Finding the Fringe Takes Time

Recently I posted about snowball scanning as a way to find the fringe in horizon scanning. As I thought more about, I realized a big challenge with developing fringe sources is that they take time to develop! I was adding a hit to my After Capitalism library (private on Diigo) and I realized that over the course of the last several years, I’d come across some pretty funky — aka fringey –sources.

We should probably review two different kinds of horizon scanning:

  • Scanning: continuous, year-round search for interesting trends, needs and ideas w/out a particular topic in mind
  • Scan: focused effort for a project/given period of time around a specific domain

It seems to me that in scanning we have the luxury of time to dig for the fringe. We can do the snowball scanning. We have the time to dig deep down the Reddit Rabbit hole and find those fringe conversations. But with a scan for a project that might last three months and have a month or so of intense scanning, it becomes much more costly to invest time and effort in the fringe. Not impossible, but more challenging.

This is an advantage for organizational futurists in that a single organization’s domain is likely to be more bounded (compared to a consulting futurist jumping from topic to topic). The organizational futurist can put more time in finding and characterizing their fringe.

What say ye? What’s your experience in how much time it takes to find the fringe? – Andy Hines

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