Hawai’i’s Shared Futures By Vision Foresight Strategy

Extracting Lessons from the Economic Crisis

Morning, folks! This morning’s post is really simple enough: we’re working this morning on building some new framework pieces for the upcoming Hawai’i Futures Index.  Cool stuff, but always a challenge to create something that is both intellectually rigorous but also speaks directly to the things about Hawai’i’s future that our decision makers and community leaders really care about.  If it’s important enough to do, then it’s probably challenging!

But on the planning front, we can already start to extract some planning and strategy lessons from the current financial crisis and economic downturn.  While the following is not actually a new idea for strategic thinking, it’s one of those ideas that gets completely lost during our long periods of economic expansion.

Basically, let’s look at the first of what we call Standing Scenarios: very simple, almost generic yet challenging situations that we use on a regular basis to “wind tunnel” an organization, its assumptions, and its strategy.  We also use Standing Scenarios to remind clients of basic uncertainty and bring their attention back to a longer-term view of their actions and assumptions.

So, the current crisis gives us the Sudden Falloff scenario: sales/revenue falls off unexpectedly by 25% in one year, and then by a further 50% the second year.  Simple, brutal.  The first question is: what does this mean for you, what are your reactions to it, and what are your priorities?  The second question is: what are all of the plausible (not probable, but plausible) series of events and interactions out there in the world that could have produced this?

When was the last time your organization played some of these scenarios?

Think about tomorrow.

Filed under: foresight, Planning, scenarios, Strategy, Summit,

Control and Certainty

ScienceNOW online had a recent article that discussed human psychology and perception as it relates to issues of control.  Humans are extraordinary pattern recognizers, and it turns out that when people express loss-of-control sensations, they seem to have a greater tendency to see patterns in random things and to attribute cause-and-effect relationships to events that have no necessary relationship.

Why is this important?  It should alert us to what may be very common failures in thinking and judgment when we’re under stress.  Humans are greate story tellers and we seem geared to needing to create stories to help make sense of and even remember things, so we often place value and meaning into what are really unrelated and random events that occur around us.

And importantly during times of ‘crisis’ like extreme stock market fluctuations or natural disasters, people often feel a need to make sense of events, to find a reason and purpose for them.  But many of the events that arise unexpectedly and exert significance do not necessarily have a human purpose to them: it’s simply life.  And our strategic conversations, those that we conduct to keep one eye on the big picture and long-view for our organizations, needs to take into account this uncertainty and unpredictability in life.


  • The Black Swan: a very interesting exploration into the unpredictability and randomness in real life
  • Brain Rules: a cool new book on how our brains learn and remember
  • Break Through: a provocative book co-authored by Michael Shellenberger, a speaker at our second annual Hawai’i Futures Summit this past weekend who impressed the audience with, among other many other ideas, the understanding that ecological change and natural disasters are not divine punishment for human sins

Filed under: Change, Economics, foresight, Summit

What are Scenarios?

Scenarios are stories about the future.  But, they are not predictions.  Rather, they describe possible futures that we might experience.  They are explorations of the different ways in which the world could change, providing us an opportunity to examine how our lives and our businesses might be different.  But there are some important differences between scenarios and other kinds of ‘stories’:  scenarios are informed by foresight; they come in sets, not singles; and their greatest value comes from creating them, not reading them.

From a futures perspective, foresight is having insight into the challenges and opportunities the future may offer.  Put another way, it is having insight into how things may change.  Good foresight requires some understanding of change, broad exposure to possibilities, and a healthy dose of creativity.

Good foresight first requires some explicit understanding of and exploration into how and why things change.  Whether we are talking about a local community, a corporation, or a regional economy, we are always relying on some set of assumptions about how things work, how they change.  These are the mental models that we use in part to make our decisions.  There are, of course, an infinite number of models about how the world works, how different things in life change.  Each of us has our own unique model (based on our unique learning and life experience) and researchers in most fields have produced a variety of formal models to explain change.  Regardless of which model you choose, knowing your model, and being familiar with the models of others, is the first step in developing foresight.

Foresight also requires broad exposure to possibilities.  The technological development occurring today, in fields as diverse as renewable energy, fabrication technology, and cognitive science, is almost overwhelming.  Global connectivity intensifies this, enabling us to share ideas, learn from each other, and create unanticipated combinations of new technologies and practices.  The potential for disruptive technical and social changes, arising out of areas that have nothing directly to do with us, is increasing every day.  By continuously exposing us to these changes, foresight enables us to continually refine our notion of the possible.  Good foresight allows us to take advantage of the full range of possibilities that lie before us.

Good foresight also requires a dose of creative thinking.  The future is unwritten, which means that the trends you’ve been monitoring do not (and cannot) predict what will happen tomorrow.  This also means that you have a hand in writing the future.  Your choices interact with the choices of others and with the changes already in motion.  A little ‘out-of-the-box’ thinking, like seeing novel combinations or untried approaches, often allows us to create opportunities.  Foresight is also about seeing how the future can be shaped to a better end.

More on this later.

Filed under: foresight, futures, scenarios

Hawai’i: the Reboot

2 days. 200 innovators. A new future for Hawai'i.

The Hawai'i Futures Summit 2009 October 16 and 17, 2009


Vision Foresight Strategy

We work with organizations to anticipate strategic change and to craft the strategies that will shape their desired futures.

To learn more about how we can help you, visit www.kikilo.biz


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