Exercise: Potential Events That Can Change the Future of Qatar University

The objective of this exercise is to identify potential events that could affect the future of Qatar University if they occurred. 

We will begin the exercise by selecting new leadership roles in each group. The roles are facilitator, flip chart scribe, reporter, and paper hanger (the laptop recorder will remain the same). Please concentrate on the discussion, and not worry about taking notes.

Events are unambiguous and confirmable. When they occur, the future is different. Event identification and analysis is critical in anticipatory planning.

It is important that an event statement be unambiguous; otherwise, it is not helpful in the planning process because (a) it is unclear what may be meant by the statement (i.e., different people may understand the statement differently) and (b) we have no clear target that allows us to derive implications and action steps. For example, consider the following event statement: There will be significant changes in political, social, and economic systems in the Middle East. Each person on a planning team may agree with this statement, but may also interpret it differently. It would be far more useful in analysis for a statement like: Use of alternative sources of energy (e.g., hydrogen, wind) world-wide increases 1,500% from 2006 levels. Or Palastine and Israel sign peace accord. Or OPEC becomes a free trade zone. Or 30% of professors in Dubai use project-based learning as a central instructional strategy. The latter statements are concrete, unambiguous, and signal significant change that could impact colleges and universities in the Middle East.

Another point. We should not include an impact statement in the event statement. Consider the following event statement: New developments in technology will dramatically increase enrollments in online courses throughout the Middle East. First, we need to specify each technological development as an event. Second, it may well be that an event can have both a positive and a negative impact. For example, there may be signals that within five years 85% of college and university courses will use multimedia technologies in instruction. Or, there may be signals that within five years 30% of college and university courses will be taught by the project method. Both events could have both positive and negative consequences on colleges and universities. For example, if the faculty in a particular institution are not currently oriented to using multimedia technology or the project method of instruction, these events may adversely affect the competitive position of their college. On the other hand, distributing the signals of these events in a newsletter to the faculty may bring about an awareness of what is happening and assist in developing a desire to upgrade their set of teaching skills.

Finally, it may be helpful to write event statements as headlines in a newspaper (e.g., Peace in the Middle East; Iran nukes Israel; 90% of students in Gulf region institutions have PCs).

We will use the Nominal Group Process for this exercise. The group facilitator will pose the question: What are the potential events that would change the future of Qatar University if they occurred? Take five minutes to think about the question, remembering to think broadly through the STEEP sectors, locally through globally. Then begin the round-robin process to post nominations from individual group members to the flip chart. We will spend 45 minutes on this part of the exercise (or until you have exhausted event nomination). When I call time, go to the discussion/clarification phase, where the facilitator will ensure that group members understand and agree with the event statements (prepare for some rewriting!). When I call time again, begin selecting those events that may have the most impact on Qatar University in the next decade. We will use the paste-on dots for this exercise. Group members will be given five dots to indicate their selection. Voting criteria are as follows:

  • Vote for five of the most critical events for the future of Qatar University that have some probability of occurrence within the next decade. Do not be concerned about the event having high or low probability; be concerned only about the severity of the impact (positive or negative).
  • Do not put more than one dot on one event statement.
  • Put all dots by the beginning of the event statement (so that we can quickly see the frequency distribution of dots)

After this section is complete, identify the signals that indicate your five most critical events could occur within the coming decade. Take one event, and derive the implications for Qatar University if it should occur and develop your recommended actions for the University to consider in light of your analysis. Then begin preparing your conference report of the five most critical events and the signals that they could occur within five years along with the implications of one event for Qatar University and your recommended actions for the University to consider.

Ensure that you are comfortable with the definition and wording of event statements. Events are unambiguous and confirmable. When they occur, the future is different. Event statements must be unambiguous as well. View them as headlines: short, to the point. And they must have some probability of occurrence within the next 10 years.

Laptop recorders will make file titled Group [your group number]’s 5 Events

  1. Use 36 point Times Roman font
  2. Record the five most critical events that have some probability of occurrence in the next decade.
  3. Under each event, type the signals that indicate the event has some probability of occurrence within the next 10 years
  4. Number the events in priority, 1-5 (using the same number for tied events)
  5. Bring your flash disk to me as soon as this task is completed

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