All over the planet temperature, rainfall, forest fire, flood and drought records are being broken… and the frequency of severe weather is increasing. Organizational survival demands that it be taken seriously. It touches everything… food, shelter, water, energy, healthcare, transport. I could keep going. It is transforming not only our physical world, but our society, our politics, our economies… and our businesses.
“Strategic Foresight is a discipline that enables us to create functional views of alternative futures.” (Montero-Salvatico and Spencer, 2017)
Strategic Foresight analyzes developments during times of intense complexity and uncertainty, and maps emerging landscapes, enabling the creation of multiple scenarios of potential futures. It differs from traditional market forecasting which extrapolates past and present market forces to predict the future. The volatility and velocity of today’s world renders predictions based on historical trends worthless.
Strategic Foresight can be extremely helpful as we feel our way forward, but it MUST be coupled with a deep understanding of the dynamics of climate change. Not just the science, but the impacts on business, supply chains, and governance.
With the proper preparation, we can influence the outcomes.
My research while working at a climate nonprofit for the past six years, and as co-author with futurist David Houle of Moving to a Finite Earth Economy, made it obvious to me that companies, governments and markets have all underestimated the magnitude of the threat. I earned certifications in Strategic Foresight and in Climate Risk Management to upskill myself so I can apply those disciplines to my understanding of what is happening, and how it will affect organizations of all sizes.
Recently, global risk advisory Willis Towers Watson and the Society of Actuaries both named climate change the biggest risk the insurance industry has ever encountered. Organizations in every industry will be transformed to one degree or another.
How will your company survive in a carbon-free economy and a Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) world? Those who can proactively come to grips with the transformation now by using strategic foresight to chart potential futures, and adapt as today’s imperfect information becomes clearer over time, will successfully navigate the rapid and constant changes, threats, risks (and opportunities!) ahead.
By applying strategic foresight, I can help you do more than just guess at what is coming. It’s possible to anticipate potential future events specific to your industry and your business, interrogate them for deeper knowledge and create informed strategies.
While no one can predict the future, strategic foresight helps us to determine multiple possible futures so that we can prepare for them. Questions that strategic foresight can help us answer include:
Finding a viable way forward with a wicked problem like our climate crisis can be daunting; yet, we all have to do it. Strategic foresight can map the way beyond laggard status while transcending a current focus on carbon footprints.
Comprehensive changes in organizational structure and leadership styles are called for. That is why I have labeled this initiative of mine Climate Transformation. There will be winners and losers. The winners are already taking action.
I’ll have much more on this in subsequent columns.
If you are wondering how the climate crisis might affect your business, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org . If you would like a free initial consultation, I welcome that. While it is clear we face an unprecedented challenge, those that successfully navigate the inevitable risks and threats ahead will have entirely new opportunities in this decade. Please let me know if you would like to talk. Thanks!
Bob Leonard is the Chief Content Officer at This Spaceship Earth (a climate nonprofit), the co-author of Moving to a Finite Earth Economy, and he’s currently working on a new book Chaos to Clarity: Thriving in a VUCA World with VUCA Strategist David Ross. Previously Bob was the Insurance Industry Product Manager at EMC, the data storage giant.