Vol. 127 - NO. 39

Blog Startup CPG

SINCE 2019

Strategic Innovation Planning:
How to Anchor Transformation

Rachael Ferm has experience across the innovation ecosystem, working in multiple startups, co-founding her own business, and in Venture Capital. Rachael now co-leads Shaping the Future for Accenture, a new client experience which applies thought leadership from Accenture Labs to help the C-suite overcome the challenge of considering the more distant future.

Today, as companies and entire industries look to reimagine themselves in the face of COVID-19, taking a pause to create a mindful and deliberate vision of the future is indispensable.

Being a futurist doesn’t mean predicting the future; it means being able to identify strategic bets you are positioned to manifest and effectuate. Let’s talk through some of the basics.

50 years ago, the life expectancy of a Fortune 500 firm was around 75 years – today, it is just 15. As the Fourth Industrial Revolution exponentially catapults our world into the post-digital future, embedding resilience for mid to long term will become more challenging – and important – than ever.

Looking at the future is hard. As individuals, our ability to think about the future in a meaningful way is constrained by a set of neurological and cognitive limits. Humans need to be empowered with new conceptual frameworks to be able to envision them. Even so, we assign subjective connotations, biases and different future-value models, reflecting our distinct experiences.

So how does this human challenge translate to enterprise?

For many companies, spending the time to envision the long-term future is a luxury. The challenge also rises in parallel with access to more information. While more perspectives, data, and insights improve a baseline of conceptual frameworks, the spectrum of possible futures becomes nearly insurmountable without a deliberate structure.

The future is coming now faster than ever. 2020 was anticipated as the inflection point for the Internet of Things – this was before COVID-19 upended our physical world and took an unprecedented range of people and services online. The surge in connectivity – from supply chains to our physical bodies – along with globalization, mean that factors which will influence your business ecosystem and your customer are growing inextricably intertwined with diverse global forces.

Today, as companies and entire industries look to reimagine themselves in the face of COVID-19, taking a pause to create a mindful and deliberate vision of the future is indispensable. For those transforming in the face of COVID-19:

  • How far forward are you looking?
  • Which aspects of change are temporary vs. enduring?
  • How might adjacent industries begin to bleed into your own?
  • What implications will the pandemic hold on your customers and the regions of the world they reside, and what might these look like in 10 years?

Being a futurist doesn’t mean predicting the future; it means being able to identify strategic bets you are positioned to act upon. Let’s talk through some of the basics.

Activities and tools will vary across organizations. The following four stages should serve as the pillars to experience design.


Four Stages towards a Future Vision

  1. Anchor and align. The rule of thumb in foresight is to look back twice as far as you’re planning to look forward. Establish a sense of the as-is for the company, consumer, and business ecosystem.
  2. Expand Possibilities. A gap between as-is and the possibilities for the future is critical to step outside of the logistical, financial, and technical obstacles of the near to mid-term future.
    1. One common exercise is to identify signals of change in recent news headlines from a diverse range of perspectives; Society, Technology, Economics, Environment and Politics (STEEP,) and imagine potential intersections effects of these emerging trends.
  3. Envision. At this stage, deliberate constraints and structured templates are required.
    1. One useful constraint is to focus opportunities around customer goals or need-states. The basic goals we seek do not change fundamentally over time – health, wellness, education, identity, social connectivity, etc. However, technology is enabling us to serve these needs in entirely reinvented ways, through new channels, experiences and ecosystems.
    2. Additionally, adding parameters such as new customers, stakeholders, network partners, and existing company assets can help to build a future scenario.
  4. Converge. The final stage consists of combining your team’s future visions. This should be focused towards sharing, and creating a cohesive set of capabilities, customers, partnerships or business models.


Best Practices to Consider While Building Your Future Vision:

  1. Establish constraints. For example, in phase 2, Expand Possibilities, limit the number of global trends to between 2-3 for each STEEP category. Foresight is about navigating uncertainty. You cannot boil the ocean. Do your homework, contextualize your business or client’s problem scope, and be decisive. Make targeted bets.
  2. Outline and transparently communicate assumptions. Constraints inherently involve assumptions. Transparently communicating which aspects of the experience are data-proven vs. informed assumptions is critical for credibility.
  3. Identify multipliers. These are factors which can be used to grow opportunity areas – such as parallel needs across industries. Often, seemingly different opportunities are more similar than they appear. While evaluating opportunities, look for any repeated threads – are you repeating a similar new business model across different demographics or sectors? These might be multipliers. Actively keeping multipliers separate helps distill the core value of a new idea.
  4. Include diversity of stakeholders. To move cohesively as an organization, stakeholders must represent diverse organizational functions. For similar reasons, stakeholders should possess decision-making and purchase power.

If conducting these exercises with clients, a final step is critical:

  1. Ensure co-creation with your client. At each step, be conscious of providing the “building blocks” versus guiding any particular trajectory or agenda. Templates should be blank entering the visioning day. Buy-in through co-creation is imperative.

This is where the core of future visioning completes! Next stages of convergence into a cohesive vision should be accelerated by a dedicated core team. Building a plan towards this future vision then requires engaging partners, technology, industry and organizational experts

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