Full disclosure: Nobody can predict the future, and none of the tools that business typically uses to prepare for the future – forecasting and strategic planning, for instance – can lift that veil, either. So, why do forward-looking organizations such as Ford, IBM, the Department of Defense, Shell Oil, Rockwell, Walmart, Mars and Nike make major investments in Futuring? Because it keeps them nimble, vital, and ahead of their rivals.
If you’re in pharma, you’re planning ahead ten or twenty years with every commitment you make to a new drug or research and development investment. You’re spending billions on a long shot – a bet that the future will recognize the value of what you’ve created and reward you for it. But how much are you spending to shape that future – to create the desirable future that will buy the goods you’re selling? Will that future look like today – and are you willing to bet everything on the assumption that it will?
Most businesses approach the future via some variation on the strategic planning model, in which we define and describe the now, analyze our strengths and opportunities, then extrapolate on that data to create short-term predictions and strategies. Unlike strategic planning, Futuring isn’t done by looking forward; it’s done by using your imagination to put yourself into a future, then looking back to see how you got there – a kind of creative hindsight that gifts you with 20/20 vision. Futuring isn’t intended to replace planning; it’s intended to complement it, and to give you the opportunity to shape the future, rather than merely react to it as it arrives. Futuring can help you to anticipate and explore many possible futures, while preparing you to identify the markers of change – the signposts – that pop up along the way, so that you can pivot and adjust your aims and strategies accordingly as the actual future unfolds.
How can you be quicker to spot the indicators of change on the horizon that will impact your product, and respond to them faster? How can you shape what’s coming, rather than be stuck reacting to it once it’s here? Thinking about the future in this way fundamentally changes the way you think about the decisions you’re making today. Futuring provides a novel context that allows you to make smarter decisions right now.
Next time, we’ll dig into the nuts and bolts of Futuring – and how our streamlined, customized version makes this invaluable tool available to every business.