Reflection on Scenarios & Strategic Foresight

March 19, 2023

As a digital leader, it's crucial for me to engage in ongoing reflection. We often underestimate the future, making it vital for me to remain open-minded, consider alternative approaches, and think from multiple perspectives. Surrounding myself with people from diverse backgrounds helps in suspending judgment, thereby facilitating the discovery of creative and viable solutions. It's important to cultivate a mindset that welcomes new ideas rather than dismissing them outright. Instead of settling into a comfort zone, I should challenge myself to withhold judgment, which is essential for contemplating future scenarios. While expertise in my domain is crucial, approaching work with a beginner's mindset will enable a long-term view, preparing me for all plausible futures.

As someone responsible for leading change and preparing for the near future, I have two options: adapt or perish. Consider examples like Blockbuster's decline versus Netflix's rise, Sony's failures in contrast to Apple's dominance in the iPod market, or Kodak being replaced by iPhone cameras. Responding to market shifts is not optional; inaction poses a genuine threat. I should aim to implement a blue ocean strategy, focusing on differentiation and value creation without compromising on cost. Competing solely on price in a saturated market isn't advisable; instead, the goal should be to render competition irrelevant. Using the ERRC (Eliminate, Raise, Reduce, Create) framework for innovation could prove beneficial. While the concept of "moonshot thinking" may pave the way for exponential impact, the foundational step is a willingness to learn and embrace failure. Although failure isn't glamorous, audacity is essential.

One of the main challenges in planning and implementing change is that senior management often engages in convergent thinking, narrowing down ideas. Consumed by daily operations and crisis management, they seldom have time for divergent thinking. At times, we need to step back to address industry challenges with innovative solutions. This approach requires the courage to make mistakes, fail quickly, and minimize costs. Establishing psychological safety in the workplace is difficult, especially when the focus is on short-term profits and risk management. It's a significant hurdle for a company to dismantle its primary revenue source and pivot to adapt to new disruptions. Most companies are short-term oriented, and achieving corporate-level coordination is challenging. As an innovator, my role is to remain distinct from the core business while maintaining stakeholder support, adhering to our mission, and finding the right balance.

To adapt to future changes, I'll need skills in stakeholder management and storytelling, along with the courage to challenge conventional wisdom. Dismissing science fiction technologies is unwise, as they may eventually find practical applications. The future is not solely predicated on what I know but extends to what I have yet to discover. Though the future is already here, it's not uniformly distributed. Early adopters are using technologies that will gain broader adoption down the line. For instance, AI co-pilots in programming may soon become commonplace for routine tasks. Likewise, space travel, currently a luxury, may soon be accessible to all. My preparation should involve setting and measuring deliverables, directing execution, influencing others, and acting as both an advisor and a facilitator.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn