The New York Times wants to hire a futurist. Here is the link from a blog specializing in digital medial jobs and below is an excerpt from the ad copy:
The ideal candidate will be highly imaginative and well-informed about the social and technology trends affecting the creation, distribution and consumption of all forms of media now and in the future. We are looking for someone who...[can] vividly paint a picture of how the world around us is evolving.
-- Spot trends in consumer behavior....
-- Project these trends into the future and suggest new directions ....
-- Monitor the competitive landscape ....
-- Provide context for the technology prototypes developed by R&D ....
Much of the print media is now in panic mode because of declining subscriptions and this ad confirms for me that they still don't really understand what is happening. What the NYT should be hiring is personnel with different cognitive abilities. Below is a definition for cognition copied from here (emphasis mine).
High level functions carried out by the human brain, including comprehension and use of speech, visual perception and construction, calculation ability, attention (information processing), memory, and executive functions such as planning, problem-solving, and self-monitoring.
Predicting what will most likely happen in the future, in the clinical lab industry for example, consists of understanding what has happened in past, reviewing current trends and scientific discoveries, and then "making a series of mental bets" about what will happen in the future. It is a pure cognitive process that some people are good at it and others are less good at it. Some key employees have cognitive abilities that lend themselves better to managing processes and procedures than to predicting future events and they should be highly valued in an organization. No efficient lab could run without such employees.
Why does every laboratory, or any organization for that matter, need some small number of people who are skilled at predicting future events. A successful lab needs to know where to place its investments -- what technology to purchase, what tests to offer, and what services the lab's physician customers will want.
We now come to what I will call the easy part of this issue but which may look hard at first glance. How does a laboratory determine who among its executives and managers are skilled at predicting the future? All you need to do is the following:
- Call a meeting of the lab's managers and executives and ask them to jot down the five most important changes that they believe will affect the lab industry on a one-year and three-year basis and what steps the lab should take to prepare for these changes
- After these documents have been received, file them away until the next year's meeting at which time the personnel will be allowed the opportunity to review and revise their documents for the next year's meeting.
- I would predict that about half of the personnel will provide safe or uninformative responses to the question such as "we will be doing pretty much the same things we are doing now." These are not the "futurists" that you can depend on.
- About half will provide some degree of specificity -- some will be specific and wrong and some will be specific and generally correct The latter individuals are the futurists who can be of assistance in lab planning.