We can speculate about many, many things that might happen in the future, but not all of them are equally likely. So how do you narrow them down to the things that will matter most for you – and, just as importantly, how do you identify those which that will give you a competitive edge?
As a leader, you’re being paid to spend a lot of time thinking about the future. But how far ahead should you be looking?
I was in Sydney last week, working with some senior leaders in my Future Scenarios program. The program is designed to help leaders identify scenarios, events, and trends that could impact their leadership roles, their businesses, and their industries.
One of the leaders in the program asked an important question: How do you figure out which scenarios are the most relevant, to avoid feeling overwhelmed and getting distracted by trying to capture them all? The answer is, of course, we need to narrow them down. One way is by classifying them as short term, medium term, and long term scenarios.
Of course, the time frames for each of these categories can vary for different people and organisations. For example, one local council I worked with in Western Australia considered short term as 10 years, because they had already mapped out their 10-year plan! That’s unusual. In most organisations, short term is much shorter – say 1-3 years – and medium term is 3-5 to 10 years.
For leaders to look beyond the obvious, the sweet spot is the medium term. Short-term scenarios are probably in your plan already, and you can probably safely ignore long-term scenarios. But identifying and tracking medium-term scenarios – those just over the horizon – can give you a competitive edge.
For instance, artificial intelligence (AI) is a hot topic now and should be in every short-term plan. But five years ago, when it was flying under the radar, I was advising my clients that it would be a big deal in the next 5-10 years. Imagine if you were tracking AI – even if you weren’t implementing it – five years ago. That five-year head start would have given you a competitive edge.
I’m running a free virtual masterclass soon to share some of the techniques I use in the Future Scenarios program, so you can apply them in your own team and organisation. You will learn practical things you can apply immediately. So I hope you can join us.