By definition, strategic thinking is concerned about success in the future. It is a style of thinking that imaginative AND systematic. As contrasted with reading palms or charting the movement of the Zodiac constellations, strategic thinkers look to rational methods that fall in the discipline of “futures” or “strategic foresight.” The goal of the strategic thinker is to develop insights and design strategy that recognizes that the future cannot be predicted.
I tell audiences that leaders must prepare for multiple potential futures, enabling them to adjust faster to rapidly changing geopolitical, economic, regulatory and technical developments. Envisioning such possible futures and determining how to best meet those requirements can help leaders create a more agile and responsive set of strategic capabilities. To create a more agile and change-capable organization, you should focus your efforts on becoming “futures-ready.” Here are three healthy practices that can assist you in developing a robust perspective future:
Healthy Practice #1: Be Skeptical of Vision Statements
Visioning is an exercise to develop perspective and dialogue about the future, not a “locked in” objective. Many vision statements assume that the future will look a lot like the past. In this case, vision becomes the sole hypothesis about what will happen. It becomes a prediction. This single-hypothesis assumption, in a nutshell, is the difference between long-range planning and strategic planning.
Healthy Practice #2: Use Risk and Opportunity Analysis as Inputs
Most organizations spend some time with formal risk assessment, resulting in a list of “things to watch for and manage.” Although many times the risk analysis seems to be more of a litany of standard problems, I find that the effort could be used to create a greater awareness of the future. After all, isn’t the risk analysis simply recognizing that there is a cause-effect relationship between a risk event and its consequence?
Healthy Practice #3: Imagine the Best Case and Worst Case Scenarios
Since no one can anticipate the future with certainty, it’s wise to consider scenarios. What is the best that could happen to you? What is the worst?
This is just a few of many healthy practices for developing a strategic foresight. How have you used them? What other practices do you suggest?