. . . information is not knowledge, knowledge is not wisdom, and wisdom is not foresight. Each grows out of the other and we need them all.
— Arthur C. Clarke, novelist

Foresight is a disciplined process of understanding what the world will look like in a defined time horizon. We work with a leading research university to define visions of the future world and understand how that will impact the decisions we need to make now. We can make that expertise available to you.

Question

We start with a question: what do we need to know? Foresight exists to inform decisions and actions, rather than for its own sake.

Knowledge

What do we know about the present and how might that present change over time? Most foresight extends current knowledge.

flick statue beard 9573078505_0fb784bd0a_k.jpg

Wisdom

Wisdom comes from combining knowledge in new ways or in understanding what shocks may hit your system or your market; what will change look like?

Foresight

Foresight offers a compelling view of a plausible future reality to which you will need to adjust. It offers a challenge to your assumptions that the future will be like the present.

Strategic thinking . . . is about synthesis. It involves intuition and creativity . . . Real strategic change requires inventing new categories, not rearranging old ones.
— Henry Mintzberg, 1994
No plan of operations extends with any certainty beyond the first contact with the main hostile force.
— Field Marshall Helmuth von Moltke (1871)
flickr sylviaf two trees contrast.jpg
flickr telmo32 guatamalan jaguar bowl.jpg
flickr telmo 32 building interior.jpg

Analysis

Formulating strategy necessitates understanding where the firm is competitively at present and the capabilities the firm can bring to bear. It requires to firm to analyse its environments, contexts, markets, other participants and itself.

Challenge

Plans and expectations of the future depend on assumptions about all aspects of the competitive landscape, including how other actors will behave under changing market conditions. Challenging meaningfully the validity of assumptions is an essential element of strategy-making.

(Re-)imagination

Perhaps the most difficult part of setting strategy is imagining the environments and contexts in which the firm operates being different from the present. Imagining the firm as different is critical to initiating change and sustaining adaptive capability in the firm.

Synthesis

Bringing together the different elements of strategy-making in to a vibrant and dynamic narrative about the purpose and future of the firm under different conditions is strategic synthesis. Without it, strategy will be very difficult to realise.

Strategies cannot be created by analysis . . . but, given viable strategies, planning can program them; it can make them operational.
— Henry Mintzberg, 1994
All models are wrong but some are useful.
— George Box, 1987

The question

In strategy, there is seldom one right answer. But framing appropriately the questions for analysis is vital. Ask the wrong questions (or the questions wrongly) and you will almost certainly get a wrong answer.

NASA Curiosity drill rig Mars.jpg

The method

Over time, particular methods of analysis become entrenched. That does not always make them the most appropriate. Many commonly-used methods simply are not fit for the purposes to which they are applied. 

The data

The provenance of data will often determine its validity and the confidence the analyst can place in it. Also, for contested measures, gaining data from a variety of sources improves the dependability of analysis.

The presentation

The presentation of the results of analysis will often determine its impact. Error statistics and confidence levels matter, as do the values of other options and the reliability of data sources. 

Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory. Tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.
— Sun Tzu (544 BC - 496 BC)
A brilliant strategy . . . can put you on the competitive map, but only solid execution can keep you there. You have to be able to deliver on your intent.
— Neilson, Martin & Powers, HBR, 2008
 

According to the actor Jeff Bridges, "execution is everything." Well, with all due respect to the Dude (or 'El Duderino', if you're not in to the whole brevity thing), no it isn't – as Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu pointed out in the sixth century BCE. To be effective, strategy and tactics and implementation (or 'execution') must go hand-in-hand – intent and capability must be aligned.

 
flickr telmo32 departing train station.jpg

Intent & tactics

Objectives provide intent, the 'why'; tactics define the 'what' and 'how'. Far too often, strategies consider these as an afterthought; but without the clear path from objectives to strategies to the means to execute strategies, they risk being impracticable or inoperable.

Capability

Without capability (and commitment), new strategies cannot be implemented. In a knowledge economy, capability revolves around what people know, their experiences and how they collaborate internally and externally to define needs and deliver results.

Activity

Implementing. Getting the job done. According to Aristotle, "excellence is a habit." We know a lot about excellence in organisations; it requires passion and commitment. These, in turn, rely on a clear strategic narrative and performance and motivation systems aligned to strategic intent. 

Monitoring

Listening.

Well, more precisely, monitoring and feedback. Interpreting the effects of the firm's actions internally and externally and understanding what supports strategy and what detracts from it is critical to implementing strategy effectively.

It ought to be remembered that there is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.
— Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince, 1512

From what?
 

When effecting change, the starting point is a comprehensive assessment of where the firm stands in relation to the elements being changed. While such assessments are routine, few are robust; fewer still are imaginative. Few see beyond the obvious capabilities to the intangible, the cultural.

Why?
The narrative

The role of coherent strategy is to create a narrative for the need for change. If people understand the logic of the need for change, they are more likely to accept change and less likely to attempt to resist it or subvert it.

To what?
 

When a social organism, such as an organisation, changes, the complexity of the environment and contexts of the organisation and its people make the final outcome unknowable. Few change plans accept that peoples' behaviour will be unpredictable. Managing consequence is often more important than managing change.

Making changes
 

The quote from Machiavelli reminds us that change has never been easy nor favoured by those required to change. In the 500 years since The Prince was published, little has altered except the need for constant change. In some sectors, the ability to change is, in itself, potentially a source of competitive advantage.

Research is to see what everybody has seen and think what nobody has thought.
— Albert Szent-Györgyi, Hungarian physiologist, Nobel laureate, 1957
Most of our assumptions have outlived their usefulness.
— Marshall McLuhan

See our latest research

The business case for acting on unclaimed assets  |  Oct. 2016

 

In-house research looking at the increasing government, legal, regulatory, supervisory and market pressures for insurers and asset managers to act on their unclaimed client assets. All pressures point in one direction: firms are running out of places to hide.

 

Current research on unclaimed assets in the asset management sector

We are working with major firms and sector organisations to improve understanding of the investment management sector's unclaimed and dormant assets issues. The research will review its qualitatively as well as quantitatively and will involve some of the UK's most significant asset managers. The research project commences in June and will report in September 2016.

Research partners and supporters

 
 

More about our research

Challenge

The purpose of research is to challenge assumptions and 'received wisdom'. But only research that accepts the difficulties of (in Hayek's term) "organised complexity" and the implications of inter-connectedness will move strategy forward. Otherwise, it's just noise.

Imagine

Imagining a future different from the present is as much an act of courage as it is of creativity. Yet, remarkably few strategies acknowledge the inevitability of disruption and discontinuities. 

Explore

Through research, we can explore cause and effect more deeply and explore alternative formulations of future realities and how we will respond to them. We can test alternative propositions safely. We can learn.

Provoke

Research that does not provoke a response is anodyne. All research should encourage the user, the reader, to react and to question his or her assumptions. The best research changes minds. That way, it can get results.