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The Impact Wheel

A Strategic Thinking Exercise


David Pearce Snyder




In today's complex world of inter-dependent economic, social and technologic systems, each event and development has a multitude of diverse impacts, and those impacts in turn produce consequences that have additional impacts of their own. While most of us understand that this is true, we do not often think about the world in this way, because the multitude of potential interactions is simply too confusing to keep track of. Unfortunately, this means that we often fail to identify future opportunities or problems that may be generated by current trends and developments.

The Impact Wheel is a simple analytical tool designed to help planners and decision-makers more fully explore the potential consequences of specific predictable future realities, and to identify implications for their markets, resources, regulatory environment, etc. that they might otherwise fail to anticipate. In fact, a growing body of research indicates that most economic cycles, and most dramatic business successes and failures can be traced to mis-assumptions about the consequences of change. Using the Impact Wheel, participants in this exercise will work in small groups to assess the organizational and operational implications posed by major predictable developments of the next 5-10-15 years.

"Impact Wheels" have been described by some people as "structured brainstorming." The concept was developed by graduate students in futures research at the University of Massachusetts during the early 1970's, and today the technique is used by corporate planners and public policy-makers throughout the world. It is a simple technique, requiring only blank paper, a pen and 1 to 8 fertile minds. In spite of this simplicity, the Wheel is also an extremely powerful method of exploring the future, and is currently used by such firms as IBM, AT&T and the Dayton-Hudson Corporation to identify new markets, products and services; and by the U.S. military to assess alternative tactics and strategies.


2000 David Pearce Snyder

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