Cashing in on the future

Rapid change means experts who can 'see into' the new millennium are in demand, says Roger Trapp

Business leaders are so convinced that their world is changing faster and in more ways than ever before that they are constantly seeking insights from those who claim to have some kind of "take" on what the future will hold. Such is the huge demand for this kind of "information" that "futurists", ranging from doomsayers to optimistic technologists, are all the rage.

However, few organisations seem to pay much heed to what they glean, and few are making the sort of commitment that California-based SRI Consulting is. A subsidiary of the highly-regarded Stanford Research Institute, which with Shell was in at the birth of scenario planning in the 1970s, it is working with some of the world's leading corporations to mount a five- year research programme and forum with the aim of charting the future for senior executives wanting to "shape their corporate destinies in the new age that is now dawning".

According to Roger Camrass, head of SRI Consulting's London operation, getting the idea off the ground has been a momentous task. But with 10 leading organisations signed up and many others interested, he feels that the concept, given the title "Business in the Third Millennium" (BiT3M), is now in a position to get down to some serious work. Indeed, he claims the project has already "surpassed some people's expectations".

Part of this impact must be due to the fact that scenario planning, which Shell used last month to explain its commitment to developing alternative fuels, is, in Mr Camrass's words, "the hottest thing in town because there's no certainty". However, some of the response must be due to SRI's special position.

Far from resting on its laurels as a co-developer of scenario planning, the organisation is continually seeking insights into what the future might bring for it and its clients. And in Watts Wacker, author of the best-selling book The 500 Year Delta, it has a "resident futurist" who appears more inclined than most in his trade really to challenge assumptions.

Some of the material in his book appears plain daft, and Mr Wacker admits to making a lot of it up, but it is so thought-provoking that none of the executive who stick with it to the end are likely to feel the same way about their company as they did when they began.

Significantly, Mr Wacker is playing a central role in the BiT3M project, chairing the thought leadership panel that will combine a diverse group of opinion formers in the realms of consumer forecasting, organisational development and technology trends.

But this will be just one of three ways in which the project will operate. The other two are a global research team that will examine trends in such areas as computer literacy, consumer power and digital information infrastructure, and a collaborative network designed to encourage interaction between project partners.

SRI is confident that participants will benefit in four main ways. They will be in the vanguard of thinking aimed at improving their brand value and sustaining their market position; they will gain vital insights into likely areas of discontinuity and uncertainty; they will be able to use specially developed planning tools for use in "navigating" future markets; and they will be able to form partnerships with global leaders that go far beyond industrial sectors and national boundaries.

"In essence," says SRI's promotional material, "we will create together the intellectual property of doing business in the third millennium". Or, as Mr Wacker puts it: "We are organising how business, technology, society and economics dance together in a new culture."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Software Development Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Ashdown Group: Product Manager - (Product Marketing, Financial Services)

£30000 - £35000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - Marke...

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Assistant

£13000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Pension Specialist was established ...

Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive

£23000 - £26000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Market Research Executive...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links