By Tamara Carleton. Foresight is the ability to plan for the future. It is a mix of mindset and methodology: a view of the future and the practice of looking forward. Leaders use strategic foresight to help them develop long-term plans for new business growth. Part of the premise is that future outcomes can be influenced by our choices in the present. Every action you take today will help deliver the future you want to see.
What are you doing today to do to plan your next big idea? Where do you start?
Bill Cockayne and I have developed a simple framework that innovators and designers can use to structure their long-term approach to innovation. As Peter Drucker, considered the father of modern management, once pointed out, “Innovation can be systematically managed if one knows where and how to look.”
Called the Foresight Framework, our process is composed of five phases that guide innovation planning and action. The five planning phases are designed to identify and assess new technologies; anticipate the current and emerging needs of your future customers; and address complex problems as quickly, creatively, and as systematically as possible.
The five phases build on each other:
- Phase I: Perspective
We start with Perspective, so you understand what’s been done before in your organization or industry. Perspective is focused on long-term strategy, what you might consider as three or more R&D cycles out in the future for your group.
- Phase II: Opportunity
In the next phase of Opportunity, you develop an ability to see growth opportunities that exist today and extend into the future. Efforts during this phase often fall under research and development.
- Phase III: Solution
During the third phase, you define your solution’s path to innovation. This phase is about prototyping your innovation idea and understanding what you must build today to realize your desired future.
- Phase IV: Team
Once you’ve outlined your solution, you now need to find more partners and team members. Not only will these people heartily embrace your vision, they will coordinate and support the critical details of execution.
- Phase V: Vision
As a team, you will need to develop a strong vision that will guide everyone’s actions forward to success.
An easy way to remember the five phases is to know that, together, they give you a P.O.S.T.V. (“positive”) path to the future. Each letter in the acronym is the starting letter in the phase name (e.g., O = Opportunity).
Different organizations will use different terms to describe these five phases, such as: Strategic Planning, Discovery, Envisioning, Design Thinking, New Technology Solutions, and more. What terms do you find your organization using?
A typical innovation horizon encompasses everything from concept to launch, and as you know from experience, there are few shortcuts to innovation. There is no set time period for each phase because the duration depends on your industry, organization, and specific opportunity.
The Foresight Framework offers one way to plan ahead more systematically. It takes an action-oriented stance, and each phase focuses on three primary methods. As building blocks for innovation planning, these methods help participants move gradually from the big picture to a specific plan of action.
The more frequently foresight planning is done within a group, the more the practice becomes embedded into everyday routine—and ultimately the more natural the act of preparing for the future will feel to everyone. This is one of the secrets to building a lasting innovation culture: smart routine indoctrinates smart culture.
Blog readers may download the full Playbook for Strategic Foresight and Innovation for free