Scanning to innovate – new material added on horizon scanning

[Originally published on the Australian Government Public Sector Innovation Network under a Creative Commons 3.0 BY AU licence]

For our finale for Innovation Month 2014 we’d like to announce the addition of some new guidance material about horizon scanning to the resources available on the Public Sector Innovation Toolkit.

‘A practical guide: introduction to horizon scanning in the public sector’ [PDF 1.5 MBWord 1.1 MB][1. This material was produced for us by Kate Delaney, through John Robinson Consulting Services Pty Ltd.] gives an in-depth introduction to the technique of horizon scanning and why and how it should be used.

“Horizon scanning is a structured process designed to capture, make sense of and assess the importance of emerging issues, trends and developments in train – that are often not very obvious today – and that might significantly influence current policy, service delivery, and practice.”

How do innovation and horizon scanning link?

Personally, I have found horizon scanning to be a tremendously useful tool and a powerful contributor to my own capacity to innovate.

Horizon scanning provides a sense of what is possible, of different futures and of different scenarios. It can help identify emerging trends and issues which might shape how you innovate or help you think about what you should be innovating for. It can help identify developments in other fields that you might be able to apply or bring to bear in your own area of work.

The very act of looking for weak signals in your environment and in your reading can help spur ideas. The practice of considering possible trends and seeing multiple interpretations by different people of those weak signals can help your thinking become more flexible and aid your ability to see multiple pathways for any one issue. Thinking about future scenarios and possible developments can help you ‘rehearse the future’, a useful skill for any public servant, let alone one seeking to innovate.

We provide this new resource in the hope that it will provide some assistance in thinking about how you might be able to undertake horizon scanning, as an individual or across your organisation.

As Innovation Month 2014 draws to a close, what better way to end it than by thinking about what the future might bring, and how we may need to innovate in order to meet it?