August 09, 2019

Achieving Your Preferred Future: Not Rocket Science But Brain Surgery

Mike Petty

Mike Petty
Co-Founder and Consulting Futurist/Flagship Futures Group

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Leading your organization into the future and achieving your "preferred" tomorrow is not rocket science, but rather brain surgery – you need to think differently! Managing your daily operations takes a specific set of mental skills, but leading into the unknown future takes an entirely different set of mental abilities. If you rely on your day-to-day management mental skill set to lead you to long-term future success, you will probably be sorely disappointed.

Successfully managing today's operations requires an intense focus on known facts – facts about current customers, facts about current activities, and facts about the current business environments. However, successfully leading into the future requires decision-making when facts about the future are not yet available. This involves foresight, not facts. So, how do you develop foresight? Foresight is developed by thinking differently.

Think Differently About Today

Developing foresight starts with thinking differently about today's operations. This is a three-step process called "interrogating reality." The first step is identifying the most critical or sensitive aspects or elements of your business model. Ask the question: what is the aspect or component of the business model on which its success is reliant? There is probably more than one element, so ask that question about each critical item.

The second step is identifying the underlying assumption on which the success of the critical element or aspect of the business model relies. The underlying assumption may be one that is rarely articulated; it may be a long-term assumption of the market or customer base deeply embedded in the business model. Without challenging the underlying assumptions, they can become invalid, thus weakening the foundation of the critical aspects on which the business’s success rely on.

The third step is identifying the micro-changes in the business environment that are starting to have an impact on current operations or could have an effect in the future. These micro-changes may be viewed currently as insignificant irritations in the market, or even as curiosities. However, these may well be the harbinger of significant changes in the marketplace.

Think Differently About Tomorrow

Thinking differently about tomorrow requires the recognition that companies face more than one future; there is the best-case scenario, the worst-case scenario, and an infinite number of futures in-between. Recognizing these futures first requires the admission that any future—say five, ten, or more years in the future—will be different than the present.

This recognition is a two-step process. The first step is identifying the micro-changes that are in an embryonic state today and visualize them being fully matured. This step may take a little creativity and imagination, but it is essential to visualizing any future scenario.

The second step is assessing the impact of the matured change on the current business model. Perform this assessment by asking two simple questions: 1.) What is the most significant impact this change can have on the business model, the market, or customer base? 2.) What is the least impact this change can have? Seriously considering these two questions will provide the basis for the best-case and worst-case future scenarios. The reality is that there may be more than one significant change or trend in the business environment that will have an impact on future scenarios.

Thinking differently about the future requires serious work on an on-going basis because change happens continuously, and the speed of change is increasing. However, taking the simple steps of interrogating reality and identifying the organization's multiple futures will initiate the different thinking processes required to develop strategic foresight and successfully lead to the "preferred" future.

 

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