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Post Brexit questions

July 20, 2016

This blog arises from asking the questions:

What sources of help are there for CEOs to think through the turbulence associated with BREXIT?

Traditional strategy assumes stability and predictability. The BREXIT world is better characterised by turbulence, uncertainty, novelty and ambiguity – conditions that contribute disruptive changes and trigger the search for new ways of coping. This means that CEOS need to explore more than one potential outcome before making decisions. So, the commentators discussing models such as “Canada”, “Norway” or “Switzerland” are useful in flushing out some of the potential choices, but these models alone are not a safe basis for decisions.

In the BREXIT world, we argue, foresight tools are the best weapon. These create and explore more than one potential future. By exploring more than one potential future, CEOs and organisations are better able to “see” early signs of these and so to take action earlier. The advantage of better decisions sooner can be measured on the bottom line.

There are a number of books which aim to provide CEOs with the mindset and methodologies to develop foresight.

One of these is “Strategic Foresight” by Patricia Lustig. The book explores how we think about the future, looking at ambiguity and uncertainty. It introduces a simple model of preferred thinking styles and talks about the ‘baggage’ and values that form our perceptions. Most of the book is devoted to the stages in foresight thinking, how to identify emerging trends, see what impact they may have, the strategic importance of early recognition, and how to apply the knowledge gained through foresight. This book builds on the 2010 book “Beyond Crisis” by Gill Ringland, Oliver Sparrow and Patricia Lustig which describes why our world will be turbulent over the next decades and how leaders need to respond. That book covered the reason for using and how to use scenario planning in turbulent times.

Another recent book is by Rafael Ramirez and Angela Wilkinson, “Strategic Reframing: The Oxford Scenario Planning Approach”, written in co-operation with Kees van der Heijdn, whose 1996 “Scenarios: the art of strategic conversation” was based on his lifetime experience at Shell. The new book is rooted in their joint experience at Shell, and their teaching and research at Said Business School. A key aspect of this book is the linking of every stage of scenario planning to dealing with Turbulence, Uncertainty, Novelty and Ambiguity (TUNA).

A classic that takes a detailed approach, reassuring to scientists and engineer in its style, is Bil Ralston and Ian White’s “Scenario Planning Handbook”. It is primarily a “how-to” book, and assumes that readers are convinced of the need for scenario planning in uncertain times, in order to bridge between our knowledge of the past and our decisions about the future.

In SAMI we are seeing a growth in the use of technology to support thinking about the future – Wendy Schultz talked about some of these tools in a blog https://samiconsulting.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/25th-anniversary-series-change-itself-changes-new-tools-for-futures-thinking/

In a later blog I will take a look at online sites that aim to help tackle this challenge, either directly or through providing guidance on sources.

Written by Gill Ringland, SAMI Fellow and CEO.

The views expressed are those of the author and not necessarily of SAMI Consulting.

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