Friday, June 27, 2008

The future's bright - how do we get there?

In a previous article some of the benefits of using Futures were outlined. But you would like to know how to benefit from Futures wouldn’t you?

The first stage is a huge information gathering exercise (remember the analogy of a ship’s wake, we need all of this information). At the same time there needs to be some degree of focus. We cannot just generate the answer to the question ‘What does the future look like?’ A more reasonable question might be ‘What does the market for personal computers look like in 2020?’ or ‘What will the requirements for transport infrastructure in Wales be in 2025?’

Once these areas have been identified we then begin to look at the drivers that affect these areas and existing trends that are already apparent. We also look a little further afield and scan the time horizon as far ahead as we can. All the time we gather information, taking care not to filter it too much as the ‘signals’ that we are looking for easily get lost in the ‘noise’ and we never know at the start how much weight (or credibility) to attribute to the information we are gathering.

At this point we have an idea of what we wish to look at and the various factors that might affect it. Now we add the questions, what if oil prices trebled or the population halved, working through a number of scenarios and seeing how this changes the future. Then we throw in the wildcards, who predicted 9/11 in the USA or the bombings in London? Who foresaw the so called credit crunch?

And how can we make this tangible at the end of the exercise? There are two main ways of examining strategy, observing the future from the present and working out how to get there and the most powerful version which is to look back towards the present from the future and describing how we got here. This is where our storytelling skills come into their own and we generate buy in.

We can predict the future up to 30 years ahead in order to inform strategy making and investment decisions for public and private sector bodies by using:

  • Information from expert groups
  • Widely available information
  • A number of carefully chosen scenarios
  • Both existing knowledge and by introducing wildcards
  • Storytelling and other creative techniques to facilitate information gathering and generating buy in

For further information on how Futures can be used to help your organisation please get in touch now.

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