Futuring Your Business
FUTURING - Predicting the future for your industry, your business & your life!
The collapse of major USA financial and insurance company icons as a result of the sub-prime home loan crisis in the USA nearly nine years ago meant that virtually every business plan or strategy for all financial institutions worldwide was completely wrong!
No one saw it coming or if they had would not have envisaged the world wide consequences of excessive mortgage lending to people the other side of the world, who did not have the capacity to pay the repayments.
This error in judgement sent shares into freefall worldwide and caused almost every superannuation investment to plummet in value and make nonsense of growth plans and projections based on past performances.
Seems we are potentially on the brink of both another financial crisis and that on top of an unpredictable loose cannon President Trump.
If only we could predict the future!
Well, to some extent we can
I have been fascinated by the concept and practice of “Futuring” since I first read “The Third Wave” by Alvin Toffler over 25 years ago. A book still regarded as one of the best in its field.
Toffler suggested for the first time that “Waves of Change” had flowed through the world which had significantly affected all aspects of society, business and family life. He introduced the first wave as that of the Agricultural Revolution where for the first time humans moved from hunter gathering to that of cultivating crops and animals, leading to the development of markets, towns, cities and eventually international trading.
The second wave he suggested was the Industrial Revolution which brought in the machine age, factories and the concept of mass production and the regulation of workers through set working hours as “cogs” in the machine of production. In the social sense it changed society while dramatically opening up the world through rail and motor travel, communication, flight and two world wars with massive levels of destruction and death. Eventually spawning the atom bomb and the atomic age!
The third wave Toffler suggested was the technological age which he saw as starting in the 1960’s, spearheaded by the computer and its capacity to process information and calculate on a grand scale. Various different names have been given to the third wave including the Information Age, Space Age, Electronic Era, Global Village, Technetronic Age and the Scientific-technological revolution. Toffler predicted that the third wave would bring with it an unprecedented acceleration of change in all aspects of our lives, from the way we do business, communicate, bring up families, education and learning and in the way we are governed.
Toffler suggested that the organisations and institutions designed for the industrial age would simply fail to cope.
He was right on almost every count!
Since Toffler published The Third Wave in 1980 many other futurists have also written on the subject like John Naisbitt who wrote Megatrends in 1984, and more recently Faith Popcorn the author of The Popcorn Report, which successfully predicted an number of key social trends like “Cocooning” and numerous others including one futurist with the intriguing name of Bruce LaDuke, with some particularly useful comments on major trends which I have used in this article.
THE FUTURE IS EXCITING & POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS & POTENTIALLY PROFITABLE
There is so much change happening now that any business that fails to adapt constantly is certain to be left miles behind. Looking at that the other way round and you can see that the opportunities for businesses and individuals to ride and profit by these waves of change are increasing too.
William Shakespeare had it in one when he wrote “There is a tide in the affairs of men which taken at the flood, leads to fortune.”
Obviously to ride the tide or wave successfully you have to be prepared and to be ready for its arrival. That means every business and organisation has to start learning how to predict the future and has to take action now to ensure they ride the wave rather than being wiped out by it!
“Futuring” simply has to be part of business practice, it may be an imperfect science but being half prepared for a change is a long way ahead of a competitor who did not see it coming.
CHANGE IS NOT JUST TECHNOLOGY
Change is not just confined to technology, it is happening in every part of our lives, including, Information / Communication; Environment; Medical / Health; Economy; Culture / Values; Politics; Energy; Business; Education; Immigration.
If you look at that list, it is easy to see that major changes are occurring right now.
We are now experiencing exponential change. That means the rate of change you or your business experienced this year will be DOUBLED next year!
Not only that, but changes are becoming more volatile with bigger swings and effects than anticipated. Who would have predicted that loose home lending practices in the
THE INTERNET.... NOW 3.5 BILLION USERS
The biggest change of all is the Internet. Not just a technological change but a revolution in the way we communicate and gain information and knowledge worldwide. The way internet connectedness has grown is a classic example of exponential growth. A growth from 16 million users in 1995 to 3.5 billion in 2016! That is a multiplication of 21.8 thousand times!
Facebook has 1.7billion active monthly users in the world and Twitter is used by 317 million people, including World leaders like President Trump.
DEEP FUNDAMENTAL CHANGES..... The internet alone has changed our Time Relationships, with fast immediate communication and images; our Space Relationships with no restriction on trading or talking worldwide; and our Knowledge Relationships with unlimited knowledge only a Google search away.
This is now, world communication on a scale never before imagined, with positive and negative news virtually instantaneous and business able to operate at a micro level worldwide. Housewives and mothers are now running cottage businesses from home operating through their websites selling a huge range of products and services anywhere in the world. Like the local markets but with an international customer base and credit card or PayPal payment systems to make it easy. Just think of how easy it is to bid and buy anything on EBay no matter where it is located. I am told that EBay and internet buying has resulted in a boom in parcel home delivery services, makes sense doesn’t it! When you shop from home someone has to deliver the goods.
