Reaching through the crystal ball

Paul Stamper
Qualitative Research, TNS, United Kingdom

David Palmer
Affinion International, United Kingdom

INTRODUCTION

Throughout history mankind has longed to know what the future holds. Our desire for information about the greatest uncertainty in all our lives has led to seers peering at the entrails of animals, kings and rulers consulting oracles on Greek mountainsides and be-tented fairground fortune tellers interpreting patterns in cards and the lines on our hands. In business too this desire to look into the future is strong. After all, the company which anticipated the trend and was ready with a new product just as consumers started to want it would enjoy a significant advantage over its competitors.

Whilst businesses are more sophisticated than our oracle and entrail consulting forebears, there is still huge interest in methods and approaches which can help raise the veil on the future. It is a truism that the enterprising organisation, which devotes sufficient and intelligently deployed resources to imagine what the future will be like, should increase its likelihood of identifying new opportunities and so gear financial, physical and human resources appropriately.