Posts Tagged ‘future’

What are the possibilities?

School holidays are nearly over and I’m looking forward to focusing on my clients and future clients.  My goal this year is to help as many people as possible to see the possibilities – ie think strategically!

Without the motivation and ability to think about opportunities, risks and possible consequences of elements outside our own control, it is impossible to prepare your business (or career) adequately for the future.  Experience tells me that many people process information as discrete data, unrelated to other information.  I sometimes wonder if this is because of the way we chunk topics through school and university – learning about each in its own silo and not necessarily thinking about how that topic is part of a whole, influencing and being influenced by all the other topics being studied in other departments.  This discrete way of viewing information inhibits managers and professionals from engaging in systems and strategic thinking, needed for preparing and planning ahead.

I have some favorite methods of increasing your capacity to think more strategically.  Here’s three of them:

  • When you read or hear news items, ask yourself how this could impact on you or your business, on your suppliers and on your clients.  Think through 2 – 3 levels of impact.  For instance, in my daily today, there was an article about how my city’s river might have to supply water to a larger city.   I wondered how it will affect manufacturing, farming and other local businesses dependent on water supply (my level 1 thinking).  And if they are affected, how might that flow on to my clients (service firms) – my level 2.  Level 3 would be the impact on my business.  I also wondered what benefits my city might gain from this – what would we want in return?  I thought about how that would affect everyone here in our typical ‘drought’ months, when we already have restricted water use. These are just some of the many aspects that I could relate to this topic.  But you get the idea.
  • Deliberately access a wide variety of information.  Read about topics unrelated to your normal reading.  Ask yourself how you can use the ideas in the articles in your own business, and how trends in these other areas could affect you or your clients.  It’s easy to access a wide variety of topics on-line, and off-line the magazines in cafes, doctors and dentists waiting rooms are good ways to extend your exposure to new ideas.
  • Mix and mingle with professionals and specialists in areas other than your own.  A scary idea, I know, but you’ll be amazed at their different world view, and also their predictions for the near future.  Just as you know lots about your area or industry, they know what’s happening in theirs.  And what happens in one place, sooner or later impacts in others.

In business, thinking about a range of scenarios and preparing for new risks and opportunities always beats out being forced to respond with no forewarning or preparation.  You can’t predict everything, but you can be regularly thinking about possible impacts and be ready to respond to change, whatever that change may turn out to be.

Categories: Business and Strategy

The Devil is still lurking…

I just had one of those evenings – you know, when everything goes wrong. Not badly wrong, just enough to waste time and energy, and be really irritating.  It all happened because I got into the detail.  I used to work with a manager, autocratic type, and I didn’t agree with much of what he said except this – “the devil’s in the detail”.   It was one of his favorite expressions and I have to agree.  Perhaps that’s what I love about strategic thinking – not too much detail!  But of course, sooner or later you have to implement and that means – detail.

Tonight I was attempting to use a new software that’s been recommended to me.  There is some strategic benefit to this.  It will help me offer more services on-line.  If  it works.  All was going well when suddenly one of the key functions shut down for no apparent reason.  Just at that moment domestic issues surfaced and I had to run off and sort those out.  When I got back that function had returned but another had gone.  And it wasn’t quite doing what I had expected overall.  What I had thought would be a 15 minute quick trial has turned into a couple of hours.  Why is technology like that?  It’s supposed to speed things up but too often it takes way too long to figure out.  Or maybe I’m a technophobe, but I don’t think so.  I quite like new tools and software – but only if they do what I need them to.

So now I guess I’ll have to go and read all the tutorials or watch the video versions.  Video takes longer, I can skim the text, so I’ll start there.  Hopefully it’s just some little detail that’s messed things up.  The strategy is still  on track – delivering more on-line.  That detail devil is doing its best to send the strategy off-track but I won’t be beaten.  Last resort – read the instructions!

What work?

