Shift from Imagining the Future to Creating It
March 6th | 2018
by Dipanjan Chatterjee

Anyone responsible for forecasting the future of anything knows there’s a big difference between understanding it and knowing what to do about it.

Especially when highly credible industry reports like Bain’s “Labor 2030” predict that the collision of forces like automation, demographics, and inequality will create a more volatile and extreme business environment than we’ve ever seen before – and will do it as early as the 2020s.

Reports like these give us powerful predictions, like the idea that automation will increase both productivity and inequality, but they also leave us with insights wrapped in paradoxes and without instruction.

So, imagining – better yet, creating – the future is incredibly complicated. But it’s also infinitely fruitful. When you take even a quick glance at the world’s most innovative companies, you’ll see that most of them are working in a virtuous cycle of creating and re-creating the future, while they leave everyone else to play catch-up.

Knowing that this is a pretty complicated problem to solve, and requires dedicated time and thought, we’ve been working to help close the gap between where industry reports end and where unique and actionable POVs about the future are created.

For example…

When a large health care system asked us to look 10 years out, we started with a process that normally takes months (sometimes a year): exploring what the future of a whole industry, culture, and society could look like, and executed it in a single week. It took critical thinking applied in non-linear ways across broad research and knowledge areas – and it took a team of people who agreed to approach this giant task with humility and optimism.

By the end of those five days, that company’s executives had a clear, tangible vision of the future they could create. And they were ready to get started.

Projects like this have helped us build intuitive frameworks and models that allow our clients to quickly move forward, get past analysis, and get back to work — all in a week.

That’s why we’re introducing Shift Your Future, a collaborative endeavor designed to help you accelerate forecasting and strategic planning by arming you with a tangible and actionable vision of the future.

Future can be a highly valuable exercise and a tangible input into your company's annual strategic planning process at the brand/company, product/division, or department level. We’ve worked with teams that needed input for their forecasting and strategic planning process and with those who’d already completed it and needed a clearer vision of what it meant for their actions.

Here’s how it works:

1. Envision the Next Decade.

Together, we’ll envision and discuss the next decade, changes (small and big), and the impact to you, your company, and your industry.

Our methodology has done the heavy lifting by distilling the most important factors you need to consider across a diverse set of criteria. To build it, we researched trends and intersections across drivers of change ranging from demographics to culture.

Next, we placed these drivers on a spectrum from more predictable to less predictable, and studied the intersections between them over time to identify key themes (such as polarization or automation’s impact on labor) and review them in detail.

2. Identify your POV on the Future.

We’ll use thought-provoking questions and exercises to help you identify and get ahead of the the themes and implications most relevant to you by developing a clear and actionable POV on the future you want to create. And we’ll approach this task with an appropriate amount of vulnerability, humility, and optimism, given the emotional and intellectual weight of the content. Acknowledging the fear, anxiety, and excitement you feel during this exercise will help us all understand how to introduce this new reality to your organization.

3. Determine Clear Actions.

The last and perhaps most critical step of the process is to convert your POV into a tangible plan. We’ll help you (and ultimately your company) contextualize the future by breaking down your POV into high-level ideas. We’ll plot these ideas over time horizons (1-3 years, 2-5 years, 5+ years) to begin identifying what needs to be done to make them reality.

Other considerations​:

We’ve found that the output of Shift Your Future can quickly lead our clients to further areas of exploration:

Managing Your Product Portfolio

We can help you look at ways to manage your product portfolio — including things like evaluation criteria, testing, and working with other teams (i.e. partners and stakeholders in your company) who could benefit from your vision of the future.

Managing Company Culture and Change

Creating the future often means massive cultural and communication initiatives are necessary in order to make sure that people at all levels of the company are engaged and excited, rather than fearful or uncomfortable. We can help you develop change management and communication strategies that eliminate uncertainty and encourage active participation and dialogue.

Interested? Get in touch.