Daily blog posts. Monthly magazines. Quarterly trend reports. Must-read books. Anyone who works at the intersection of technology and people is swimming in information. This data smog can make deciphering the implications of the latest tech and social developments difficult. One solution is strategic foresight, which can help you make sense of emerging trends and clearly evaluate your options for the future. It’s a tool to manage risk when facing ambiguity in the marketplace.

Strategic foresight doesn’t predict the future, but it does help prepare you for tomorrow by envisioning a number of different, yet possible, future states in the market landscape 10+ years from now. These future states are often described as a set of scenarios, and they emerge from an analysis of current trends. So, as a simple example, the increasing popularity of pop-up retail spaces, combined with the high adoption of mobile devices, could develop into a future filled with transient storefronts. This scenario would be made possible due to the minimal wired infrastructure required for information and payment.

The rapid uptake of technology means that our social lives, cultural experiences, policies, regulations, ecological landscape, and business models are increasingly intertwined. Through its very design, strategic foresight is built to accommodate complexity by considering trends from a multi-dimensional perspective.

The basic elements of strategic foresight include:

  1. Trend scanning
  2. Identifying the driving forces that underlie these trends
  3. Evaluating which drivers have the highest uncertainty and impact
  4. Plotting the two most uncertain and impactful drivers on a 2×2 matrix to develop and articulate four potential future scenarios
  5. Exploring and assessing strategic implications
  6. Establishing an actionable plan
  7. Monitoring trends and signs on a regular basis in order to adjust strategies and tactics accordingly

The Nurun Toronto team has launched a foresight initiative to articulate the future of B2C retail and commerce, and explore implications for Canadian and North American retailers. The scenarios we generate will give our retail clients the toolkit necessary to start imagining (and preparing for) the possible futures in the marketplace.

We will be starting with a trends series to gather material for scenario development, focusing on the domains of marketing and merchandising, business models, value exchange, analytics, and technology platforms. Over the next few months, we will be publishing a series of short reports. To be added to our foresight mailing list, or to learn more about our project, contact Jen Chow and Ryan Bigge.

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