Keep in mind that the goal is not necessarily to develop specific or definitive answers to the unforeseen circumstances of the future. The emerging future is only partially revealed and is only partially visible to the present. There will never be complete facts about the future, which is always a shifting and moving target. Rather strategic foresights is a structured and systematic way to anticipate and better prepare for change. The goal is to identify possible opportunities or risks in order to inform strategic decision making. Strategic or corporate foresights can also be used as part of a company’s risk management strategy by helping them prepare beforehand for unexpected events or changes.
Taking Steps to Develop Strategic Foresight
Switzer Associates’ recent article, “What’s Your Future…Six Steps for Gaining Strategic Foresight,” offers a primer to the critical steps necessary to develop strategic foresights in a rapidly changing environment: Framing, Scanning, Forecasting, Visioning, Planning, and Acting.
Framing: Framing is identifying the focus for which strategic foresight is needed. There are many potential issues an organization may be concerned about; but which few are most important?
Scanning: Scanning is the process of looking internally and externally to identify what is on the horizon that may impact the organization relative to the issues you framed in the prior step. Usually, change occurs in one of five areas: societal, technological, economical, environmental, and/or political.
Alternative Futures: The third forecasting step is creating pictures of what the future may hold. In the book, Scenario Planning, three categories of futures are introduced: possible, probably, and preferred. Planning for alternative futures will help prepare your organization to deal with the future in a successful manner.
Preferred Future: This visioning step focuses attention back to the present. Considering the range of possible futures, what is the best for the organization? In other words, it is a way of saying, “Here is where we are and here is where we want to be in the future.”
Planning: Given the gap between where we are and where we want to be, what does the organization need to do in terms of planning to bridge the gap? This is where it pays to develop specific goals and strategies to move the organization in the direction of the desired future.
Acting: The last step is acting and this is where the planning is implemented. Like any planning process, communication is vital, as is involving the people who will be impacted, namely employees and stakeholders. What processes will be changed? How will progress be evaluated? Who is responsible for which strategies? These and other questions must be thought through.
Predicting The Future
For more on this topic, visit All Things Insights’ recent blog post, “Using Insights to Predict the Future.” A key component of any insights and marketing strategy is to think about and plan for the future. Despite constant macro and micro disruption, marketers can still prepare and be ready for the future and to take on any emerging trends and issues that may arise. Foresights are essential for marketing insights and research since they help marketers anticipate customer needs, develop strategies accordingly, stay ahead of their competitors, and create innovative solutions that meet already established customer expectations.
Leveraging the Power of Foresights
So how can one use strategic foresights as part of an insights strategy function? Strategic foresight can be used to inform an insights strategy function in a number of ways. We asked ChatGPT to help identify some key tips.
First, it can be used to identify emerging trends and potential opportunities for the organization. This could include technologies that may disrupt existing markets, new customer segments or geographies, or changes in regulatory environments.
Second, it can help to identify risks associated with these trends and how they might affect the organization’s current strategies and operations.
Finally, strategic foresight can help inform decision making by providing insight into the implications of different scenarios on business performance over time.
Creating and maintaining a cohesive strategic foresights vision is never easy. But to provide your company with a functional and forward point of view, the strength of insights is key to this strategic capability. This will in the end provide clarity to planning, and charting a course forward, with an eye on the multiple scenarios that could take place. This ultimately gives your company options to pivot in the future when it’s warranted, and better prepare for change.