2009 Archives

Which Way Do We Go?

Answers aren’t blowing in the wind, nor are they in crystal balls or tea leaves. But futurists can narrow the universe of business choices and spark some creative thinking.


The following is from the February 2009 edition of The American Way in-flight magazine. Joe Dancy, an adjunct professor in SMU's Cox School of Business, provided expertise for this story.

February 10, 2009

By Robert Mcgarvey

Identifying opportunities is tricky business these days, when changes are happening faster, bigger, and more profoundly than ever before.

In executive suites from Houston to New York to London to Santiago, corporate leaders realize that in this fast-changing world, businesses that ignore warp-speed change today will be roadkill by tonight. Hence the growing importance of the business futurist, a breed that focuses on the practical rather than fanciful, whose brains are down to earth instead of lost in space.

In fact, futurists say they’ve seen an explosion of corporate work in recent months, likely because companies that spent three to four years focusing on survival are now more optimistic and ready to think about tomorrow — but not so optimistic that they’re willing to take unnecessary risks or make decisions without information that’s as complete as possible. Executives are calling on futurists for speeches, workshops, retreats, even hands-on consulting. . .

Indeed, it’s the thought that counts, says Southern Methodist University adjunct professor Joe Dancy. About a decade ago, when natural gas deregulation took hold, Dancy advised a smaller natural gas company to rethink its very business model.

Maybe gas wasn’t its real business, Dancy posited. Maybe the company’s core assets were its rights of way for pipelines, particularly in urban areas where new easements are very hard to acquire. Add in skilled, fast-responding maintenance and construction crews and, just maybe, the company could go into the telecommunications business.

What if it began laying broadband cable? What if it reinvented the business completely? The company did none of this, Dancy says, but by going through this deep thinking, it made sure it knew itself that much better.

Read the full story.

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