Ability to anticipate change is one of the very poorly understood and misrepresented and often ignored facets of life. Your abilty to anticipate change (good or bad) gives you an option to be prepared and as the ancient philosopher seneca rightly said 'luck favours the prepared'.
It is the differentiating factor between a normal dude who follows the crowd buying an iPhone and a smart guy who in the anticipation of the new 'iPhone application market' that has been opened spends some time learning iPhone SDK. Apart from those who are completely drunk and thinking hard to remember their home address (recent surveys indicate that 2% of them never reach home) nobody wants to be unaware of whats going to happen , otherwise astrology would not be one of the worlds most profitable and aged occupations ,the only obvious competition being ....
Surprisingly many of us including the all powerful leaders who have everything at their disposal blink and and caught unaware of surprising turns of our lives , a few of them would be 9/11, 7/7, recent 26/11, global economic crises. Though all the inciedents are easy to rationalise in retrospect. I feel we ought to learn from lesson and sharpen our toolset to face the bleaky future ahead.
There are only few who succeed in anticipating opportunities and hazards and prepare themselves and the corporations that they represent towards growth and/or avoiding failure. These are the nosy people who could visualize the war when others are struck with the nuances of battles, this is the ability that makes Alexander , Alexander the great.
To dig a bit deeper, what are the key ingredients required to have an ability to anticipate change
The first and foremost is access to the information , secondly ability to process the information either by themselves or by discussing with those who could to convert that into knowledge and finally to be able to rationally decide and act-upon or influence the key decision makers.
Access to the information is not a difficult task anymore thanks to the technology. Internet has cut the barriers of access to the information (to the extent that terrorists also tend to rely upon it for their survival, for instance google earth was supposed to have been referred by mumbai terrorists).
The second part is the most critical part of the equation, many often we tend to form very rigid learning and inference patterns based on what has worked for us(to our dad and some friends) in the past and limit our decision making abilities. And this is exactly the place where our personal priorities and prejudices start playing a major role. By nature , human mind has a tremendous ability to imagine and creates a design space for facing a scenario with numerous decisions and a more complex design space for linking multiple scenarios and so on.
To keep things very simple, if we imagine our decisions are stored in a library which is huge, more often we dont walk across all the shelves to get the exact book we are searching for. We stop at the nearest shelf which has closest possible similarity of what we are searching for. Our restriction of getting stuck to what we beleive is right (esp when we are aware of the fact that it could be wrong) breeds to denial. When we our mind gets used to 'denial' mechanism, it gets even more comfortable as it need to seek only very few inputs from outside.
This is one of the reasons why knowingly people get into mega-ponzi schemes of economic terrorists like Modoff and this is why there are jehadists who are hell bent to change the world in the way they are comfortable seeing with their little knowledge.
The third part of acting is where big mistakes are bound to happen, for e.g we cannot expect obama to sleep tight and think about a solution for on going economic onslaught, he leans on his advisers and his judgemental abilities (on the contrary people still beleive he is effectively googling for a solution), more than leaders we are always sorrounded by people who influence our thoughts and the perennial human itch to do something and be appretiated which would further complicate things.
In short, ability to anticipate really makes a difference in our judgements and keeps us prepared and increases our possibility to succeed. But there is a limit to what we can do and if one could anticipate all or most of the situations, management consultants/holy-men (strangely they both have lot of resemblance in their operations, less work and lot of money) and other advisors would vanish out of the window. Can you imagine a world with out Gartner/Forrester/Mckinsey types. Unfortunately i cannot.