Friday, May 20, 2011

Three Futuring Trends that are the Most Likely to Help Organizations Achieve Short and/or Long-Term Success

In the ever-changing world of business, it is extremely important to be able to identify past trends in order to recognize future opportunities that may or may not affect the short-term or long-term health of a business’s functionality now or in the years to come. According to (E. Cornish, 2004) there are an endless amount of ways to assess future events and when doing so you must make sure to use techniques that you are comfortable with. Three important futuring techniques that are sure to help an organization achieve short and long-term success are (1) scenarios, (2) modeling, and (3) wild cards.

According to Cornish (2004), a scenario is a developing future trend or strategy that describes a story or is explained in a detailed outline form. Usually those companies that utilize scenarios as part of the planning process do so if they are uncertain about future events and their potential impact(s) on the organizational planning. (Fink, Marr, Siebe, & Kuhle, 2005) also state that “scenarios can play a significant and new role in combining the well-structured planning process with the often less-organized and in some planners’ minds more “chaotic” early-warning processes” (p. 376). Nevertheless, a company maybe filled with varying perspectives of problems, and different interests that can turn a good strategy into a bad strategy overnight. Therefore, Fink, et al., (2005) explained four ways executives and managers could deal with these differences in order to create a stronger future for the company. First, recognize the key elements of the strategy as step one, where you identify twenty or less factors in order to discover relationships to where a company sees itself now and where it sees itself in the future. Second, improve and explain future options as step two, while describing what factors of those identified in step one can lead to potential future opportunities within the organization. Third, combine future options with step one scenarios since they are the link between future options of each factor identified in step one to strategy scenarios, while stressing the importance and strategy of each scenario developed by the members of the team. Finally, develop a strategic roadmap, which was referred to as the final step (four) or the identification of all the resources needed for any changes, also known as “windows of opportunities” (p. 367).

(Bracken, 2008) agreed with the insights of Cornish and Fink and describes four additional scenarios that are commonly used by leaders in order to help executives continue identifying business trends. The first was technology, followed by political risks, attrition, and strategic personalities. By no means are these four trends the only trends affecting business; but from the research, (Bracken, 2008) stated that these trends would likely continue to be at the forefront well into the next decade. Bracken (2008) also discussed the necessary leadership skills that would be required to produce future scenarios that could help everyone involved in business transactions as (1) foresight, (2) leverage, (3) agility, and (4) broader perspectives. (Bodell, 2006) research also showed that those organizations that are the most successful using scenarios and/or scanning methods are the ones that use foresight and perspective to identify opportunities, while preparing for what is next. (Bodell, 2006; Bracken, 2008) discussed similar methods that others can be taught in order to learn possible future tracks of their organizations. Those leaders that possess these traits will be better equipped to deal with turbulent times, be ahead of the game within their industry, and able to solve problems by viewing the situation from all possible angles.

The second futuring technique that could help an organization achieve short and long-term success is referred to as modeling and Cornish (2004) defines modeling as “something that we use to represent something else” (p. 70). Although there are a number of different modeling techniques that were/are used, (Wind, 2008) describes a modeling technique in relation to the discipline of Marketing. In fact, marketing, like technology has/is continuing to advance into a rigorous field of work and study. Wind (2008) explained that marketing today is a combination of “analysis, economic, and econometric modeling, behavioral economics, data mining, and techniques,” which are “derived from mathematical psychology” (p. 21). As the world continues to move forward, marketing will also need to continue forward; therefore, Wind (2008) proposed seven strategies modeled after several different disciplines (i.e. finance, customer relationship, supply chain management, operations, etc). Wind’s proposed strategies are an excellent example of how modeling can have major impacts on one specific element or several. (Giunipero, Hooker, Joseph-Matthews, Yoon, & Brudvig, 2008) agree with Wind (2008) and add that those organizational leaders that choose to evaluate past literature, while producing new models will be the ones who are able to determine what future development(s) may occur within a network or organizational framework. Like Wind (2008) modeling technique (Giunipero, et al., 2008) were able to correlate different frameworks, challenges, and trends of the past with new information technology and e-commerce, which is perhaps a new way to solve other strategic issues or help solve global supply chain issues heading into the future based on the past.

