At this year’s The Marketing Society Changemakers conference, Kantar was on the ground connecting with marketing leaders against a backdrop of talks illuminating the threads of embracing uncertainty and navigating challenges while continuing to grow.
We know that one thing is certain: change is non-linear and constantly expanding. How we live, work, socialise, connect – and even the forces shaping our economy, our planet and society – are generating unpredictable change in ways that we won’t be able to precisely forecast or predict. Rather than just mitigating uncertainty, brands need to proactively embrace uncertainty to stay future-fit.
‘Scenario Planning’ can often be reserved for large-scale C-Suite endeavours. But everyone in any organisation is empowered to future-proof existing strategy, ensure your pipeline is healthy and your team can innovate, and ultimately, stay relevant. Kantar suggests you start with four future-proof mindsets to help you thrive in uncertainty:
#1 Stop using the past to predict the future
The past is no longer a reliable predictor of the future. Today, with so much change and uncertainty, patterns are harder to pin down and the cycle we used to ‘predict’ a preferable path ahead is broken. Relying mainly on past data to forecast forward is like driving from the past to the future but only looking at the rear-view mirror! Brands should start preparing today for many potential future outcomes that may be quite different from the current reality, so that your team can be successful – no matter what.
#2 Get comfortable with the uncomfortable
A fundamental element of Strategic Foresight is accepting the existence of uncertainty and its myriad possibilities. Unpredictable change and its impacts are coming toward all brands, consumers and geographies, in ways that we won’t be able to precisely forecast or predict. Compared to trend forecasts that extrapolate forward in one direction, scenarios thinking assumes there is more than one path forward and crucially, empowers teams to identify and embrace these uncertainties. By doing so, we can better prepare for and take advantage of a range of alternative outcomes – before the competition.
#3 Make it ‘Real’ so you’re ready for ‘So What and What Next’
Scenarios Thinking is not an academic exercise, and you don’t have to be a science-fiction screenwriter to use facts to tell stories about the future. On the contrary, it uses human creativity, trusted data and sense-making to help your team imagine and plan more effectively. Give yourself and your team the permission to bring potential scenarios to life, using a mixture of creative and provocative storytelling with plausible, structured details. The “Future” can often feel very abstract, but by giving yourself the permission to practice flexing your visioning muscles to think about it in more creative, yet coherent ways, it can enable you to better take action.
#4 Don’t wait for one future, prepare for many
Recently, trail-blazing organisations like retail business IKEA have started to shift from long-
term predictions to more fruitful Scenarios Thinking - enabling their teams to plan for a range of alternative possible outcomes. In the meantime, our Futures team is working with a major European food manufacturer by empowering them with this mindset and tools, enabling a future-proof strategy for years to come.
Are you prepared for the Future? Interested in learning more about how Scenarios Thinking can help your business thrive in an uncertain world? Reach out to receive a beginner’s toolkit of user-friendly team exercises to bring Scenarios Thinking to your brand, team or strategy.
By Meredith Smith, Director, Futures & Innovation EMEA
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