Strategic Foresight

and Anticipatory Action

 

Planning frameworks that embody accurate assumptions about the future are critical to effective preparations for future needs, risks and growth.

Yet Strategic Planning, the basic planning model widely used in the last century, assumes stable conditions and a flat rate of technological change, while at the same time underestimating the role that human perceptions and agency play in shaping conditions.  In contrast,  Strategic Foresight explicitly assumes the existence of systems whose interdependent elements create complexity, uncertainty and surprise, variable rates of technological and systemic change, and a high degree of human agency.

In order to position themselves well for an environment in which planning is characterized by adaptiveness, agility, and a continually moving horizon, organizations will increasingly institutionalize the processes of Strategic Foresight, making the process part of their continuing strategy and learning cycle.

If your sense of risk is growing or you are concerned about your competitiveness as the terms of success in your environment change, a Strategic Foresight engagement can help you gain a better understanding of both risks and potential ways to leverage change. If you’d like to explore potential new opportunities or markets, or infuse your strategic planning with a longer-term outlook, Strategic Foresight is essential.

Both leaders and their organizations know that we are living in transformative times.  Accelerating technological change, social trends that are at once global and local, hyper-connected communications, and climate change are just a few of the macro-trends whose effects we fear will ultimately impact us—if they are not already at hand. Disruption is all around us as emerging technologies, voices and forms of power unseat the old terms of success. In the face of such changes, lack of readiness to adapt to potential disruption is unacceptable.

Changes and difficulties that will arise from a failure to address change promise to be profound, especially for established enterprises or incumbent businesses.  In such conditions, Strategic Foresight and Anticipatory Action are not simply a critical but an essential key for competitive advantage.

Strategic Foresight is a mindset and a rigorous set of practices to assess potential future conditions. Anticipatory Action involves making decisions now to generate the best possible future conditions for you and your stakeholders. Taken together, strategic foresight and anticipatory action may be the most important leadership tools of the Twentieth Century—and beyond.

If you would like to discuss your concerns about your organization’s capacity to address emerging change, please feel welcome to get in touch for a discreet conversation at +1-202-594-9236 or in writing

Dr. Zalman helped me by articulating the importance of futures and forecasting. Her contribution uniquely positioned us to move forward on our futures efforts, validating our current methods as well as providing us guidance on how we can make improvements in our methodologies.

– U.S. military client

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5 Ways Strategic Foresight Drives Profitable Change

  1. More efficient decision-making. Not all trends are created equal. While some trends are mature and stable, others are still emerging and may evolve in a number of unexpected directions. Understanding the nuances of trends and which are most relevant to your situation makes decision-making more efficient.
  2. Profitable innovation. A readiness to explore alternative futures opens you to the promise of novel solutions. Innovation and new ideas stem from seeing the needs of the future in a new framework.
  3. Mitigate risks and see opportunities before others. The inter-relationships between trends—how changes in technology and culture may, for example, interact—are rarely immediately visible. Yet it is precisely in those future inter-relationships that either unforeseen disaster or astonishing opportunities may be hidden.  Taking the time to explore those now can mean all the difference later.
  4. Grow your resilience to shocks. Most of the challenges facing incumbent bureaucracies today lie in turgid policies, processes and cultures that forestall change, not in issues of technology alone.  The systemic, holistic approach of Strategic Foresight brings opportunities to “futurize” the system and optimize your opportunities for success.
  5. Create your preferred future. Strategic Foresight empowers you with options. Give a jolt to your embedded assumptions about how to reach success and what success looks like, and you will find new pathways, opportunities, connections and markets.

Ways we can engage:

  • Multiple modalities are possible, but a typical engagement asks a question about the future that sets the stage for the engagement
  • Scenario planning generates a set of scenarios that can be used to inform strategy; specific other methods can be used to initiate change at deep levels; these can be plugged into the strategic narrative process so that your story engages future trends
  • Structured conversations, workshops or seminars, on-demand consulting or coaching are available
  • Seminars or workshops to help organizations institutionalize their own Strategic Foresight processes are available
  • Available to work with you to create events around specific future-related questions or domains
  • Capacity Building: Audit capabilities, resources and specific needs to establish an independent, integrated capability and develop a culture and internal skillset

What you can expect to gain:

  • Significantly better understanding of trends and forces acting on the relevant environment
  • Meaningful parameters to guide strategy, mitigate risks and take advantage of emergent opportunities
  • Empowerment and long-term competitive advantage
  • Clarity around resource and other decisions and the ability to build measures of decision-making quality into strategy over time
Dr. Zalman provided an essential futurist’s view of the global security environment and the increased importance of the strategic narrative. Her assistance in helping senior Army leaders understand the impacts and change on the battlefield in 2050 will improve the critical roles of the Army of the future.

– David G. Perkins, Commanding General, United States Army Training and Doctrine Command

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