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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.

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

Hawai’i Futures and Strategy

Aloha kakahiaka.  It’s a wonderful Monday morning (spring break!), and despite the rather long task list for today, we have some cool work to do today.  We’re meeting with some charter school folks today, following up on a wonderful future of education discussion we facilitated in January, and possible people who can contribute some exciting ideas to this year’s Summit.  We’re also polishing a presentation for another client for a seminar next month, and that has helped us get back to organizing some of the company’s original products, such as scenarios about Hawai’i’s future and more artful and more useful ways to approach planning and strategy.  And speaking of which, we’re still working on the future of nonprofits project, and the base scenario should shape up nicely this week.  For those interested, we’re going to be talking about the things nonprofits in Hawai’i need to fix in order to better fulfill their mission on one of the forums on SummitNet.

Think about tomorrow.

Filed under: Hawai'i, Nonprofit, scenarios, Strategy, Summit

Thinking like nature

Good morning and Happy Valentine’s Day!  I haven’t posted the last couple of days just because the pace has picked up, and I didn’t have a good chance to sit down and write something coherent.  But it’s Saturday morning and while I’m contemplating the household chores that need to be done, I’m also mapping out the afternoon work that has to be finished, so it’s a good time to post a note.

Our nonprofit scenario project has some interesting concepts to wrestle with, largely around the idea of organizational and service innovation, with each linked quite explicitly to the challenge of acquiring the resources necessary to accomplish a mission in a time of severe budget reductions and funding loss.  I think we’re finding that it’s certainly not impossible to identify and acquire the resources that a local nonprofit needs, but that it does require some serious organizational soul-searching and some tough questions about clients, organizational ego, and a healthy dose of foresight.  The kind of innovative thinking that can find and align resources with the activities that produce outcomes is truly ‘out-of-the-box’, as in “don’t assume that Hawai’i needs another 50c(c)3 to add to the current list of like 7500 that are out there.”  If you’re really client-focused and mission-driven, then you should not assume that a traditional corporate nonprofit is the necessary vehicle for effecting social change.  Just one of the realizations emerging from the project.

This past week we also started discussions with another group about taking a serious big-picture look at the current and future healthcare system in Hawai’i, in all its illogical glory.  It looks like we’ll be having some prelimary discussions soon on additional local stakeholders, concrete outputs, and a timeframe.  Despite the current media focus on daily economic crisis reports, there are other major systems, such as healthcare, which are in serious need of structural change and strategic innovation.

And we came across an article on how a Duke University ecologist has been organizing discussions using ecosystems and adaptive organisms as models for analyzing issues like homeland security.  The professor, Rafe Sagarin, also co-edited a volume entitled: Natural Security: a Darwinian Approach to a Dangerous World.

Think about tomorrow.

Filed under: Nonprofit, scenarios, Security,

Another talk with Nassim Taleb on Risk and the Crisis

Morning everyone.  Yesterday we had a wonderful working session in the morning on the nonprofit future; I daresay we may have genuinely innovated for nonprofits in Hawai’i.  The project is moving along as it should and we expect it to be ready on time at the end of the month.  It’s challenging scenario we’re creating for nonprofits, but if they get the message, it should be a very useful wake-up call for them to innovate and begin to think strategically rather than just operationally.

Below is another video including Nassim Taleb of the The Black Swan, this time with Daniel Kahneman.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Think about tomorrow.

Filed under: Economics, Human Nature, scenarios, ,

Friday’s accomplishment challenge

Happy Friday, everyone.  While today was originally supposed to be a relatively quiet day and good for writing and productivity, it looks like we’re going to be a little more challenged in getting things done.  We’ve got some meetings now this morning, and so this afternoon looks to be a race across some strategy documentation for one of the nonprofits, some basic decisions on the civic media project, and tying down some questions with our Energy Working Group and future clients.

In the meantime, we still are working on completing the Hawai’i Futures Index and the original Energy Narrative.  These should be out soon, and I know some of you will find them very interesting.  And we have gotten the nonprofit future project officially rolling, so work on that has now begun.  Yeah!

Think about tomorrow.

Filed under: Civic Media, Energy, Nonprofit, scenarios

Managing the Flood

Good morning, everyone.  Last night we had a very good conversation on the future of education in the state, and I think some of the ideas that went around the room have a reasonable chance of getting a higher profile in the current discourse.  And thankfully, while there are serious obstacles to systemic improvement, just about everyone present seemed to genuinely want to see changes and improvements, and they seem committed to working on implementing them.  Interestingly, nothing truly radical (at least from a futurist’s perspective) in the ‘fixes’; structural changes to be sure, but apparently nothing that isn’t already heard in education and reform circles.  If anyone has any suggestions for concrete changes in our local educational system (explicitly linked to producing the kind of citizens that we want), we’d be happy to through them on the wall for future discussions.

And in line with some of our later conversations from last night, here’s an upbeat video about managing tasks and information, something we’re all struggling to do everyday.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “Managing the Flood“, posted with vodpod

Today, we’re launching the first part of the ‘nonprofit future’ project, and we’ll be conducting our initial working session this afternoon and likely coming up with both cool ideas to consider as well as scoping the focus of the exploration; it will definitely deal with the operational life and reality of local Hawai’i nonprofits.

Think about tomorrow.

Filed under: Education, Nonprofit, scenarios

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


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Vision Foresight Strategy

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


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