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Slide Rule

Did the makers of slide rules assume too much continuity?

An organization’s routine strategymaking has to include ongoing explorations of the forces, issues, and trends in its internal and external environment. That is environmental scanning, and the process is routine for any well-led organization. But too often our scanning focus is too narrow and is based on assumptions of continuity.

Here’s why that happens. When you look at your future from today, and explore the topics you already know are part of your business, you are focusing tightly on your existing systems, processes, relationships, technologies, and the trends and forces shaping them. In doing that, you can too easily assume your organization, or your profession, or your sector, or your product/technology will continue as it has. And unfortunately, that’s the kind of routine environmental scanning that organizations do.

Is this what the makers of “adding machines”—the mechanical calculators of three or four decades ago thought? The slide rule? Probably. They just kept working to get better at the same business, assuming continuity.

But your continuity is not assured—it is essential to question it. Bigger things—things you may not be looking at carefully—can disrupt or destroy the pathway you are on. You need to question that pathway, and explore what could change your game entirely. That means asking some tough questions and changing the way you explore your future. Those points are the subject of another post.

These thoughts continue in the post “Ask the Hard Questions

Image: Dominic’s Pics, cc attribution license, via Flickr

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