Strategy: Strategic Foresight and Future Shaping
Strategic foresight refers to the discipline of intelligence gathering, predicting alternative futures, and preparing for them. Today’s business world is increasingly uncontrolled and dynamic. Organisations need to have a good understanding of the overall macro-environment – i.e. the economy as a whole – so they can anticipate risks and threats, as well as explore megatrends, markets, and product and service demands. The purpose of strategic foresight is to develop a vision and cohesive, sustainable strategies to implement today, while positioning the organisation to create and maintain its preferred or alternative futures.

The term foresight is often used in conjunction with future shaping. Future shaping refers to the influencing or recalibrating of organisational policies and processes to shape and support an envisioned future, both within and outside an organisation. The fundamental principle of future shaping is that future shaping influences the market – not the reverse.

In This Report

  1. Which organisations have received recognition for excellent strategic foresight and future shaping?
  2. How have organisations reached high levels of success through strategic foresight and future shaping?
  3. What research has been undertaken into strategic foresight and future shaping?
  4. What tools and methods are used to achieve high levels of success in strategic foresight and future shaping?
  5. How can strategic foresight and future shaping be measured?
  6. What do business leaders say about strategic foresight and future shaping?
  7. Conclusion

The Stage

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a major effect on all parts of society – from civil society to businesses to governments – and has demonstrated clearly that vulnerability is not selective. Policies that seemed impossible yesterday are universal today. Perhaps the strongest message it has sent is that complacency and lack of preparation are very poor options; we must prepare for an unknown and uncertain future.

According to UNCTAD, the United Nations trade and development agency, the slowdown in the global economy due to the coronavirus outbreak is likely to cost at least US$1 trillion in 2020 alone. To recover, industry and governments need to plan ahead, and to think beyond the immediate aftermath of the crisis. They need to use strategic foresight.

The principles of supply and demand are multifaceted. Analysing relationships between local, national, and international events – and then predicting ripple effects over the long or medium term is vital. In a volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) global business order, foresight has become something of fundamental importance – not just to achieve excellence in business or governance, but to guarantee survival. The collapse of the iconic Kodak brand is a salutary lesson of what can happen when there is a lack of foresight.

Foresight is the hallmark of innovative journeys. By developing anticipatory intelligence, an organisation can heighten its acumen to innovate and manage plausible or unexpected threats. And by undertaking a scientific analysis of consumer-customer-competitor behaviours and evaluating emerging technologies, an organisation can develop a barrier against prospective disruptive innovations. The cost of not developing organisational—indeed, industry-wide—foresight can be significant. The global hotel industry suffered major disruption when a start-up developed a futuristic outlook during the 2008 recession and shaped the future of the hospitality industry. Airbnb is now a billion-dollar company.

This report will demonstrate how to understand various possible futures and be well-organised for change; improve your ability to select the right transformation for your company; and, shape the future and co-exist with it in the present.

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