Our company’s initial foray into Futuring was inspired by a client’s problem. This global pharmaceutical giant was facing a challenge: A portfolio of medications they were developing wouldn’t be ready to take to market for ten to fifteen years. But what would the healthcare landscape look like by then, and especially the landscape around the disease these medications treated? How would new technology be deployed in this landscape? Where would the patients be? How might the medications be administered, and by whom? Obviously, these were pressing questions – and a lot of money was riding on the potential future for these issues. Did we have a process in place that would help them to strategize now for what might be coming that far down the road? We did what we usually do when handed a client’s dilemma – we got into a room together to brainstorm it.
It was Sheryl who first brought up the idea of Futuring; she’d done it before with another pharmaceutical company, and was confident of its value, especially in a scenario like this one. The more we researched and discussed it, the better it sounded. Futuring after all wasn’t new; leading thinkers and the military had been successfully using versions of Futuring since the 40s, Futuring has been used to game everything from the outcome of a global thermonuclear conflict, to what kind of car design would have the most powerful appeal to Millennials. It was already being applied to healthcare, an increasingly unstable environment that was becoming harder and harder to predict. The approach to Futuring heretofore had been comprehensive but lengthy, and we felt there was an opportunity to refine a process to be more suitable to our current day environment, in which time is the ultimate luxury and budgets are squeezed to the max.
It seemed like a natural fit: We knew the pharma world, the players, the landscape, and how things work (or don’t) currently. We had ideas around how to make the Futuring process less academic and more compact than previous models we’d seen; all the creative disruptiveness, but with less actual disruption to the company going through the process. A pared-down, speed version – “with all of the flavor and none of the fat” - could work anywhere and might be the logjam breaker our client needed at this critical decision point. We called this innovative approach the Simpson Futuring Model™.
It took the client six months to decide that ordinary strategic planning tools didn’t afford them the opportunity to collectively imagine the future they wanted. Now they were ready to change things up, because they saw the need for bigger thinking, and that’s what we were offering. The client was clear; “Try, and fail – but try. I’m happy with that.” That was an empowering mandate and an opportunity for us to begin our first process of disruption with a Pharma client.