What is Strategic Foresight and Why You Need to Care About It

‘- By Ramy Nassar, Founder of 1000 Days Out

Looking Into a Crystal Ball

The year was 2015 and I was working with a US-based company that primarily manufactured and sold deli meats across the lower 48. Business was booming and my team was brought in to create a new internal innovation platform + process – but innovation alone was not going to be enough.

Right around this time, I was just learning about the field of Strategic Foresight– the art and science looking at how technology trends, market forces, and changes in behaviour may impact an organization’s business model and performance.

Rather than a typical co-creation workshop, our team decided that it was time to bring a structured, forward-looking perspective into the process.

When our client walked into the studio, they were greeted by a 2’ x 4’ blown up cover of the magazine The Economist. We dated that cover 5 years in the future (March, 2020) and the headline read: “The End of Meat.”

Needless to say, it caught our clients eyes and generated some very strong reactions. We explained that while we didn’t have a time machine, there were signals out there pointing toward a potential future where our society’s relationship with meat looks nothing like it does today. Our objective over the coming days was to design in-context of multiple potential future scenarios and understand how those possible futures could impact the organization.

While we may not have fully predicted the “end of meat,” there have been significant changes in the landscape since then. In fact, Beyond Meat went public just 10 months before our imagined magazine cover from the future and has completely changed the market’s expectations of what meat alternatives can be.

Introducing Strategic Foresight

Strategic foresight is about uncovering signals, trends, and forces that have the potential to disrupt our businesses – before that disruption happens. Strategic foresight typically follows a 5-stage framework and is supported by a wide range of collaborative tools & methods. The practice goes well beyond just identifying those trends but also offers frameworks and methods to adapt business models, go-to-market strategies, and product roadmaps accordingly.

One such method is an exercise called Generational Arcs. A generational arc helps account for the fact that populations age over time and the needs of our target customers can change alongside these generational shifts. A generational arc is a highly visual tool to understand how this shift can impact the business in the short, medium and long terms.

There’s typically no one person who is best-suited to lead internal strategic foresight initiatives, but generally it’s an approach well suited for those in product, strategy, marketing, or user/customer experience design roles.

Get Hands-On with Strategic Foresight

In May, Digital Nova Scotia, in partnership with 1000 Days Out, will host a highly interactive 4-part workshop introducing strategic foresight.

This workshop will specifically focus on how emerging technology is disrupting business models and transforming organizations. The sessions will introduce a range of disruptive technologies as well as helping participants better think about how these technologies might threaten or positively impact their organization. Some of the specific technologies that will be explored include:

  • Data & predictive analytics
  • AI & machine learning
  • Robotic process automation (RPA)
  • Blockchain and other distributed ledger systems
  • Augmented & virtual reality

What is the Next Level Skills Programs?

Since 2015, Digital Nova Scotia has been proud to bring its members’ training opportunities with the assistance of Nova Scotia’s Workplace Innovation and Productivity Skills Incentive (WIPSI). These programs are focused on improving Nova Scotian productivity, profitability, innovation, technology, machinery, equipment and increasing inter-provincial and international competitiveness while fostering workplace diversity.

This year, we are proud to host 8 unique programs facilitated by leading experts in the Tech Sector. These programs are valued at over $15,000 and eligible members are able to receive a discount of up to 100% of the program cost. Space in these programs is limited so we encourage all interested companies to apply as soon as possible.

Application deadline for the Strategic Foresight program is May 16th

Explore the Next Level Skills Programs