Horizon Scan for Competitive Advantage

Organizations are consistently seeking out ways to gain a competitive edge and navigate the challenging landscape that lies before them. For those who intend to remain sustainable as change comes and the future progresses into the present, tools must be utilized to assist organizations. Organizations must have a mechanism to identify key questions that assist in better prioritization of strategy and strengthening ties between policy makers, managers, practitioners and other key stakeholders (Kark et al., 2016). Such clarity in strategy can help direct future work, research agendas, initiatives, funding, and resource use in the field. (Kark et al., 2016). 

Predicting the future can be a difficult endeavor, and organizational leaders often struggle with spending time and resources on such an endeavor. This is why implementing a process like horizon scanning can make predicting the future, or at least understanding various possible futures, a useful process (Cornish, 2005). Horizon scanning focuses on trends, which are changes that occur over time, rather than events that occur very quickly and are less significant for understanding the future (Cornish, 2005). Instead, horizon scanning focuses on extrapolating potential harms and transgressions that may be problematic in the future (White & Heckenberg, 2011). Horizon scanning takes into account the known, but also considers uncertainties of present knowledge, trends in existing patterns, and unknown contingencies (White and Heckenberg, 2011).

Horizon scanning is an intellectual exercise and planning tool that can provide organizations with a competitive edge. It allows organizations who utilize it to benefit from understanding threats and opportunities and opportunities that are poorly recognized by other organizations (White & Heckenberg, 2011). A systematic approach to understanding the future using identification of issue solutions provides better results than ad hoc or reactive approaches (White & Heckenberg, 2011).


Cornish, E. (2005). Futuring: the exploration of the future (1. paperback printing). Bethesda, Md: World Future Society.

Kark, S., Sutherland, W. J., Shanas, U., Klass, K., Achisar, H., Dayan, T., … Levin, N. (2016). Priority Questions and Horizon Scanning for Conservation: A Comparative Study. PLoS ONE, 11(1), 1–29. http://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0145978

White, R., & Heckenberg, D. (2011). Environmental Horizon Scanning and Criminological Theory And Practice. European Journal on Criminal Policy & Research, 17(2), 87–100. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10610-011-9138-y


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