Anticipatory Analysis helps decision-makers, and those who support decision-makers, by systematically illuminating the potential outcomes in the future. Reducing uncertainty can help mitigate the adverse effects of surprises, if not avoid them, and it can also highlight opportunities that can be leveraged to yield benefits. In today’s fast paced world, reaction typically forces us to consider a narrower and costlier set of options vice anticipation, where a wider range of options comes into view. In other words, anticipatory analysis assists organizations navigate the future by bolstering their resiliency and adaptability.
Effective anticipatory analysis requires different methodologies, mindsets, and standards of evidence than traditional analysis. Traditional analysis often focuses on producing the most robust explanation of what has happened and/or attempts to precisely predicting what will happen. Traditional analysis often relies on conclusions closely tied to available data and its predictions tend to be narrow, simple extrapolations from those data.
Anticipatory analysis, in contrast, recognizes the limitations of data when considering the future and that linear extrapolations are likely to be invalidated by non-linear trajectories and complex interactions. While also relying on data, anticipatory analysis entails substantial and systematic conjecture from those data, a mindset that continually challenges assumptions, and methodological rigor derived from a deliberate, structured, transparent process.
Anticipatory analysis draws upon the best techniques of government approaches to warning and business planning. Two major categories of anticipatory analysis work are forecasting and foresight. Forecasting explores the drivers of change (trends), how and why those trends may interact, and the impact of plausible outcomes of those interactions. Foresight seeks to detect weak signals of emerging issues before they are widely recognized and to provide insight into their potential scope, scale and impact. Time horizons and additional methodologies can be used to enhance understanding, depending on the questions that need to be answered.