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By George Foster, CEO of Foster Marketing

On my way to OTC from Lafayette, I passed a billboard on I-10 that proclaimed that the Day of Judgment is near. The billboard paraphrased Ezekiel 33:3: “Blow the trumpet…warn the people.”

Save the date: May 21, 2011. Save the time: 6 p.m.

If preacher Harold Camping, founder of Family Radio (www.familyradio.com), is right, that’s the exact date Jesus will return. Camping determined the exact day, May 21st, through a series of Biblical calculations. This isn’t the first time he’s predicted Jesus’ return. Originally, he proclaimed that the End Time would come on Sept. 4, 1994. When the Rapture failed to occur on the appointed day, Camping said he had made a mathematical error.

Camping is not the first to proclaim the return and there have been more than two dozen predictions on the Second Coming (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Coming_of_Christ). However, no one knows the exact time of Christ’s return – not even Christ himself as proclaimed in Mark 13:32:

But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

Our fixation with the future, whether it be religious, economic (the price of oil and gas and healthcare reform) or even our communities (“the future is where our children live” one person told me), consumes our thoughts.

Recently, Andy Hines, a lecturer and executive-in-residence at the University of Houston’s Graduate Program in Futures Studies, spoke to a group of advertising agency principals at a meeting I hosted in Lafayette.

Andy heads Hinesight (http://www.andyhinesight.com) and has written several books on the future – or maybe more accurately forecasting the future. He doesn’t try to predict the future but attempts, through a process, to help companies better forecast their futures.

His topic was “Thinking [Better] About the Future: A Hands-on Approach to Applying Foresight”. Download a PDF of the presentation.

Why foresight? Companies can apply foresight to:

• Uncover new opportunities

• Detect threats

• Craft strategy

• Guide policy

• Understand emerging customer needs

• Explore new offerings, markets, products or services

This is applied through a thought-provoking process that’s broken down into a framework — framing, scanning, forecasting, visioning, planning and acting.

Framing: As Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” First, you need to know your audience, map the landscape and set a time horizon for completion. For example, the life cycle of a computer chip is 18 months; an offshore oil platform 30 years. Finally, determine your degree of stretch. In other words, a competitor introduces an innovative new product in your space. How do you respond?

Scanning: Collect information. Find opportunities before the competition does. Look for changes “outside,” talk to people, explore unfamiliar territory, capture insights and create a trend inventory.

Forecasting: What are the attractive spaces? Cluster potential trends into drivers; identify “insights” around which to build opportunity spaces; identify key uncertainties; challenge assumptions (a vital part of the process); look for potential discontinuities; create scenarios; and summarize the opportunity spaces.

Visioning, Planning & Acting: Develop a Futures Wheel, placing your “most interesting” assumption reversal in the middle. Visioning and planning make up 17 percent of the foresight planning process. Acting represents 23 percent and consists of catalyzing action and change; building alignment, commitment and confidence; and building a learning organization.

This is just part of the foresight process. I would encourage any company who wants to look into the future to consider working with Andy. It would be well worth the effort.

Now, if you believe Camping, that’s a moot point. The end is a short few days away and counting down on his website. To that I say, I don’t know what my future holds, but I know Who holds my future.

Let us help you plan for 2011 and beyond. Email Jamie Efurd or call 281-448-3435 or 337-235-1848 to schedule a meeting with Foster Marketing to discuss how we can help integrate and enhance your marketing efforts.