Strategic foresight – Eyes wide open for the future ahead
No one saw the events of 2020 coming, and as such, many decisions this year have been made on the go, with solutions being made up as we went along. Predicting the future is impossible, but some companies seem to be better equipped to face the change than the others. At SHIFT 2020, several speeches revolved around the topics of resilience, the kind of culture a company needs to be able to thrive in change, and the ability to adapt to the ever changing circumstances.
Futures research, or strategic foresight, remains largely unexplored by businesses despite its apparent potential for future business development.
Futures research, or strategic foresight, remains largely unexplored by businesses despite its apparent potential for future business development. As noted by many SHIFT speakers, societies and businesses alike can and should systematically identify, talk about, adjust to and plan for multiple different future scenarios.
The world around may be uncertain, but not outside our influence with the right tools and strategies. According to Dr. Nando Malmelin, Professor of Practice specializing in disruptive business at VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland, strategic foresight incorporated into business strategy may “provide the key to successful corporate transformation and to overall business success in this uncertain era”.
Malmelin invoked four pillars of systematic foresight, actions and transformation in companies: Firstly, strategic management by observing the future and taking strategic decisions and investments accordingly. Secondly, systematic corporate foresight by continually monitoring the operating environment and anticipating its future directions. Thirdly, co-creation to increase the foresight capabilities of the company with participatory foresight initiative. And most importantly: for foresight to be successful, it must be connected to practical business objectives and be harnessed for all business development.
For strategic foresight to be successful, it must be connected to practical business objectives and be harnessed for all business development.
A good example of this is politics and legislation, which are an inescapable factor for the business environment, says CEO of Miltton Networks Elina Moisio. According to Moisio, politics have become more uncertain and riskier. Power changes quickly, and the time span of politics has shortened. Strategic foresighting is needed to be able to understand the values and motivations of stakeholders and to take timely measures.
Joana Lenkova, founder of strategic foresight consultancy company Futures Forward, rounded off the discussion by identifying common traits that allow a company to grow in response to its environment and thus continue to thrive. These are awareness of the company’s own identity, sensitivity to the surrounding world, and tolerance towards new ideas – and fittingly, the same traits are also central to strategic foresight and allow us to adapt to various future scenarios. We cannot predict the future, but we can learn from the past and act in the present to be better prepared for any eventuality.
Strategic Foresight was discussed at SHIFT on sessions “Choosing strategic foresight over fortune telling” with Nando Malmelin, Elina Moisia and Risto E.J. Penttillä, and “Are you ready to improve your future literacy skills?” with Joana Lenkova.