In a world characterised by sweeping change – from rapid technological advances and shifting trade patterns to disruptive events that impact each of us – organisations face an incredible challenge to keep pace. Yet, by taking a robust approach to scenario planning, we can explore possible futures and prepare flexible strategies, build organisational resilience and, ultimately, secure growth in the face of whatever future comes.
We saw how effective such strategic foresight work is when we partnered with The Economist to survey 200 business leaders’ responses to the 2008 financial crisis. Those who made scenario planning a priority had a Total Shareholder Return nine percentage points higher than those who didn’t.
But how do we anticipate change when humans can’t predict even the immediate future? This is a challenge we’ve faced for decades as we’ve run scenario planning with organisations around the world. Through this experience, we’ve honed a method for exploring uncertainty and possible futures that delivers value – FutureWorlds™.
What is FutureWorlds™?
FutureWorlds™ is our proprietary foresight methodology, which we’ve honed through decades of experience. It uses today’s known drivers and uncertainties to create customised scenarios that organisations can use to inform immediate actions and a long-term strategic direction.
FutureWorlds™ isn’t about prediction, it’s about provocation and exploration – it’s a collaborative process that makes it possible to explore uncertainty and challenge assumptions, generating a shared understanding of how a company, market, or business might evolve. It does this by using and building on the inherent uncertainties of people from different silos in an organisation, providing a common understanding and language to describe and explore the future. This helps break down barriers within organisations that would otherwise lead to disagreements about the best approach to the future.
The goal is to make better decisions today and create adaptable strategies that can flex with future uncertainties. FutureWorlds™ helps organisations explore:
- The probable future: By looking at what we know today, we can extrapolate trends to anticipate the most likely future.
- Various possible futures: By challenging assumptions, we can imagine distinct possible futures.
- Their preferred future: By focusing on the organisation’s purpose, we can envisage a desired future.
What is the value of FutureWorlds™?
At its heart, FutureWorlds™ is about bringing together diverse teams to unlock different perspectives. The collaborative process brings new voices into strategy discussions, builds new relationships between different parts of the organisation and focuses short-term decisions on delivering long-term goals.
The result of this immersive process is a clear vision of what could happen in the future and where you want your organisation to be in that new world. And that makes it easier to set a course for success:
Drive a growth strategy
FutureWorlds™ stretches your thinking, letting you identify and understand the uncertainties you face so you can find opportunities for growth and set a strategy for seizing them.
This is what we did with a global pharmaceuticals business that was struggling to grow two brands with combined sales of more than $1bn a year. FutureWorlds™ helped them develop a category vision and strategy, as well as plans for delivery.
Support concept generation
FutureWorlds™ offers a framework for thinking differently about your customers and markets, generating new insights that inspire product and service concepts.
When we worked with a leading distributor of licensed products in Mexico, FutureWorlds™ helped them identify consumers and the products they would want across possible future scenarios. That led to more than 20 new product concepts, which we then defined and refined to create a clear path for taking the most promising to market.
Develop a technology roadmap
FutureWorlds™ provides a common language and understanding for diverse stakeholders to unite around, which makes it possible to clearly consider and communicate uncertainties in technical areas.
This was particularly valuable for a leader in automated laboratory diagnostic systems, which wanted a robust technology strategy for the coming decades. The FutureWorlds™ scenarios that came out of extensive stakeholder interviews provided the foundation for technology roadmaps used to guide the R&D for products to be launched in 10 years.
Inform portfolio analysis
FutureWorlds™ lets senior leaders explore possibilities and envisage what the future may hold for their organisation, shaping portfolios of work with informed decisions.
At one leading food producer, FutureWorlds™ informed a series of workshops that developed the board and department heads’ strategic ambitions, identified major challenges and opportunities, and highlighted the organisational changes required to deliver their strategic goals.
Map capabilities to future needs
FutureWorlds™ lets you identify potential opportunities, highlighting what new capabilities you’ll need to capitalise on them.
At a major European railway infrastructure manager that needed a vision of change that spanned decades, we explored how the rail industry could evolve. This let us identify long-term trends in talent and technology, including the use of robotics and other forms of automation, to identify more efficient ways of building, maintaining and operating the network.
Design a technology strategy
FutureWorlds™ structures your vision for your organisation around known uncertainties, letting you understand the technology enablers that will get you to your desired state.
When working with a global leader in implantable biomaterials that wanted to use its existing capabilities to expand laterally, we were able to assess the market and technology drivers, barriers and trends. This informed the development of a new technology strategy, enabling them to make informed choices about technology investments to realise their business objectives.
How FutureWorlds™ works
The foundation of FutureWorlds™ is great research into both your organisation and the wider world, which we run with your teams through four phases of workshops:
We then help you turn your unique scenarios into tangible value. We’ll work with you to prioritise immediate actions, exploring the scenarios to generate the insight needed to make robust decisions. We’ll help you plan your route to future growth by supporting a resilient and adaptive strategy. And we’ll help you deliver, ensuring everyone is aligned and committed to the strategy.