THE OTHER BIG TRENDS (From Bruce LaDuke)
1. INTERNET SERVICES
There has been a 668% growth in major internet services since 2002. Think of Google Search Engines, Ad-Words advertising on Google and other sites, Face book, YouTube; Blog sites; Twitter, Virus filters; Spam filters; Streaming videos; Music; etc etc. When Toffler wrote the Third Wave in 1980, the Fax was the latest big invention and the internet had not been invented.
2. ENVIRONMENT / GLOBAL WARMING
What ever the cause the earth seems to be warming up and polar ice melting. The consequence is sea levels rising and coastal habitation threatened. In
3. WORLD POPULATION
The population is now around 7.3 billion and is predicted by the UN to grow to 10 billion over the next 30 years. There is also a major trend in the movement to cities with nearly half the world’s population now living in cities and mega cities (over 5million)
Both China and
5. CULTURAL CHANGES
Futurists and social commentators have spotted a growing group of the western world’s population who are significantly more idealistic, spiritual and environmental concerns and who are open to positive future change. This group has been labelled “Cultural Creatives” and is estimated to represent at least 24% of the
THE TEN STEPS TO FUTURING YOUR INDUSTRY, BUSINESS or LIFE
I don’t claim to be a Futuring expert but there don’t seem to be many around anyway, so I have taken what I could find on the internet and added some of my own experience in business planning to provide a template. Producing a “Futures Strategy” is similar to doing a conventional business or marketing strategy except that the objective is to look far wider than the narrow focus of the your industry or market to take on board other wider influences that are causing major change and which could impact on you. Includes the major changes already mentioned. This does not mean abandoning normal strategic planning but instead opening up the scope for considering alternative futures and planning for change embracing adaptability.
To some extent what you are looking for are some of the changes that could be catastrophic for your industry, your customers and your business, if they happen. These may not be on the GPS yet but could turn into something big
STEP ONE – Deciding precisely what you are going to look at Futuring and describing and diagramming it. It is simply not possible for you cover everything with any depth so the trick is to focus on one area at a time and bring everything in you can think of. Your industry / market would be a good one and you might want to look at a forward projection of five years or further forward to ten years.
STEP TWO – Define the key elements of the target you are looking at. If it is your industry what are the key elements of the system. What drives the industry or market? Is it affected by the economic situation in the world, the country, the customer’s financial situation, confidence in the future etc?
STEP THREE – Identify all the stakeholders and participants. Include the Government if a large slice of the income cake goes to them as licence fees, levies or simply substantial business taxes. If the industry is regulated in some way to restrict entry like Pharmacies and Newsagents then the regulators are stakeholders too. If that regulation ceased there would be major consequences for participants, particularly in the value of their businesses. We’ve seen it happen with the taxi industry and Uber!
STEP FOUR – List some of the wild cards that could happen even though unlikely. War; environmental or other disaster; economic meltdown (like another sub-prime crisis) terrorist activity, world drought, sea levels rise, pandemic disease, new discoveries, inventions and scientific breakthroughs, etc.
STEP FIVE – Indentify trends in the driving forces in the industry and outsider it. There may be a Government trend to deregulate some industries, or to regulate others.
STEP SIX – Explore the potential for change. Is change possible and how radical could it be? For example “clean energy” technology would provide a non-polluting power source, but households generating their own solar power or by recycling waste product could eliminate the need for the entire power distribution grid.
STEP SEVEN – Develop images of a wide range of alternative futures. These can be positive, negative or neutral.
STEP EIGHT – Decide what these alternative futures would mean to your business / your industry. What would be the consequence of that particular future?
STEP NINE – Decide what your business could do to take advantage of or survive the futures you have mapped out.
STEP TEN – Define a desirable future for your industry / business and decide what actions are needed to achieve that future, rather than less desirable ones, with the resources that are capable of being controlled.
1. What would have to happen first – for the results you want to occur?
2. What would you have to do to play a role or influence things?
3. What should you do next?
MAKE A START – YOUR FUTURE DEPENDS ON IT
The future is potentially very exciting and as a marketing and business consultant I am expanding my area of operations to include Futuring for clients, as well as preparing the business and marketing strategies that position them to ride the waves of the future.
I am a member of the Futures Foundation and recommend that you also invest your $200 or so per year in also joining. The Foundation is also linked to academic leaders focussing on the creation of specialists in this area of study. The scope of study is enormous. I will focus my efforts at “Business Futuring” and look forward to working with organisations keen to think ahead and adapt to the exponential changes sweeping the world right now.