Why “Ridiculous” Maps of the Future are Useful

Developing and executing business strategy, products and innovative ideas in our current environment demands new approaches and mindsets. Linear methods that rely solely on the extrapolation of historical results are completely ineffective as technological advancements, economic uncertainty, and increased systematic risk become the new normal. To effectively drive understanding, performance, and execution of strategic initiatives, organizations must think and act in “simultaneous multiples” – pressure-testing their strategies in diverse operating environments. 

Scenarios provide an immune system for the organization by allowing it to test the viability and success of its strategies in multiple, simultaneous futures. Without robust scenario planning and mapping, strategies are brittle since they are predicated on only one “official” future. Scenarios, on the other hand, help us create resilient, adaptive, and transformative strategies, processes and approaches.

Despite the numerous benefits of scenario mapping, skeptics often deem scenarios as “made-up” stories of the future” not understanding that scenarios are rich with research, data, creativity, and intuition. 

Futurist Jim Dator is well-known for his statement, “Any useful idea about the future should appear to be ridiculous.” We must stretch our minds, through the practice of Strategic Foresight, to map the possibilities of tomorrow to inform the actions we will take today. Otherwise, we are ideating comfortable solutions that are simply benchmarked and not transformative. 

Furthering this point, we highlight an article from The Economist’s July 6th 2019 Edition of Leaders, “Why It’s Worth Reading Crazy-sounding Scenarios about the Future.” In addition to scenario planning, the author discusses the value of other speculative approaches including sci-fi, trendspotting and corporate anthropology.