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What does the future hold?

Updated: Oct 16, 2020

Photo by Denys Nevozhai via Unsplash

Who knows? I certainly don't claim to. Phrases like the fiction of prediction; predicting the future is like pouring coffee into a cup with no bottom; the tyranny of the present reigns supreme are phrases I endorse.

That's where scenario planning comes in. And done right, it's not a future planning exercise that's then forgotten; it shapes what we're doing today. 

We all know VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous), but let's add TUNA (turbulent, uncertain, novel and ambiguous). The latter fits well with where most of us are at now and is the backdrop for scenario planning; it's difficult to see precedents for moving into a post-COVID world. 

Here's a simple but useful summary of a scenario planning process:

  1. Identify the factors that influence your future market or context, and operating space.

  2. Explore how these factors might interact.

  3. Imagine a variety of plausible futures (and implausible ones as well).

  4. Review mental models of the present on the basis of these futures.

  5. Devise specific strategies to prepare for what the future actually brings. 

Forward stories or backcasting is a great technique. Paint a picture of a future state and then work backwards to now. Then move forwards again. This is a non-linear approach to scenario planning. We tend to take a linear view of development and change: the past becomes the present and that then becomes the future. But forward stories/backcasting is taking you on a continual loop.

You'll undoubtedly need to continually revise your future state, work backwards and then forwards again.

And the alternative? Develop one strategic plan and stick to it until it becomes irrelevant. There's no need, when in a TUNA world, there's a viable and trusted alternative.


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