This world today is such a virtual beehive of activity, constantly changing at such great velocity, it’s almost impossible to predict what is going to happen next. Indeed, nothing is. At the same time though, there are things within our capacity and capability to control as we are still be able to lead lives routinely. In this comfort zone, we can therefore apply strategies workable enough to maintain lifestyles. The problem is that because it is impossible to tell what will happen next, strategies can sometimes be limited to a timeframe or period, and therefore, strategic planning requires iteration to cope with changes in the environment. But Even with this uncertainty, it is still possible to discern what can happen in the future. Careful analysis of the present combined with the past can lead to insights that are futuristic. But even this also can be limited as what is required for sustained competitive advantage is a deep-space incursion into the future. The ability to embark and complete the journey into the future is the essence of strategic thinking.
Many organizations utilize data to keep themselves well informed of what is occurring in their environments and therefore planning ahead takes a logistical stance. Strategic thinking on the other hand, while data-dependent on the reliability of information produced at industry level, looks way out into and beyond the horizon. It encompasses the future plans of customers and suppliers alike, the changing dynamics of industries, and the resultant effects of technology. Strategic thinking requires the ability to look far out especially at the technology advancements.
Such a capability to look deep into the future by analyzing trends and future plans of all stakeholders can produce great insights into the horizon. Organizations who are able to set aside resources for the purpose of this deep horizon analysis, are positioning themselves for sustainability and as the unknowns of the world unfold, they will not be blindsided by tectonic events. Kodak, the global giant, was caught, and saw its multi-billion dollar business evaporate and by an innovation which started internally.
Many organizations engage in brainstorming as a means and method in strategic thinking. Organizations engage teams of researchers to discern trends and future plans as a platform for brain storming. Research looks at the plans for future investments of both suppliers and customers as well as regulatory plans and upcoming events which are likely to have shocks in the environment.
For example, the Mexican government recently engaged in a contingency plan, should in case there be a Trump victory in the upcoming US Presidential elections on November 8, 2016. It is a most pragmatic move, however it is motivated by a need to plan ahead.
On the surface, it may seem to be short term. But that is quite a strategic planning exercise, based on visionary strategic thinking and planning.
The anatomy of the contingency plan will reveal a brain storming exercise that would have projected what-if analysis, synthesis and insights derived from a deep horizon search. It is a classic case of strategic thinking and planning that gives a framework to operate under, even if the event projected to occur, doesn’t occur. It would have resulted in viable alternatives which are realistic.
The most salient point of this example is that there was foresight, action and subsequent operational planning that has provide a comfort zone.