Foresight and Visions of future, after pandemic.
Many organizations are fighting for survival. Either for lacking the revenue to sustain the business, or for lacking the consolidated insight on future outlook to make appropriate decisions to reposition and rethink their business. But for many organizations it is now or never.
We spent the Digoshen Global Exchange on May 25 discussing foresight with a group of global board members and executives.
Do we do foresight, how do we do it and what does it tell us?
We were fortunate to have the global foresight, innovation leader and NED Fernanda Torre helping us framing the issue. She first outlined some of the approaches and some of the challenges of doing Foresight;
That was followed by looking into some of the more impacting trends that could be foreseen;
We run these exchanges with the objective to share examples and learnings connected to the fast change of these new realities, as well as discuss how we are and could handle these topics on our boards and leadership teams.
We divided our discussions into firstly the foresight approaches and frequency.
From our participants we learnt some surprising facts. That about half of the leadership teams engage in future thinking workshops, but also that a quarter believe no one is accountable at the company for monitoring new signals, or almost half believe that the board is accountable.
Some other findings during the live exchange on this area was that there is more discussing the future than the ambition to be part of creating the future.
Participants also pointed out that the sharing of relevant insights regarding future thinking internally could be better; between board and teams, between the management board and non-executive board. Somehow is thinking in silo’s in organizations quite dominant, both in experts as the type of people with specific knowledge and in departments.
Who’s bringing the topic of future thinking in? Overall idea is that the diversity in several ways in teams and boards is key. We also discussed what leadership perspective as meta-skills, knowledge, competencies, is needed for foresight and future thinking and the need to become resilient and adaptive to change.
Most agreed to that the culture of a company and the board should become more human-centered. A strong link from strategy to the people aspect driving mindset, attitude and behavior.
Participants pointed out that we are moving from a classic, standardized organization into a more unusual/unknown system, structure and collaboration model. We do not know, we are all getting out of our comfort zone and increasingly we are learning by doing. On this topic it was shared that the executive leadership team should be the ones leading the way.
We also looked at the trends and our ways of tackling them.
Here our participants shared that they are looking to media and reports for insights, and gladly enough about half of them listen to customers for signals. We also found that almost 70% had started to identify new opportunity areas in the new normal.
The participants focused on discussing how they personally identify and find trends. Most participants reported to try to use mix of reading, reports and input from consultancies. It was also mentioned the importance of practicing future thinking constantly and developing a “radar” to harvest insights when one is outside: metro, in the city, etc.
Another key aspect discussed was the need to have a close relation to the customers, e.g. advisory customer board, to learn what customers think about you and about your industry. Building on this knowledge, it also important surrounding oneself by a diverse team. In this context the discussion about diversity of team members was also followed by the need to have a diverse source of information, namely, social media can be a good source of trends, but it cannot be the only source due the promotion of filter bubbles.
Most participants reported that their organizations start to identify opportunity areas following the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically that they have been using foresight to not only identify the “risk universe” i.e. the shadow side of future, but also look for possibilities and new businesses.
Finally, the group discussed that organizations should have clear reasons and expectations for using foresight tools, often happening that the “Why” of the process is not clear. Leaders should know that tools such as scenarios are not there to dictate the future, rather their strength is to offer choices and possibilities in helping take decisions. Leaders are more conscious when working with scenarios that challenge traditional mental models.
As a conclusion we finalized the webinar with a summary
You can find some more inspiration on foresight and vision for the future here
- Phil Balagtas “Design Is [Speculative] Futures Design Thinking – a new toolkit for preemptive design” Youtube Video
- Day, George S. & Schoemaker, Paul J.H. (2005) Scanning the Periphery. Harvard Business Review, November 83(11), 135-148.
As well as some insights around the post-covid world in diverse reports, such as the ones below:
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