Horizon Scanning

Discover what horizon scanning is, how to do it, why it’s important for an organization, and how you can use modern technology to improve your horizon scanning practices!

What is Horizon Scanning?

Horizon scanning is a practice from future studies and is also considered a part of foresight. The process involves assessing any potential threats, future opportunities, developments, and other events that could arise. The goal of horizon scanning is to identify any of these potential events and create contingency plans in the event that they arise.

Horizon scanning is a proactive action designed to help shape more desirable futures and outcomes. That said, horizon scanning isn’t about predicting the future or which risks will happen. Instead, the practice is meant to identify the potential risks that an organization or project may face and create plans around certain situations and events.

What is it For?

Any organization and team can practice horizon scanning. This is a necessary aspect of management as it protects the project or organization against risks that can cause financial damages, safety threats, legal troubles, and more. Horizon scanning is typically practiced in crafting government policies to ensure resiliency, but any team manager or organization can practice it to ensure that they achieve desirable outcomes.

Horizon scanning is a systematic and objective examination of information to determine potential risks and threats to a project. It also includes examining potential opportunities in the future that could result in major improvements. While it can help reduce and manage risks, horizon scanning involves analyzing everything, including positive future opportunities.

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A Step-by-Step Guide to Horizon Scanning

There isn’t a definitive or singular way to conduct horizon scanning. Horizon scanning may look different depending on your organization, industry, and overall goals. That said, it’s crucial that horizon scanning should include defining your topic, using a framework to conduct your analyses and studies, and scanning the environment.

To give a clearer idea of how to do horizon scanning, here’s a brief guide on how to do it.

Define

The first step in horizon scanning is defining your topic. As horizon scanning is a part of future studies, it’s very important to have a clear issue or topic which you are aiming to handle in your research. This can take time and the effort of the entire team, but a clearly defined topic makes for better and more useful research.

Expand Your Views

A key aspect of horizon scanning is gaining a new perspective. So, after determining your topic or issue, try to look at it from different angles and expand your horizons. While you need to have a definite problem or issue that you’re addressing, it’s also important to look past the horizon, allowing you to create clearer plans for different events.

Scan the Horizon

This is the step where you can add more information to your topic. Scanning the horizon means looking at potential threats, events, developments, and opportunities that can be faced. This is one of the most crucial aspects of horizon scanning and one that you cannot skip.

Assess

Once you have different events, opportunities, and risks on your radar, it’s time to make an assessment. Gather the team and go through everything you found in the previous steps. From there, it will be much easier to determine what to prepare for, how to handle certain situations, and more.

Answer the Initial Question

After all the previous steps, you always have to go back to your initial topic or question. Remember, horizon scanning starts with figuring out which specific topic you’re addressing and the goal of the research. So, after collating and analayzing all the data, make sure to relate it back to the initial issue.

Create a Course of Action

The last step in horizon scanning is creating plans for every event that may or may not occur. This is meant to help you prepare for certain changes, risks, and more. Again, horizon scanning helps in shaping a better and more desirable outcome, so the last step is creating controls that will guide you towards your goals.

FAQs about Horizon Scanning

Horizon scanning is a key part of future studies. It’s used in multiple fields and industries such as project management, government, research, and more. It is a great process for preparing for different events and changes, which is why it’s so widely used.

Horizon scanning is a systematic process of identifying potential changes, events, and risks. This is why it’s important to have a dedicated research team doing horizon scanning for a project and presenting clear and concise results.

Horizon scanning is a foresight method, which means it should be done before the commencement of a project. That way, if ever there are changes that you encounter while working on something, you are prepared.

No, horizon scanning isn’t required. However, it’s a very useful step in ensuring that you reach your goals. This is why it’s highly recommended to conduct horizon scanning before starting a project.

Leon Altomonte
Article by
Leon Altomonte
Leon Altomonte is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He got into content writing while taking up a language degree and has written copy for various web pages and blogs. Aside from working as a freelance writer, Leon is also a musician who spends most of his free time playing gigs and at the studio.