The last futuring technique that could help an organization achieve short and long-term success is wild cards. In a recent article published in the Futurist (Petersen, 2009) describes some of the same things in Cornish’s (2004) Futuring about wild cards that Petersen (2009) previously mentioned in his book Out of the Blue, which have continued to shape and reshape the future. In fact, Cornish not only uses Petersen’s work to describe past events but offers his analysis of Petersen’s three basic rules for dealing with wild cards, as also featured in the (Edward Cornish, 2003) article The Wild Card of the Future. Cornish quotes Petersen’s three rules as
(1) We need to think about wild cards before they happen because if we do then we are more likely to find a solution(s).
(2) We must also be able to understand the affects of potential wild cards in order to prepare better for a potential response.
(3) Extreme past and future events require unique approaches in order to help solve them.

Understanding the likelihood of future events can better equip you if/or when those events happen. In fact, both Cornish and Petersen describe some of the past wilds cards that have taken place and remind readers those events that happen unexpectedly may or may not be as uncommon as one may think. The truth is, over the years, wild cards have and continue to transform our own daily lives along with that of the global business environment. However, creating a long-term organizational strategy that transforms multiple partners is just the beginning. (Wagner, 2008) points out that an organization can forecast for the future; however, they cannot predict changes or “wild cards” that may occur outside the normal realm of conducting business. Her work examines several wild cards discussed in a work by Schwartz and Randall (2007) along with the main categories used in long-term business planning. Wagner (2008) identified six trends and forecasts companies utilize to predict future demands (1) demography, (2) economics, (3) environment, (4) government, (5) society, and (6) technology, while offering readers a brief classification of each. Obviously many variables can influence our daily decisions, which can affect long-term business forecasting; therefore, Wagner (2009) noted that many futurists often discuss a single trend across several sectors. This organization of trends has proved to be valuable in understanding many global issues or wild cards that can dramatically affect later business decisions and affect long-term business planning, so there are no surprises that you unprepared for.

This blog post examined three futuring methods that Cornish points out in his book Futuring Methods. Although there are many techniques that can predict the future; scenarios, modeling, and wild cards are the most important to my dissertation, hence the correlation of this work to previous blog posts. Additionally, the tools identified here were developed years ago; however, these tools will continue to be used to identify problems, as we continue to look for new tools and additional ways of predicting the future. We must also remember that we need to continue to think strategically, while remaining dedicated to innovation and technological advancements as a group if we want to continue advancing at the current rates. Regardless of the efforts, a company that uses these three methods to try to predict the future will be better equipped to deal with or plan for those unforeseen events, as they are essential to survival in the world we live in today.

Of course, I am always up for other opinions, especially those that involve some of the other futuring techniques used by individuals and business small or large. Shoot me an email, post here, or Tweet me a reply. Until next time, Keep Smiling!!!

Bodell, L. (2006). Best practices in scanning. The Futurist, 40(5), 22.
Bracken, P. (2008). Futurizing business education. Futurist, 42(4), 38-42.
Cornish, E. (2003). The wild cards in our future. Futurist, 37(4), 18.
Cornish, E. (2004). Futuring: The exploration of the future. Bethesda, MD: World Future Society.
Fink, A., Marr, B., Siebe, A., & Kuhle, J.-P. (2005). The future scorecard: combining external and internal scenarios to create strategic foresight. Management Decision, 43(3), 360.
Giunipero, L. C., Hooker, R. E., Joseph-Matthews, S., Yoon, T. E., & Brudvig, S. (2008). A decade of SCM literature: Past, present, and future implications. Journal of Supply Chain Management: A Global Review of Purchasing & Supply, 44(4), 66-86.
Petersen, J. L. (2009). How "wild cards" may reshape our future. Futurist, 43(3), 19-20.
Wagner, C. G. (2008). Anticipating wild cards in world affairs. Futurist, 42(1), 6-7.
Wind, Y. (2008). A plan to invent the marketing we need today. MIT Sloan Management Review, 49(4), 21.

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