Trends Defining the Context Within Which Qatar University functions

Trends are estimations/measurements of social, technological, economic, environmental, and political characteristics over time. They are gradual and long-term. Trend information may be used to describe the future, identify emerging issues, and project future events. Trend statements should be clearly stated, concise, and contain only one idea. Examples of trend statements are:

  • the number of computers with voice recognition software sold in the Middle East
  • the number of Middle-Eastern colleges and universities requiring entering students to have computers
  • the number of students aged 18-21 applying for admission to Middle Eastern colleges and universities

Trends define the context within which organizations function. Therefore, it is important to identify critical trends, particularly those that are emerging, forecast their future direction, derive their implications for effective planning, and construct plans to take advantage of the opportunities they offer or ameliorate their consequences if they may negatively impact the institution. In trend identification, it is important to look widely in the social, technological, economic, environmental, and political (STEEP) sectors, locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally.

We will begin the exercise by selecting leadership roles in each working group. The roles are facilitator, flip chart scribe, reporter, laptop reporter, and paper hanger. We will change roles for different exercises (except for the laptop reporter) so that you may expect to play several of these roles during the conference. No one is allowed to serve in the same role twice. Thus, you may concentrate on the discussion, and not worry about taking notes. In this and in all exercises in this workshop, individual groups may take breaks at their discretion. However, please make sure that all work is completed for a particular time frame prior to taking a break.

The tasks in this exercise are first to identify critical trends and prioritize them. You will use the Nominal Group Process for this exercise. That is, the facilitator will pose the question: What are the critical trends that define the context within which Qatar University will function in the coming decade? Take five minutes to think about the question. Think broadly through the social, technological, economic, environmental, and political sectors (STEEP), locally and globally. Write your trend nominations down on your notepad. Then begin the round robin process to post nominations from individual group members to the flip chart. Remember: only one nomination per person as we go through the process. Nominate only the most critical trends. Each nomination will be written on the flip chart by the flip chart recorder so that all can see the nominations. The laptop recorder will also record the nominations as they are stated. During this time the only person talking is the person nominating a statement; all others are requested to think about the statement to see if it stimulates an idea that they had not had before. There is no discussion of the merit or clarity of the nomination at this time. When you are convinced that you have exhausted identifying the most critical trends in each of the STEEP sectors (or when I have called time due to time limitations), the group facilitator will guide the group in a discussion of each nomination to clarify, discuss, edit, and remove redundancies. Of course the discussion may uncover more trends or may lead to combining nominated trends into one trend, all of which will then be posted on the flip chart where the facilitator will ensure that group members understand and agree with the trend statements (prepare for some rewriting!). You may combine trend statements or identify new ones. 

Ensure that you are comfortable with the definition and wording for trend statements. Trend statements may just identify a trend (e.g., the number of computers with voice recognition software sold in the Gulf region.) or may include a forecast (e.g., the number of computers with voice recognition software sold in the Gulf Region is increasing). Make sure that your trend statements contain only one idea per per trend statement (e.g., "the percentage of students entering Gulf Region colleges and universities with personal computers is increasing").

We will then prioritize the trend statements by each person in each group "voting" with the five dots you will be given. The criteria for voting is for you to select the five most critical trends for Qatar University. Put a dot on the left hand side of each trend statement (so that we can see the frequency distribution easily). Remember: one dot per trend. Prepare your report to the conference of the five most critical trends.

Finally, we will derive the implications of one trend for Qatar University and the actions you recommend the University to consider in light of your analysis.

Laptop recorders will:

  1. Label file: Group [your group number]’s 5 Trends
  2. At top of file, type: Group [your group number]’s Five Most Critical Trends
  3. Use 36 point Times Roman font
  4. Put in number format (1 – 5 in order of importance; indicate ties by using the same number e.g., 1, 2, 2, 5, 6)
  5. Type implications of one trend for Qatar University and the actions you recommend the University take in light of your analysis
  6. Bring your flash disk to me as soon as this task is completed. The group reporter will use this file for his/her presentation to the conference using the computer projector.

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