Thursday, September 11, 2014

Foresight is the Secret Weapon of Success

Today, without foresight, we can’t prepare for what the future has in store for us. This concept has always been important, but now more than ever, it is more difficult to come by because everything in our world is constantly changing. Our technologies, jobs, institutions, even some of our treasured values and ways of thinking are shifting radically, making it very difficult to prepare for future challenges and opportunities.  I caught up with Nicole Baker, Associate at Kedge to discuss this rapidly growing importance of using foresight and trends in business.  

Baker will be speaking at the upcoming Foresight & Trends 2014 conference in Los Angeles this November.  This year, Foresight & Trends unites the most forward thinking, creative and innovative people from across the globe to discuss macro trends disrupting how business gets done. This unique event synthesizes trend insights, consumer insights, foresight, brand strategy, design thinking, human science and innovation into a clear vision for capturing future opportunities with a unique blended learning curriculum. It unleashes valuable knowledge, contextualizes the knowledge into relevant examples for you to apply back to your business, and then empowers you to connect with the future in hands on translation sessions and immersion techniques centered on core themes.

Here’s what Baker had to say:

IIR: How do you challenge the status quo? 

Baker: Strategic Foresight can be its own business case for change.  In other words, sharing an analysis of trends and patterns (which result from the intersection of trends) will often create the impetus for change.  Beyond that business case creation, leveraging assumption and bias tools which are integral to Strategic Foresight is a powerful way to challenge conventional thinking.  Diving deep below the surface of an issue and examining its root causes helps organizations overcome the “it’s always been done this way” inertia, paving the way for long-term change.

IIR: How does understanding and implementing foresight and trends ensure commercial success in business?

Baker: Working with the Senior VP in Labor Relations, we crafted several scenarios depicting the future of unions which were used to make profitable decisions regarding talent and focused legislation.

IIR: How do you get your organization to align with your vision of taking action on foresight? 

Baker: The fact is that we are all creating the future with the actions we take or do not take today.  Most organizations (and individuals); however, make these decisions without actually thinking about the future (either consciously or collaboratively).  With Strategic Foresight running in the background (as your company’s operating system), the process of aligning action to long-term vision is seamless.

IIR: Why are trends so important in order to make strategic choices for your business? 

Baker: Trends are a critical element of building a foresight competency; however, they can also be our worst enemy.  Trends represent what is already here, and without training on how to interpret trends, organizations can be blinded to what’s next.  Instead of focusing solely on trends, we must look at the value shifts under girded the trends as well as the impacts and implications resulting from the trend that are actually shaping the future.  In addition, trends (like everything else in our current environment) do not exist in isolation, as a result, organizations must develop the skill of pattern and sense-making in order to capitalize on the collision of trends.

IIR: What advice do you have for others trying to create a strategic plan for capturing future opportunities?

Baker: Think in multiples. To be effective, strategic plans in the 21st Century cannot be linear extrapolations of the past.  We must challenge our current mental maps, make sense of the emerging issues and create multiple, divergent future worlds to allow for robust and transformative strategy development.

IIR: What do you think will be the biggest trend affecting the future of business? 

Baker: Rather than a solitary trend, I think a pattern or cluster of trends will be most impactful.  In the future, open-source talent sharing will soon become so common that there will be a “People Cloud” where work is shared, collaboration is instantaneous, and “cloud” employees work for multiple enterprises simultaneously. Boundaries between internal and external networks will begin to blur, as organizations embrace the wisdom of crowds to execute strategy.

IIR: What would the world be like without foresight and innovation? 

Baker: It’s actually not hard to imagine since there are many places and organizations in the world that ignore the future.  Governments, associations and firms that hold steadfastly to the past in hopes that it will one day return.  The result is as painful to watch as it is to be a part of.

IIR: Have you ever been wrong about a foresight or future trend? 

Baker: We are careful to advise our clients that no one can predict the future. Instead, we show them how to map it, creating multiple, divergent and provocative scenarios that allow us to test our current strategies while creating new ones. 

IIR: What is the biggest thing you hope to get out of Foresight & Trends 2014 this fall?

Baker: I hope to engage with like-minded partners that seek to create more than a foresight division and instead are looking to create a culture of future thinkers in their organization.

Want to hear more from Nicole? Hear from her at Foresight & Trends 2014 this November 11-13 in Los Angeles, CA. For more information about the event or to register, click here:

About the Author: Amanda Ciccatelli, Social Media Strategist of the Marketing Division at IIR USA, has a background in digital and print journalism, covering a variety of topics in business strategy, marketing, and technology. Amanda is the Editor at Large for several of IIR’s blogs including Next Big DesignCustomers 1stDigital Impact, STEAM Accelerator and ProjectWorld and World Congress for Business Analysts, and a regular contributor to Front End of Innovation and The Market Research Event,. She previously worked at Technology Marketing Corporation as a Web Editor where she covered breaking news and feature stories in the technology industry. She can be reached at Follow her at @AmandaCicc.   

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