- One thing that aids in discussing and interpreting possible futures is the organization of likely developments into helpful structures.
- For example, instead of looking at just long lists of trends, clustering smaller trends and phenomena according to the larger megatrends they relate to is one way to make it easier to see the big picture.
- Furthermore, portraying selected trends and over-arching themes as a visual mappingof the future also makes it easier to see a holistic picture of what the future holds.
- Yet another helpful task, which technology makes easily possible, is to construct several different pictures of the future, one being, for instance, “wild” scenarios (based on multiple extreme events taking place) and another assuming smaller, incremental changes and fewer disruptive changes. Digital tools make it easy to work with raw material, like selected trends as the basic building blocks. Then you can quickly get up to speed in illustrating possible futures.
Prioritize, with as much brain power as you want
- To move from broad-based trend awareness towards understanding the specific future market environment you will be facing, you will need to focus attention on the things that are likely to have the highest impact in your field of activity.
- You could do that by making your own ranking of the top key trends and disruptive forces that you think are likely to change the game for your organization. A good foresight tool will allow you to do that, to easily pick and assemble your own shortlists of key trends.
- But a good foresight tool will also allow you to do more, to expand your assessment to include the combined judgement of many people with knowledge of your market environment. So ideally you can invite your colleagues, team members or stakeholders in a broad sense to prioritize together (by voting, for example), and run a Delphi-like process in which a group of participants converge around a selection of key trends and emerging issues with the highest relevance in the coming years.
Assess key trends and emerging issues along key dimensions
- Once you have a clear understanding of which trends deserve most attention, it is usually helpful to consider their nature, along selected dimensions, in order to assess what kind of impact each trend will have. A digital foresight tool can help you do that efficiently.
- Here are some examples of characteristics you can use to categorize each development:
- Will it have impact in the short term or in the longer term for you?
- Think of something like 3D printing, or artificial intelligence & robot co-workers, or the increasing impact of climate change. How would you rate those changes along some of the above-mentioned dimensions, from your organization’s perspective?
- Will the change drive existing businesses or is it a driver for a new businesses?
- Is your organization well or poorly equipped to deal with the change?
- Is the change in line with your strategic assumptions or a previously unconsidered change?
- Is it an opportunity or threat to your organization?
- With a digital foresight tool like Futures Platform, you can select any two dimensions and create a visual two-by-two matrix for the key trends you are assessing. You can position your key trends into a visual framework (based on multiple people’s ratings of each trend) and make it easy to observe the nature of each change on the horizon. It then becomes evident which ones require more attention, planning and the development of new capabilities and which ones have less of an impact. You can also see which ones may play out to become a golden opportunity or the next big thing.
Make conclusions and influence your organization’s future planning
- Foresight is not truly valuable until it influences decisions and action plans. A digital tool can help you reach conclusions and effectively communicate key points to audiences of many kinds, both inside and outside your organization.
- In a collaborative foresight tool, you will have accumulated a plethora of evidence, ideally with some visually compelling illustrations of key trends or scenarios.
- You should also be able to refer to a documented exchange of stakeholder opinions and assessments when presenting how the changing landscape will require your organization to take new action in order to thrive.
- A digital foresight tool will also serve as a useful repository of previously conducted foresight work, which you’ll be able to use as a starting point whenever you need to analyze or reconsider any necessary strategic shifts.
Monitor key trends to keep your future plans aligned with the changes coming into view
- Accelerating change is a fact that all organizations must live with. In a quickly evolving operating environment, foresight work is never finished and final—continuous attention needs to be paid to it.
- Luckily digital tools can help make foresight a continuous activity. Technology can automate routines and bring cost- and time-savings into the work of monitoring the latest data on your organization’s priorities or the developments affecting it.
- A professional foresight tool will allow your team to receive regular alerts on how changes are manifesting themselves in the form of, for example, research breakthroughs, product and service innovations, latest market forecasts and new regulatory changes in anticipation of the future.
As the story of the future unfolds, your team will be well equipped to fine-tune the assumptions on which the road ahead lies. And when a critical mass of significant developments emerges, you can initiate a new round of discussion and analysis around it, making sure your organization continues to position itself well for an ever-changing, yet rife with opportunities, future.