|ANTICIPATING THE FUTURE|
James L. Morrison
Program in Educational Leadership
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
A major purpose of On the Horizon is to identify signals of change in the external environment that could affect educational organizations, examine implications of these signals, and derive recommendations for educational leaders in light of this analysis. The value of this approach to anticipating the future is to provide lead time to prepare for the consequences of potential changes in the external environment. The value of On the Horizon is to serve as a pump primer to generate discussion about potential developments that could affect your organization, be it a college, university, or public school.
Last summer I facilitated an Anticipating the Future workshop for fifty community college presidents at the American Association of Community College Summer Experience in Breckenridge, Colorado. The design of the workshop was simple. Participants were given past issues of On the Horizon to read several weeks prior to traveling to Breckenridge. The first exercise focused on identifying events, the ones that--if they occurred--would affect the future of community colleges. This exercise generated a number of potential developments. Working in small groups, participants selected one of the most salient events and in a sequence of exercises attempted to identify the signals that such an event could occur within the next ten years and to derive the implications for community colleges if the event were to occur. They also drafted recommendations for action in light of this analysis. These exercises serve as a model that you can use in your organization to anticipate the future and use the information generated by the model to shape your future.
To illustrate, here is the result of one groups analysis of a potential event (assisted with some of my editing). The potential event they identified was that of a major software company (such as Microsoft) joining with a provider of educational materials (say, Disney) and a telecommunications company (such as AT&T) to produce and sell educational training modules.
The indicators that signal such a possibility are as follows:
What are the implications of these signals for educators? Seminar participants saw the following:
What should educational leaders do?
The world is changing quickly. In the United States, prisons and roads vie effectively with education for public funds. The government is reducing its support for the research infrastructure of the country. Colleges and universities are becoming less relevant in the mind of the public. The chance of a Microsoft/AT&T/Disney conglomerate delivering educational and occupational training via telecommunications is not as far out as one would initially think; indeed, the probability of this high-impact, low-probability event is increasing.
The purpose of the exercise described
here is to stimulate thinking about possibilities so that we can take action to shape our
future. If you wish to see other potential events identified by the participants at the
AACC meeting as well as those by participants in similar workshops, visit the Workshops
and Seminars section of Welcome to Horizon Home Page (/projects/seminars/).
You can contribute to the dialogue on these issues via Horizon List. To subscribe to
Horizon List, send the following message to firstname.lastname@example.org: subscribe horizon
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