The response from our Gist reports has been greater than we expected, and we have received feedback from a variety of clients and colleagues. One client was very happy with our wearables Gist and the custom Gists we created for them in a similar style:
“I found the wearables Gist very interesting and passed it around to several colleagues who also really liked the content and format of the report. We like that it is short and concise and provides a nice ‘snapshot’ of a particular issue/topic. [One of the custom Gists] has become required reading for the whole agency.” –Researchers within a North American government agency
However, some people have had questions about the Gist reports, and we will answer a few of these in this blog post.
What are Gists?
Many people were confused about the grammatical appropriateness of the term, Gist. The verb “to gist” is often used in jargon for industries such as law, language learning, and publishing. We have borrowed the term from these specific applications where someone might gist a legal case, a machine translated website, or a book. Themanager.org defines gisting as, “the art of concisely reducing complex material to its absolute essence for intelligence reporting purposes.” Gisting allows the reader to sufficiently comprehend the document in question without having to understand every detail that an expert would dictate.
A typical research report can be anywhere from 40-200 pages depending on the topic it is written on and the sector it is written for, but our Gists are 5-10 page reports that summarize a future relevant issue—a megatrend, an emerging technology, a social/ consumer trend, a disruptive business model, etc. Our Gist reports are not comprehensive, but they still convey the main points that would be included in a much longer report.
How to Gist?
Although no one can claim to be an expert on the future, Shaping Tomorrow is a group of experts concerned with thinking and speaking about the future. Our automated Forecast system summarizes the views of an even wider selection of experts, and it is the summarizing capacity of our Forecast system that makes our Gist reports so convenient and affordable compared to longer research reports. We combine these Forecast summaries with an introduction to the topic and an analysis of the topic. The Forecasts sandwiched in the middle provide a quick look at our sources and their contribution to the analysis.
Where many strategic planners rely on predictions and forecasts, we suggest a more flexible and more skillful approach. We suggest developing multiple scenarios that will help organizations improve their strategic acumen and better prepare them for the unpredictable. The Forecast summaries are a great place to start building scenarios, and our analyses point readers in the right direction for thinking through different scenarios and their plausible outcomes.
Why would an organization want a gist of the future when they need to build strategy based on it? None of the clients have been concerned about this, only some of our colleagues in the foresight and consulting fields. Many consultants do not want to face the fact that many of the reports they write do not get read by a majority of the intended readers. Organization heads are often too busy to read 40 page reports much less anything longer, but a 5-10 page report which is specifically made for skimming can be consumed more easily and therefore applied to strategy much quicker.
Such reporting inherently runs the risk that decision makers will make up their minds about a topic in haste, but our Gists afford them the opportunity to read the entire report and therefore to more knowledgably think around a topic in a time efficient manner. The ultimate purpose of the Gists is to offer value even to those who have the patience and time to read a 200 page report. The value is not only in the convenience of a shorter, more direct report but also because it can provide decision makers with a global view of the topic without all the distractions that reduce agility and often muddle strategic forecasts.
Consultants, speakers, students, heads of state, executives, middle management, and stakeholders at multiple levels are seeing our Gists to get a brief intro to a topic they are interested in. A key benefit of the brevity and convenience of the Gists is that more people can be involved in the decision making process. Although the final decision may rest with the head of an organization, the communication of change weighs on every member of the organization. Whatever the new strategy might be, the change itself and the opportunity it presents must be communicated effectively, or the new strategy will flounder. With more people involved in the research phase, effective communication both of and for a change can be achieved quicker and easier.
Computer Aided Futuring
Shaping Tomorrow offers its users a process of computer aided futuring which is used to create the Gist reports. Futuring is futurist jargon for methods of thinking about the future. To learn more about us and how our computer aided futuring system can help your organization think and plan for change more efficiently, please visit our website http://www.shapingtomorrow.com/. To learn more about Foresight and Futures Studies, be sure to first take our survey before and after you read our Practical Foresight Guide.