I love reading articles and listening to discussions where experts and thought leaders explore “The Future Of…” scenarios of key aspects within day-to-day life. Whether it is the future of work, the future of education, or the future of life at home, I find it energizing to think about how the world of today is shaping the world of tomorrow.
But while reading those articles and listening to those discussions, I can’t help but wonder… what do these industry leaders know that the rest of us do not? Where are they getting beyond-the-curve information? How are some businesses proactive during times of change and uncertainty while others are reactive?
As we all know, there are no crystal balls or time machines to provide concrete answers to questions about the future. But still, as previously mentioned, experts and thought leaders confidently discuss what tomorrow might look like in a variety of contexts – and a lot of times, they end up being right.
So, if having a crystal ball isn’t the answer, what is?
I’ve spent the past few years digging into any and all forward-thinking content I can get my hands on. I even completed a course offered by Kedge (The Futures School) and became a certified Futurist. Ultimately, what I’ve come to realize is that it’s not a matter of access to privileged information reserved for a select group of business experts. Rather, it’s what we do with the information currently available to everyone that provides us with a glimpse of possible future scenarios.
By tactfully assessing and analyzing the trends and patterns of today, we can project forward how those trends and patterns might influence the world of tomorrow. This is the essence of Strategic Foresight, which has greatly influenced how we serve our clients and operate our own business.
Stepping back for a moment; one thing I’ve noticed when discussing this topic with friends and colleagues is that their minds often jump to predictive analytics or forecasting. So, to better understand what Strategic Foresight is, sometimes it’s helpful to clarify what it’s not. Strategic Foresight is not about predicting the future, but rather it is a structured approach to exploring possible future scenarios based on the information we have today. In doing so, we expand our thought boundaries and lift our vision to a more distant time horizon; both of which are key components of effective business planning and brand development. In addition to the tangible business value of Strategic Foresight, I thoroughly enjoy the interesting, enlightening, and fun discussions that continue to arise.
While I was fascinated by Strategic Foresight prior to the pandemic, being abruptly hit with high levels of volatility and uncertainty was motivation to lean in further. In 2021, we decided to conduct an internal Strategic Foresight project here at MacKenzie around “The Future of Customer Insights.” Diving deep into pattern recognition and scenario mapping, we uncovered five key drivers shaping the future of our industry – and a variety of other industries as well.
If you’re interested in checking out the results of our internal project, here are some links to articles I wrote highlighting our key findings:
Part 1 – Life From Home (Read Here)
Part 2 – Global Social Responsibility (Read Here)
Part 3 – Reputation Currency (Read Here)
Part 4 – New Rules of Engagement (Read Here)
Part 5 – Hyper-Personalization (Read Here)
More recently, we launched a service here at MacKenzie that guides businesses through their own Strategic Foresight process. It centers on a half-day workshop session customized to fit their unique market and objectives. Through a collaborative environment, interactive exercise, and thought-provoking discussions, the workshop is focused on producing actionable outcomes to help guide long-term strategic planning. Our experience in Strategic Foresight is the guiding light, but energy and involvement from attendees is the driving force.
Here is a brief overview document sharing more about the workshop’s process and benefits: Futures Planning Workshop
As our mentors at Kedge (and The Future School) always say, Strategic Foresight is a team sport – we get more value when we discuss our ideas with others. So, as you read through my five-part article series, I would LOVE to hear your feedback on each of those topics.
In the meantime, if you want to learn more about Strategic Foresight or discuss how to guide your own team through the process, feel free to give us a holler!