Today’s question for FOECast’s Ideation Week is: What forecasting methods should we consider?
I am far less qualified to address this question than yesterday’s. But in reading a few of the resources that Bryan provided, I’ll offer a few thoughts.
The environmental scan is a useful snapshot of the current situation, and provides insights into what needs to change in order to move to a desired future. For libraries, OCLC, Ithaka and ACRL research publications have been most helpful in this regard. As a forecasting method, however, it is limited, particularly at a time in which innovations are created, shared and judged useful (or not) very quickly. Environmental scans are useful to determine where we are, useful in going forward, but forward to … what?
The Delphi method, in which a group of experts are polled to develop a list of emerging technologies, seems a more accurate method of forecasting. Experts pay attention to innovations in their fields, and this focus is invaluable in discerning trends in today’s information glut. The value in the Delphi method is to determine which technologies and technological directions are likely to prove useful in the short and medium term. What tools do we have now, and what tools are we likely to have in the future that will prove useful, even revolutionary?
But the Delphi method is not meant to provide the vision of what a desirable future looks like, for information technology, libraries, or anything else. Knowing what the situation is now is essential, as is tracking the development and assessing the usefulness of technological and other tools that empower people to change things. Just as essential, however, is having a vision of the kind of future we want to create. As the present and technological tools change over time, so will this vision, in detail at least. But the values and principles we all seek to live by and for, should not change as rapidly. What are those values and principles that are our lodestar, that guide us in the tools we use and how we use them?