Digitalisation is very real in today’s business environment but when you think about the future and how to implement an effective business strategy, a more holistic and inclusive approach together with digitalisation needs to be applied.

By Dr Florian Klein, strategist and head of scenario design at Deloitte’s Centre for the Long View

We live in a world of ever faster technology cycles, hyperconnected individuals, nervously flickering financial markets, and post-factual politics – all of which impact an organisation’s sustainability.

Decision-making has become far more complex than ever before, taking place in a fast changing, highly uncertain information-driven environment where values, behaviours, and social structures are no longer as stable and predictable as they were. Yet, e decision making requires a high element of certainty – or at least an adequate level of knowledge and confidence in how the future may play out.

The complexity of the environment challenges our ability to understand what the future will look like. Traditional planning and forecasting practices on their own are not enough to serve our needs in getting the insights and answers to the future. Deloitte’s new Gnosis system, developed by Deloitte’s Centre for the Long View, to be rolled out in June 2018 was created with the aim to address this.

The system is centred on an AI-based trend-sensing and analysis tools which gather and processes information for review by a scenario-planning team. Dr Florian Klein, Strategist and Head of Scenario Design says Gnosis is unique because it looks beyond the rollout of digital technology to help businesses avoid being disrupted.

Gnosis helps businesses to process information and to structure thinking and faster accelerating the decision-making process. It provides on the pulse insights that will advise organisations on what is going on in the market and to recognise patterns that can help with faster reaction.

The use of big data and artificial intelligence is pushing us to improve our ways of communication with each other. What Gnosis does is distinctly more than just crowdsourcing information and identifying trends as would newsletters and alerts for instance. The system provides tools developed by strategists for strategic decision making. Benefits of organisations that use scenario planning as a critical element in their strategic planning process are:

  • Scenario planning provides a means for ordering perceptions about how the future may play out and determining what strategic decisions today offer the best chance of success tomorrow.
  • Scenario planning challenges management to revisit its assumptions about its industry and consider a wider range of possibilities about where its industry may head in the future, often creating opportunities to innovate.
  • Scenario planning helps contribute to creating a more sustainable long-term strategy.
  • The purpose of scenario planning is not to predict the most probable future. The objective is to develop and test strategic choices under a variety of plausible futures. Doing this exercise proactively – essentially, rehearsing for multiple futures – strengthens an organisation’s ability to recognise, adapt to, and take advantage of, changes in the industry over time.
  • Scenario planning assists in the alignment of key stakeholders in support of a shared vision the additional benefit of promoting high levels of organisational learning and collaboration, which are not as deeply embedded in other strategic practices.
  • Scenario planning gives organisations the ability to course correct their strategies in a more agile way.

Dr Klein’s team at Deloitte also identified megatrends that influence the sustainability of any business in preparation for the introduction of Gnosis to the market.

The megatrends include the global scarcity of natural resources, the emphasis on interconnectedness and collective behaviour by customers as a result of hyper-connectivity, aging populations, as well as an erosion of governance.

According to Dr Klein, these megatrends are long term, they move slowly but they affect several of the spheres that we work or live in such as the economy, our society, or science.

Organisations that are prepared for the future are more likely to withstand an exponentially more competitive future, and to keep strategies more adaptable to unforeseen scenarios.

Scenarios are powerful planning tools precisely because the future is unpredictable. Good scenarios are plausible and surprising. They have the power to break old stereotypes, and their creators assume ownership and put them to work.

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