How can we meet the Future: Introduction to Foresight Thinking with Suzanne Stein, of OCAD University
MEIC presents Suzanne Stein from OCAD University who introduces foresight thinking and ideation techniques that can enable mobile entrepreneurs to use “foresighting” for their business strategy. In turn enabling businesses the ability to look at the past, present, and future trends that might impact their industry. With this disorderly world of overwhelming amount of information, we need techniques to be able to start looking at the patterns of change over time and how those patterns impact the future, so by using foresight thinking and strategy it helps businesses to meet the future in the present.
Foresight techniques can be described as systematic approaches to gathering intelligence about possible futures and enabling present day decisions. The analysis of foresight thinking is to look beyond the short-term fads, and deeper into trends that are creating actual change in your industry. The difference between a trend and a fad is time and impact. Fads are short in duration in time and impact, while trends last longer and have a greater impact to creating change. A foresighter like Suzanne is able to see the difference and interpret their meaning in the overall significance.
One of the most important aspects of this is analysis. Suzanne explains the need for businesses to gain perspective over time and create scenarios for future strategy. When doing a foresight analysis, and seeing all the changes happening within an industry, we might end up asking ourselves “here is what is changing, so what? why do I care?” Instead, we need to ask: How will these changes lead to market opportunities for my business and how will we be able to take advantage of them sooner than later.
Creating a Timeline
Seeing your business within a larger industry and societal system in timeline format gives you the foresight perspective. The timeline is a tool to plot the signals, trends, and drivers that have happened over time. Signals include: social, technological, economic, environmental, political, and values. These timelines include the past, present, and future, blocked into five to seven year spans over fifty+ years. In the Identifying Signals ad Trends video is a perfect example where Suzanne looks at using a timeline.
With a whiteboard, markers, categories, sticky notes, and industry experts, a group was able to plot the changes to the mobile industry over time and possible trends. Within the timeline you can see how trends were created within different signals, their uptake, and mass adoption by society that led to changes.
The importance of looking ahead, say seven years, might give your business the indication of where the industry is heading. If your team hasn’t looked at it, you might be too late in the game, so you end up playing catch up. For Suzanne “it means your organization will probably recognize it, but it’s already in everyone’s faces, and there are other entrants already there, it will be fairly saturated.” Foresight is a method where you meet the future, before new entrants or competitors do.
After looking at the timeline and seeing what the future might bring for your business, scenarios are created and applied to your present strategy. Scenarios are based on the top trends you think will affect your business and how you need to be ready for the challenges and opportunities that might come from those trends. The whole point is to be prepared—as to be pro-active and not just reactive when faced with the future.
Blog contributor: Helen Kontozopoulos @helenissocial