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WHY INNOVATORS SHOULD PLAN FOR AN UNFORSEEABLE FUTURE

Posted by Isobel McEwan 28 March 2017 Workshops

We have all had times where we wished we could predict the future. Knowing what the weather will be like next week could prove useful in planning what your working week will look like, what clothes you should wear or whether to take that long-awaited trip to the coast. Transfer this into a work context, and prior knowledge of even the most minor events could prove useful for planning, budgeting, recruitment, to name but a few.

Yet in the absence of psychic knowledge, innovators must find ways to deal with an unpredictable future. How does one go about seeing the unforeseeable? How can your organisation create contingencies to deal with divergences from strategy? And how can you employ creativity to envisage a world quite different from the one which surrounds us today?

LESSONS FROM VENICE

The above are all questions which preoccupy innovators at all levels of an organisation. If you needed a reason to dedicate time and energy to solving the above questions, a lesson from history could be just the inspiration you need.

A recent article by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) argued that the Venetian Republic should provide a useful fable for the modern innovator. HBR’s contributor Piero Formica introduces us to the history of Venice, which from 697 to 1797 AD acted as the centre of one of Europe’s most successful empires. Renowned for its military technology and trade-based economy at a time when such a concept was little known, Venice boasted its success for centuries until, one day, competing empires invented a galleon that was able to survive at sea for months or even years. As trade routes internationalised and Venice’s centrality fell, the empire quickly found itself out-manoeuvred and out-innovated by a futuristic invention it had failed to foresee.

The lesson? For Formica, ‘the stronger the assumption that the future will function as today does, the greater the gravitational force of the status quo. Organizations set in their ways slow down and never strive for new horizons. They are doomed to wither. If you don’t want to be caught by surprise, you have to recognize that the future will be different from the past.’ 

HOW TO PREDICT THE FUTURE 

Though you may not have a crystal ball to hand, there are a number of considerations an organisation can take to ensure that its innovation strategy is future-proofed to the best of its ability and able to navigate the ever-changing landscape of future markets.

LEARN FROM OTHERS

Future proofing your brand is a highly personalised affair, but looking to the success of others for guidance is a good place to start.

A recent article by Campaign Live focused on PepsiCo and the BBC, discussing how they have been able to unlock growth and future proof their respective brands in the face of continual change in consumer demands. BBC head of audiences, Patrick Collins told Campaign Live that, faced with the need to respond to changing youth habits in the consumption of content and media more generally, a ‘"need-based approach" to innovation [would] help build content not based on genres but instead based on fulfilling functional, emotional and life changing needs.’

For global general manager at PepsiCo Patrick Kalotis, ‘innovation is possible only when brands discard their established "ways of thinking."’ Linking back to Formica and HBR’s notion that when an organisation gets stuck in its ways it can struggle to respond to challenges, PepsiCo has ‘established a catalyst group inside the organisation to foster a creative and innovative culture, and one that allows different parts of the business to collaborate’ to deal with such challenges. 

TIME TRAVEL

Both the approach of the BBC and PepsiCo can provide useful models for beginning to look to the future in order to best shape your innovation focus. Here at think we offer tailor made workshops that can bring these options to the table and assess how they will work in the specific case of your organisation.

Our time travel workshop is designed to help you and your organisation look into the future. We encourage teams to work together to create a physical time line, literally on the floor, so that they can then walk forwards in time and look over the issues. Asking questions like how can we work smarter and leaner together, how can we do it quicker or what issues can we anticipate, we help organisations to look a year, decade, or even century into the future to better understand how innovation can provide the solutions to an ever evolving market, competitor developments and broader global challenges.

Follow the links below to find out more about our workshop and to ensure that your organisation learns the lesson of history by being ready for whatever the future may have in store.

As global innovation specialists we aim to help and encourage people and organizations to become more nimble, boosting their ability to generate ideas. We bring pace and focus to your innovation initiatives using our unique innovation techniques, which are constantly being developed by our professional licensees. If you’re interested in becoming a licensee for the think team, contact us here.

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