Coffee Hour: Estimative Analysis, Strategic Planning, and Geography

Friday, February 8, 2013 - 3:30pm to 5:00pm
3:30 p.m. Refreshments are offered in the E. Willard Miller seminar room, 319 Walker Building. • 4:00 p.m. The lecture begins at 4:00 p.m. in the John J. Cahir Auditorium, 112 Walker Building.


An early behavioral psychologist, Kurt Lewin, once said, “If you want truly to understand something, try to change it.”   

Change is inevitable.  It is driven by known and unknown processes, trends, events, wild cards and surprises.  Knowing the base line from which change will take place is critical.  Knowing the drivers and game changers is critical as well.  Understanding that you cannot know them all is even more critical.  When considering the future of such inherently geographic issues as development, environmental management, national security, domestic and international affairs, corporate growth, and a host of others, strategic thinking is important. Estimative analysis is an approach to thinking strategically. 

Estimative analysis incorporates a wide variety of quantitative and qualitative techniques integrated to help put bounds on the types and ranges of uncertainty surrounding possible futures.  When attempting to increase the likelihood that a desired future emerges or attempting to ensure your entity can survive or adapt into the future, strategic planning is a valuable process. Thinking and planning strategically rely on deep understanding of the physical, biological, social, technological, and economic realms in which the issue of interest resides; the variables that may or do impinge on that issues environment; how that environment is likely to change; and possible alternative outcomes. 

Techniques have been developed to estimate those changes.  Strategic thinking and strategic planning are two very different but interrelated thought processes.  Using both when addressing a geographic issue of interest can provide deep insights to the issue and the changing environment in which it resides.  Previous efforts in strategic thought, plans and actions tend to verify Lewin’s assertion.


About the speaker

kelmelis.johnJohn A. Kelmelis joined the School of International Affairs faculty in September 2008 as a scholar of national and international geography. He brings to Penn State more than thirty years of distinguished government service and leadership, during which time he has provided scientific advice on U.S. foreign policy, regional resource management, disaster response, and information infrastructure.

Kelmelis formerly served as Senior Counselor for Earth Science in the Office of the Science and Technology Advisor to the Secretary of State (STAS), where he provided policy advice to the White House, Department of State, and other high-level government entities on geology, hydrology, biology, geography, and related sciences and technologies in establishing and executing U.S. foreign policy. He concurrently served as senior science advisor for international policy in the Office of the Director, U.S. Geological Survey, where he served as principal staff advisor on incorporating science into international policy. He is currently a scientist emeritus at U.S. Geological Survey and consults with the Department of State and other organizations.