Our world is changing, in both clear and truly uncertain ways. While brands and businesses are trying to make plans, this change is non-linear and constantly expanding. How we live, work, socialise, connect – and even the forces shaping our economy, our planet and society – are generating unpredictable change and fundamental impacts in ways that we won’t be able to precisely forecast or predict.
Whilst trends are highly valuable for spotting, tracking and acting on near-term business-critical shifts, near-term trends don’t help brands predict the long term. Brands must think differently about what could happen next and not rely on assumptions of a “business as usual” future. Rather than just mitigating uncertainty, brands need to proactively embrace uncertainty to stay future-fit.
What does this mean? It means to be meaningfully different today and tomorrow, brands must shift…
FROM using near-term trends for long-term predictions…
TO using Scenarios Thinking to prepare for many possible outcomes – and how to succeed in any future circumstances.
While ‘Scenario Planning’ can often be reserved for large-scale C-Suite endeavours, everyone in any organisation is empowered to think about – and prepare for – the future to:
- Future-proof your existing strategy
- Drive a more future-fit innovation pipeline
- Increase a team’s capacity to innovate
- Ensure your brand will remain relevant – no matter what future comes to pass
- And more...
So, how can your team prepare to win in an uncertain world? Our Kantar Strategic Foresight experts have put together four major Future-proof Mindsets and an interactive toolkit to help you thrive in a world of Uncertainty:
Future-fit Mindset #1
STOP USING THE PAST TO PREDICT THE FUTURE
One thing is certain today, the past is no longer a reliable predictor of the future. In the previous era of “Great Moderation”, when life, consumers and markets felt more cyclical and predictable, using past data to more confidently predict the future felt like it worked.
But today with so much change and a deeply uncertain world, patterns are harder to pin down and the cycle we used to ‘predict’ a preferable future and path ahead is broken. Relying mainly on past data to forecast forward is like driving from the past to the future but only looking at the rear-view mirror! Brands and teams should move beyond the assumption that we can accurately forecast the future and start preparing for many potential future outcomes that may be quite different from today, so your team can be successful – no matter what.
Future-fit Mindset #2
GET COMFORTABLE WITH THE UNCOMFORTABLE
A fundamental element of Strategic Foresight is accepting the existence of uncertainty and its myriad possibilities. Unpredictable change and its impacts are coming toward all brands, consumers and geographies, in ways that we won’t be able to precisely forecast or predict. Compared to trend forecasts that extrapolate forward in one direction, Scenarios Thinking assumes there is more than one path into the future. This mindset and approach allows brands to understand and explore the longer-term possibilities and their impacts, all the time challenging the assumptions we have about the direction of the future. Crucially, Scenarios Thinking empowers teams to identify and embrace these critical uncertainties that will shape and drive our future landscape. By doing so, we can better prepare for and take advantage of a range of alternative futures – before the competition.
Future-fit Mindset #3
MAKE IT ‘REAL’ SO YOU’RE READY FOR ‘SO WHAT and WHAT NEXT’
Scenarios Thinking is not an academic exercise. It uses human creativity, trusted data and sense-making to help your team imagine and plan for the future more effectively. You don’t have to be a science-fiction screenwriter to use facts to tell stories about the future. Give yourself and your team the permission to bring potential scenarios to life. The most useful scenarios bring a mixture of creative and provocative storytelling with plausible, structured details to envision a potential future, make a plan then act upon it. By telling these stories and situating them in real world situations it makes the future feel tangible. The “Future” can often feel very abstract, but by giving yourself the permission to practice flexing your visioning muscles to think about it in more creative, yet coherent ways, it can enable you to better take action.
Future-fit Mindset #4
DON’T WAIT FOR ONE FUTURE, PREPARE FOR MANY
Scenario Thinking is not about making ONE precise prediction of the future – but it crucially reduces our vulnerability to major surprises and disruptions by forcing us to consider a variety of plausible futures, built on emerging critical uncertainties and external sources of change. In this way, you can both future-proof major decisions and develop robust strategies that can help improve your responsiveness and adaptability amid change – as well as giving you the control to guide and shape a more prosperous future.
Recently, trail-blazing organisations have begun to make the shift from long-term predictions to more fruitful Scenarios Thinking. As an example, retail business IKEA has recently pivoted away from their forecasting habits to focus on scenario planning and acknowledge a range of alternative possible outcomes.1
WANT TO KNOW MORE?
Are you prepared for the Future? Interested in learning more about how Scenarios Thinking can help your business thrive in an uncertain world? Reach out to receive a beginner’s toolkit of user-friendly team exercises to bring Scenarios Thinking to your brand, team or strategy.