Imagining a future helps create it

Imagining the Future Credit-Freepik
Imagining the Future. Image credit: Freepik

Imagining a future helps create it. Envisioning a future state does not mean predicting the future. None of us has a crystal ball but if we can imagine what the future might hold we can be better prepared to create or influence it. Our predictions don’t need to be right. They just have to be useful.

There are lots of reasons to imagine what the future might look like. Population predictions help us plan infrastructure. Retirement planning helps us live comfortably as we age. Curriculum planning prepares students for new jobs. Futurists specialise in systematically exploring predictions and possibilities about the future but most of us dabble in it.

Future planning tools

We can use a range of tools to imagine future states including:

  • Scenario planning – emergency management, insurance, business continuity
  • Customer journey map – a picture of customer experience by touchpoint
  • Financial (or volume) model – sales projections, capacity planning
  • Process map – simple visualisation of workflows across roles
  • Value stream map (VSM) – visualises flow to maximise value and minimise waste
  • Trend analysis – predicts trends from historical data
  • Delphi method – an expert panel iterates ideas & questions to reach consensus
  • Monte Carlo simulation – random sampling & modelling simulations to predict outcomes and their probabilities
  • Strategic roadmap – a visual guide to strategic goals and steps to achieve them

These tools come from many disciplines and there are many more. Some of them were not designed for capturing future states but are useful for doing so. We tend to use the tools with which we are familiar and ignore others that could give us valuable insights.

Integrated future planning adds value

Imagine a future where your teams work together to create it. One firm may have teams that use one tool for strategy, another for managing insurable risks, another for business continuity planning, another for sales projections and another still for financial projections. In the meantime the operations team and the customer service team each have a project under way with different future states in mind.

The scenarios used for strategic planning are seldom compared to scenarios used for business continuity planning. When the finance team put budgets together they rarely talk to business improvement teams who have looked at how to add value and reduce waste. A business case projection may ignore the plans of the facilities team or the ICT team or the capacity planning by operations.

More integrated approaches to planning foster more joined-up thinking and better results. If imagining a future helps create it then it is worth imagining futures that are more collaborative. The most useful imagination of the future is one that helps us create it together. No one can predict exactly what will happen but if everyone plans for a different future it probably won’t end well.

Free guide to future planning tools

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Phil Guerin, Consultant/Director, Hague Consulting Ltd. © Hague Consulting Ltd 2024.

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