It’s taken some companies and business leaders decades to master the art of learning from the future, but the real world is a patient teacher. After the Great Upheaval caused by the pandemic of 2020, followed by the political and economic shocks of ’21 and ’23, we had no choice but to face the fact that the future will always surprise us.
And to top it all, the furious pace of tech-driven disruption to established businesses and business models hasn’t slowed at all – it has accelerated! Which means that, since 2024, anyone who still plans for the future based on previous performance, plus an expected growth factor, is on a hide into nothing.
That’s the thing about strategic thinking, building plans for the future of your business: You have to anticipate a range of alternate scenarios, not rely on what happened in the past. And also expect that even your best guesses will be wrong in some way!
Some things are easy to predict. We know exactly when the sun will rise tomorrow, and approximately by how much the demand for ice cream will rise with hotter weather. But the most difficult thing to anticipate is human behaviour, and how people might respond to events. So we need to plan for the unlikely and the unexpected, and be ready to pivot if necessary.
That’s why it’s best to place yourself in the future, in the time of your strategic horizon; and imagine the world around you, and all its possibilities. Then go ‘back from the future’ to your business of today, and think about how you need to change it. It doesn’t work to simply forge ahead, forward to the past!