Few thinkers have had quite the same impact as Charles Darwin. His theory of evolution was so powerful and compelling that it became the new orthodoxy, affecting how we think about many aspects of our lives. Not least in the way we think about business. In a world that is changing more rapidly than ever before, every company, big or small, should continuously prepare itself to “adapt” and “evolve” to become a perfect “fit” with the ever changing market conditions. In order for companies to secure their survival, it is extremely important to continuously be on the lookout for future events, corresponding opportunities and risks which might affect market conditions and the company’s future performance.
Unfortunately, the future is extremely hard to predict, perhaps even impossible. Nonetheless it’s fair to say that some future events are more likely than others and some events will impact your company to a bigger extent.
We have identified a 5 steps approach based on collective intelligence for companies to arm themselves against future events potentially impacting the company, even in unpredictable environments.
Step 1: Capture the weak signals and future trends in your industry and create a company-wide awareness around them
Weak signals and trends can be scattered over multiple corners of the company’s ecosystem. Each company division has eyes on different sides. Marketing teams might identify consumer trends while R&D is not even aware. Sales teams might possess some competitor insights with potential to change the entire industry dynamics while these insights don’t reach the rest of the organization. Facilitating company-wide communication and management of these insights is a crucial first step in making a company future proof.
Step 2: Collaboratively build future scenarios and events which could impact your organization
The best way to prepare for the future is to get clarity on possible future scenarios. The amount of identified possible scenarios will eventually impact your resilience for the future. Since insights for scenarios are so spread within the organization, the key is to harvest the insights of as many brains as possible and use the company’s collective intelligence to collaboratively build an image of possible futures. While doing so, make sure to dig deeper by facilitating bold thinking and by giving the right pieces of inspiration at the right time.
Step 3: Prioritize scenarios and events on likelihood and potential business impact
With such elaborate data collection for weak signals, it becomes increasingly dangerous to not identify the big fish; those scenarios with extremely high likelihood to actually happen and who will eventually have high impact on the business and ecosystem. Profound scenario analysis and simulation should lead to evaluation on both likelihood and potential impact axes to distinguish the important signals from the noise and eventually enable focus on the most important images of the future.
Step 4: Identify potential company reactions to the most likely scenarios
While the first three steps consist mainly of data collection and labelling, the fourth step is where data is translated to actions. Based on the scenarios that are most likely to happen and impact business, future company actions have to be identified. Although this might sound like a simple cause-and-effect analysis, complexity might seem to demand deeper analysis and even simulation of multiple actors acting and reacting over time. Since this can lead to analysis paralysis because of high unpredictability, it is important to keep the bigger picture in mind. The most important outcome is to arm the company better for the future than competitors.
Step 5: Incorporate outcomes in companies’ tactical and strategic plans
Based on these actions identified for likely scenarios, planning can start. When prepared for possible futures, unpleasant surprises in the form of disruption are less likely to occur. This means actions have to be translated to pragmatic tactical plans and to a strategic roadmap. Key aspects include identifying and mitigating capability gaps, challenging potentially blocking processes, evaluating current product portfolios or increasing organization overall resilience.
Predicting the future is impossible but with this approach you predict it better than your competitors. Do not hesitate to contact us for further discussion.