proximity to the following factors:
- A broad, unpredictable industry
- Reliance on complex, converging technology for enablement
- Dependence on government funding that is sensitive to the politics of the time
- Relation to regulations (state, federal, global)
- Dependence on the global economy
- Visibility to media and special-interest groups
- High number of surprise events that have impacted business
- Lack of accurate forecasts
- Rapid growth of markets and opportunities
- Unpredictable speed and direction of change
- Unpredictable behaviour of competitors
- Sensitivity to social change that have a likelihood of causing disruptions
- Susceptibility to macroeconomic forces, such as tariffs, currencies, business cycles, etc
- An aggressive growth orientation
- A broad or global strategic scope
- A heavy reliance on reinvention for revenue
In a horizon scanning strategy, "capability" refers to an organization's ability to identify, interpret and react to disordered change. A company’s capability for horizon scanning is determined by its adherence to—or ability to implement—the following factors:
- The reach of current scanning into adjacent businesses and white spaces
- The scope of current scanning into many areas such as politics, culture, technology, etc
- The timeframe of current scanning; i.e. proactive scanning into past, present, and future
- A variety of sources for information that yield a competitive advantage
- Capacity to integrate a variety of methods to strengthen accuracy of scanning
- Capacity to integrate organization-wide communications to promote knowledge sharing
- Flexibility to personalize methods depending on specific contexts and problems
- Strength of external networks that is valued by internal employees
- Strength of internal networks that promote healthy relationships between employees
- Strength of horizon scanning personnel; i.e. analysts who are curious and knowledgeable
- Mode of scanning that is continuous, top-down, and bottom-up
- The integration of horizon scanning into other business processes
- Regular discussion of emerging threats with broad, internal participation
- Organisation-wide accountability for detecting emerging risks with incentives to do so
- A commitment to knowledge-sharing across entire hierarchy
- Willingness to seek external advice regarding gaps in knowledge
- An active curiosity towards the business environment among all employees
- A willingness to test and challenge basic assumptions
Fundamentals of horizon scanning
With a horizon scanning strategy, your organization can ensure its longevity by:
- Investing in a reliable source of global information
- Implementing a risk and opportunity identification strategy
- Encouraging internal participation in this strategy across the organization by weaving it into weekly/bi-weekly/quarterly reviews
- Invite staff to share their expertise, and seek external advice concerning knowledge gaps
- Promote a knowledgeable, vigilant organization by allowing staff to access information via the format of their choice through sophisticated technology
Intelligence personalized for your team
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Through constant evaluation, the FT predicted the $1.9bn scandal and protected readers who heeded its intelligence
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