Do you know that your present day laptop is a result of convergence? It is the result of a convergence of technological advancements, where batteries were developed to provide independence from fixed power sockets and hard-disks were made compact enough to carry in portable devices. The smartphone resulted from the convergence of technologies such as mobile internet, cellular telecommunication and mini-applications that do not need your average computer’s hard-disk to run on.
Parallel occurrences of impacting events
Nothing in our world, or in existence, happens in isolation. This is a very simple fundamental fact about life, nature and the universe. While one event occurs in one location, countless others happen simultaneously in countless other places. This is something that we all easily know and understand. Now, to study the future, and prepare for it, we need to remember and appreciate this fact.
A Futurist needs to look at a combination of sequences happening in parallel that are co-related or interdependent or impacting on each other in one way or another. Basically, you need to apply systems thinking. What factor have we not considered? What factor do we need to consider? Such are the questions that need to be asked, in order to effectively foresee the future ahead.
For example, when mobile apps currently in use for communication to circumvent the use of the conventional telephone connection, are used in future on wearable computers, usable with the help of unlimited and high-speed reliable internet, the smartphone will be disrupted, being rendered obsolete.
Disruption through convergence
The above example sounds like a simple statement. However, the disruption of the smartphone is a result of convergence, which you can see, if you read the statement carefully. The disruption is the convergence of wearable technology, smart applications that aid communication and improved internet access. The three technologies need to advance and come together in convergence to disrupt the smartphone.
Fundamentally, convergence is exactly what the future is about. Therefore, the key ingredient in strategic foresight, logically, is to study current research and development, events, situations, conditions, changes, evolutions and progress in different areas & aspects, in parallel, concurrently. While studying these, what needs to be then done, is to identify what could have a domino or ripple effect across the parallel lines, what could converge and how, at which point. Once this is done effectively, you have effective foresight that can be of commercial and strategic value that can be used for anticipatory planning and strategizing.
The strategic value of understanding convergence
Failed forecasts, foresight or business plans & strategies can be attributed to the lack of understanding of the dynamics of convergence effects. For an example, when manufacturers falter in pricing strategies. The failure could be a result of inadequately factoring the likely convergence of concurrent market developments, such as changing buyer behaviours, alternatives being sold by market competitors and R&D amongst organisations upstream that would allow a supply of parts to market competitors at lower costs.
In conclusion, we cannot effectively engage in strategic foresight, in the absence of proper understanding of convergence.