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Some businesses find themselves so mired in the immediate grind of KPIs, analytics and accounting – those organizational modes for describing the present – that they forget to look at the future. Not three months in the future, not a year or two – but decades into the future and beyond.
This long-term construction of the future of your business forms the backbone of strategic foresight. Far more than a buzzy piece of business jargon, strategic foresight can be a business’ superpower. In this article, let’s explore what strategic foresight is, how to harness a futurist mindset and what benefits you can expect from formulating a future-forward strategy.
What Is Strategic Foresight?
The future is uncertain. Especially now, as technologies, microtrends and cultural paradigms shift at a breakneck pace, this uncertainty can seem chaotic – even threatening.
Strategic foresight is about confronting that uncertainty head-on with courage, creativity and clear-eyed optimism. Or, as a more “textbook” definition, you might say: Strategic foresight involves gathering insights about future possibilities so your organization can adopt methods, technologies, values and processes to create a successful future regardless of changes and unplanned events.
The term has circulated among innovative business thinkers for at least a decade but assumed fresh relevance and urgency in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, it’s common for large companies, governmental organizations and non-profits to weave strategic foresight into high-level business plans.
Harnessing the Futurist Mindset
How does a business practice strategic foresight? Think of strategic foresight as businesses “shift(ing) their mindsets from ‘what is’ to ‘what if.’” According to Chief Futurist and speaker at Futurist.com, Nikolas Badminton, that’s a business’ real superpower.
In his book, Facing Our Futures: How Foresight, Futures Design and Strategy Creates Prosperity and Growth, Badminton outlines ways to jumpstart the shift toward strategic foresight. These include:
- Questioning your assumptions, organizational agendas and history
- Prioritizing lively top-level discussions with a focus on curiosity
- Investigating “pockets of future” in the present from philosophers, poets, big thinkers, etc.
- And setting your sights centuries into the future to avoid regressing into short-term strategic planning.
You can read more of Badminton’s insights in this Forbes article, which does a neat job summarizing the robust insights in his book.
The Benefits of Strategic Foresight for Organizations
Focusing your business’ attention on the future can have several benefits. Strategic foresight allows you to:
- “Scenario plan” for forces that may shape or disrupt market conditions.
- Become more resilient to external changes, especially changes beyond your control, like economic downturns or global catastrophes (see COVID as a prime example).
- Increase your competitive edge by keeping you one step ahead in the race to leverage new technologies, business philosophies and consumer insights.
- Improve your attractiveness to top talent by creating a curious, open-minded workplace culture that nurtures learning and development.
- Pull yourself out of the rut of short-term “reaction” to become a more proactive enterprise.
- And much more.
Businesses that want to envision and enact their long-term success are encouraged to use the resources linked in this article as a launchpad. Hire a futurist keynote speaker for your next event, or connect with a futurist consultant.