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
Floyd Mayweather will relinquish his five world titles after beating Manny Pacquiao
Arts and Entertainment
tvGame of Thrones season 5 ep 4, review - WARNING: contains major spoiliers!
Tottenham legend Jimmy Greaves has defended fans use of the word 'Yid'
Life and Style
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Senior SEO Executive

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior SEO Executive is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Online Customer Service Administrator

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Online customer Service Admi...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global, industry leading, ...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living