Having worked with all kinds of organisations across the world for over twenty years, I cannot remember to have had a boring session about the future once. Thinking and talking about the future clearly energises people. Liberated from the temptation to predict the future, crafting different scenarios helps to free the mind from old ideas and past beliefs. When given sufficient time, insights on major change emerge that open views on attractive opportunities. Amazingly, it hardly seems to matter how grim and bleak the future looks. Once accustomed to a dramatic or ‘uncomfortable’ scenario, the focus soon turns to how to cope with adverse circumstances while benefitting from the best opportunities.
Like ‘episodic future thinking’ on a personal level, thinking through possible future scenarios together helps organisations to prepare for the future. It makes them more aware of key external factors and developments and leads to better and more conscious decision-making. Scenario thinking is an effective and non-offensive (although it will feel highly uncomfortable at times) way to organise your own opposition. In addition to offering fresh perspectives on the outside world, scenarios are windtunnels to test (or even better, crashtest) current strategies and plans to make them stronger. It is essential. After all, do you want to fly in an airplane that only has been tested in sunny weather? So, have you tested your strategies, plans and investments in different scenarios?
Given that exploring the future is far from boring, energises people, helps to identify attractive opportunities, warns for major risks, and improves strategic decision making, it is more than remarkable how little time organisations on average spend on it. In terms of management time, the future is clearly unevenly distributed: tomorrow and next year get much more attention than the coming 3, 5 or 10 years. Research suggests that in total CEOs, for example, only spend a few percent of their time on it, mostly scattered across many small time slots. Luckily enough, the future paradox can easily be resolved, in many different ways and with varying time investments.
Exploring the future
Here are some ways you can explore the future in a functional and fun way:
The Future in One Day - Explore the longer-term future of a specific topic or the market you operate in with your management team in just one day. Feel free to invite customers or stakeholders to join the conversation.
Fast Forward - Project your company and industry 5, 10 or even 15 years into the future and think back what may change the rules of the game substantially. Feel the freedom (and challenge) of crafting divergent future scenarios yourself.
What is Going On?! - Use our Future Mapping Framework to identify both attractive business opportunities and external, strategic risks. Great way to bring the optimists and pessimists in your company together.
Beyond Next - Start creating the next-next generation of products and services, if you want with the next generation of talent in your organisation. Challenge your organisation and be challenged.
Like there is not one future, there are many ways to explore it. Customisation and co-creation are the names of the game. Mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are interested to explore the future and stretch your thinking.