Future-oriented analysis brings ease and confidence to planning your next steps
The search for success, profit and progress is built into the genome of all businesses. If only we knew the secret of eternal business growth! If only we could predict when the stars are auspiciously aligned for us to make a move! If only we were able to make magic happen whenever and wherever we want!
Unfortunately, there is no easy or watertight way of telling what will happen next and what would be our best course of action in each given situation. Crystal balls, tarot cards, tea leaves, none of them have proved reliable ways of predicting the future. It seems the only thing we can be certain about is the uncertainty of our future.
However, there are ways in which you can prepare for the uncertainties that lay ahead. Here at M-Brain we talk about Future Oriented Analysis, something all organizations can take advantage of to improve their outlook. For example, systematic trend work and scenario thinking are tools that any organization can adopt to become better equipped and more confident about their future prospects.
Trend work – systematic collection and analysis of trend data
Systematic working with trends is one way to improve an organization’s resilience to future changes and to strengthen its strategic decision making. It will clarify which trends are likely to have the biggest impact on your business, and how you should take them into account in your strategic planning.
Trend work starts off with the process of identifying the trends that are important to you. The basis is to build a comprehensive trend map, and to do proper background studies on the trends that you identify as being the most influential for your organization. Obtaining a comprehensive big picture of trends will give you the perspective you need to be able to focus in systematically.
After the most important trends have been identified, the next step is to make sense of them. What sort of opportunities do those trends offer? What sort of threats do they pose? How will the trends affect your customers? There is a set of exercises and facilitated workshops that we can put together to help your organization get on top of the key trends.
Identifying opportunities, threats and possible changes in customer behavior is all very good, but the real benefit comes from putting this knowledge into action and turning it into solutions. Using different brainstorming and pitching frameworks, trends can be converted into business ideas for you to test and adopt.
After this, the whole process starts over. Trends are developing phenomena, and you need to track them regularly to know what’s relevant for you. Some trends will strengthen and become the norm, while others may slowly die out. Silent signals, indicating the birth of a new trend can be visible to those who take the time to look.
Scenario thinking – structured framework to create possible future worlds
Scenario thinking is a planned and structured process with the goal of creating several descriptions of possible future results and events. Since scenarios are created by identifying and analyzing central influencing in the current business environment trends, systematic trend work is a critical part of the scenario thinking process as well. In fact, the process starts, once again, with building a comprehensive trend map, which identifies and groups trends that are relevant for the studied scenario topic.
After that, key trends are assessed based on their predictability and impact. This exercise helps us filter out trends that create the most impactful uncertainty for our business. Also, the trends’ influence on one another is estimated. Scenarios should be built on trends that are impactful and influential, but the development of which is quite uncertain. These are trends we choose as our scenario drivers.
Once scenario drivers have been chosen, it is time to begin designing and developing the scenarios. At this stage the goal is to first test whether the scenarios are worth developing further. Are they credible? Are they interesting? Have they been derived from logic? We also want to avoid developing scenarios that would be ultra-pessimistic or ultra-optimistic.
Finally, each scenario is described in detail, including early indicators for the scenario to unfold. This is the most imaginative and creative part of the process. The level of detail should allow the organization to assess the likelihood of success (or failure) of different strategic options within the described future world.
So, are you ready to build your organization’s future-orientation through systematic and structured analysis of methods and frameworks? Are you willing to engage your organization in planning a joint future? You can always be better prepared for the certainly uncertain future. Stay in touch, and let M-Brain to facilitate the way for you!
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