Strategic Thinking — Looking into the Future
This blog will attempt to take a look into the future in a more holistic way than I have done in the past. I will take the strategic perspective of possible futures as opposed to attempts to prognosticate specific events or states of the world at some specific time in the future. The strategic approach is to generate several possible scenarios that include anticipated futures (given certain starting conditions) and possible interventions or responses that put us in the best possible position as the actual future unrolls. The point is to be proactive rather than merely reactive.
First we need a reasonably solid assessment of the state of the world now. In particular we need to grasp the major and most important factors and their mutually interactive dynamics. We need to assess the threats and opportunities, just as a business strategic planning process would. We also need to understand our strengths and weaknesses in moving into that future in the context of those dynamics. In particular we need to ask if there are actions we should be undertaking now or in the near future to leverage on strengths and mitigate our weaknesses.
All of our tactical, logistical, and operational plans should follow from what we see happening in this strategic view. These have to be flexible and adaptive as the future actually unfolds since we have no certainty that any specific scenario will follow through. Indeed there is always the possibility that some scenarios will blend, as it were, or the world could flip from one scenario to another on some tipping point not accounted for. The key is to have several scenarios worked out as you play ‘What-If’ with the future of the world.
Please recognize that developing scenarios for what will happen in the future is not the same as making predictions. The former are meant to give somewhat holistic visions of the kinds of major things that could happen. The process attempts to use a systems approach, recognizing the interactions between major forces/factors, to anticipate how things are going to evolve over time. Predictions, on the other hand, tend to be very low dimensional projections of what will happen. Frequently they do (more…)