When it comes to the future be humble but not subservient, is my motto. What do I mean with these words?
Being humble means that you can never be sure what will happen in the future. This is why organizations need foresight practices. The idea of using foresight tools like trend watching and weak signal spotting is to be prepared for different kinds of futures – various, even unthinkable possibilities. Futurists call this kind of thinking scenario work, the idea of which is to stretch the bounds of our thinking.
On the other hand, not being subservient, means that we all have a possibility to change the future – for the better. We do not need to wait for someone else to take responsibility for making changes for the future. This means that creativity is needed: new futures (products, services, strategies) should be created by organizations.
Creativity is needed: new futures (products, services, strategies) should be created by organizations."
Equally, organizations also have the possibility of co-creating the future with their shareholders. One tool for co-creation is communication about visions of the future. At its best, communication is interactive. This means that not only are the visions communicated but also the responses of the shareholders are listened to and reacted to.
Anticipation (foresight), innovating and communicating together is something that I have named futures thinking. Using futures thinking is essential for organizational preparedness for the future business environment. In the business world, there are some excellent examples of companies that have utilized the power of futures tools. Shell has used scenario thinking for strategy work for decades. When they first used scenarios in the 1970s, they managed to anticipate the oil shock. IBM and Ericsson list trends (technology and consumer) annually that at the same time tell their shareholders about their visionary thinking and discernment of weak signals. Airbus has an extensive program that focuses on tackling the challenges of the future of transport. These visions are communicated to the world with a big budget.
Is the money spent on futures thinking worth the investment? I have asked various organizations this question. Different organizations have different reasons for investing in using futures tools. Some say that communicating their future visions has brought them visibility and lifted brand value. Most companies emphasize the importance of seeing forthcoming changes in advance and understanding the possibilities of the future business environment.
Investing in seeing at least a glance of the future is never money spent badly. On the contrary, not foreseeing the changes could be a major disaster. You would not drive a car with your eyes closed would you?
Elina Hiltunen has an extensive experience in anticipating and innovating the futures by weak signals.