Principles that provide a starting point to plan amidst uncertainty
Here are five principles of strategic foresight that can provide leaders with a starting point to plan amidst uncertainty.
- The future is fundamentally unknowable.
The purpose of strategic foresight is to change decision-makers’ mental models and perspectives as they plan for their organizations’ possible futures. The purpose is not to predict the future. With a broadened perspective, business leaders can clarify critical uncertainties, ask the right questions, identify new opportunities for growth, create appropriate contingency plans to manage risk, and develop an organizational learning plan to monitor how critical drivers of change are evolving.
- It is possible to identify and analyze the forces shaping how the future will unfold.
Coronavirus has impacted technology development and adoption, market dynamics, and consumer behavior. When you integrate an understanding of technology, market, and consumer trends you have a more comprehensive view of the forces shaping the future. Some pre-existing trends (like increasing workplace flexibility and digital transformation) have accelerated, while others have slowed or even reversed.
In planning for the next normal, organizations that recognize these shifting trends and re-orient their innovation activities to align with a post-COVID reality are more likely to succeed.
- The forces shaping the future must be considered differently, based on their level of certainty and impact on your organization.
Long lists of signals and trends are only the starting point. You and your team must dedicate time to making sense of what these changes mean. Not all forces shaping the future are created equal. A critical part of any foresight process is analyzing uncertainty and the potential impact of various forces.
Companies are usually adept at incorporating high-certainty trends into planning efforts. Strategic foresight provides a structured process for extracting insights from high-uncertainty forces—a responsibility that has become increasingly important amidst the COVID pandemic.
- Expand your understanding of possible futures to help you identify emerging opportunities and increases organizational resilience
Foresight practitioners never try to predict the future. Instead, they envision multiple futures. These futures are rooted in observable signals and trends from today and use critical uncertainties to create multiple plausible – yet provocative – visions of the future. When teams creatively envision a plausible future, they are able to recognize emerging white spaces, strategically position their organization through partnerships or acquisition, or create contingency plans that increase organizational resilience.
- Actively monitor signals to help you move forward with agility and speed.
Organizations that have a structured process to identify signals of change and monitor the evolution of critical uncertainties can react with speed to seize opportunities or recognize emerging threats. With hundreds of signals and trends evolving simultaneously, strategic foresight helps leaders identify and prioritize the most important signals to track.