Tomorrow is Labour Day in New Zealand (yes we do spell it with a ‘u’ in there!). It’s a day off work for many people and recognized in our legislation as an official public holiday.  It was set up to celebrate the efforts of those that achieved the 40 hour work week decades ago.  That might seem a bit of a joke now to many, who work more like 50 – 60 hours a week.  And also to the many un and under – employed, who are unable to find enough paid work.

Not only has the structure of work changed for many, but what we now call ‘work’ has changed too.  Who doesn’t spend much of their day in front of a computer?  Even my doctor has a PC on his desk and taps away throughout an appointment.  It’s mostly ‘knowledge’ work now where we are paid for our experience, creativity, innovation and relationships rather than for producing something.  Presumably we all add value and somehow result in someone, somewhere producing something.  Or does the money just go around without anyone actually producing anything tangible?  I suspect that is the case much of the time.   Many of the products and services I provide clients are intangible and many of the products and services I buy are the same.

So is what you do, work?  And if so, is it work because it is paid, or is it work because it produces something?  Or is it work because you feel tired at the end of it?  In future, what will work look like?  Will we work at all – or will robots do it all?  If so, how will we get paid?

Many of these issues have been raised by greater minds than mine, perhaps most compellingly by Jeremy Rifkin in his ‘The Future of Work’.  However, as a global society, we have not resolved many, if any, of the issues.  Going forward what skills will we need to find work that is fulfilling and that pays enough to provide for us and our families?  Will we all effectively be self-employed, and in portfolio careers?

What do you think?


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Categories: Business and Strategy

3 ways to predict the future

To be an effective strategic thinker, it is essential to be able to think about your organisation in a future context. What’s the quickest and easiest way to figure out what that future might look like? Most of us don’t have a reliable crystal ball, so here’s three other methods, that are not too onerous:

1. Look for trends. In this time of information overload, it’s almost impossible to read and absorb everything. However, it is much easier than it used to be to identify trends. Once you start looking for trends in information you can identify more likely future scenarios. Trends start in the past so don’t forget to factor in what’s happened before (history repeats!).

2. Look for relevant information. If your organisation is in the Arts sector, what’s predicted for the primary industries may have little or no impact on you, but what’s happening in the home entertainment industry might. Look for relevant information and you will filter out a large percentage, more easily identifying trends relevant to you.

3. Read beyond the popular press. A lot of media space covers major world events that may have little relevance to your organisation’s future. Watch out for the smaller articles that may contain some gem of information. Read more in-depth magazines or find experts on-line who are worth listening to. Look up ‘futurists’ in wikipedia and check out some of their predictions that may be relevant to you. They do a lot of analysis for you.

It’s not likely you will predict everything about the future, but you can develop some realistic scenarios that help you better prepare your organisation for the future. You may also like to subscribe to my e-zine to get regular free articles aand other information to develop your strategic thinking skills. Go to

Categories: Uncategorized

How to think about the future

People often ask how they can make reference in conversations to the future. It’s inportant to do that if you are to be seen as strategic by others. Here’s a couple of simple ideas:

Look for trends in news sources: Lots of people read the newspaper or an on-line news source everyday and are certainly not strategic thinkers. The trick is in how you view the information. Strategic thinkers look for concepts, trends and practices that are likely to change some aspect of the future and then consider what that might mean for their organization. It’s also useful to have reliable information. Reading just one newspaper or on-line source is unlikely to be very reliable unless that editor happens to have amazing insight. Reading a variety of newspapers and/or on-line sources and watching for trends is likely to be more reliable. It may seem obvious to keep up with business trends, but this is not the only useful information. Look for articles about technology, demographics and lifestyle trends. Think about your organization and customers and what impacts on your product or service. Look out for information about those elements.

Notice the less topical news: Editors tend to focus us in on what they think is newsworthy and topical at the time. Sometimes relevant and ‘trend’ information can be missed while some other high profile event is occurring and getting most of the coverage. Take note of the small updates and not just the ‘big’ stories. Find other sources of news that might cause impacts on your industry. These are likely to be specialist magazines and journals, and more in-depth news publications. The reliability of this information is also likely to be greater than in daily news sources because journalists spend longer researching and there is greater credibility at stake.

Categories: Uncategorized
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