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What is Futurecasting in Strategic Planning?

Consider starting your annual strategic planning retreat by futurecasting — the practice of trying to envision your company’s future. Companies spend a lot of time predicting what sales will be like in the future, but little time actually thinking about the factors that impact that future. These factors include the following:

  • Underlying dynamics

  • The sweeping trajectory of new competition

  • The way customers evolve

  • The collision course one industry may be on with another

Really push your team to think about what will be happening in five or ten years. A strategic plan is as much about the planning as it is about the strategizing. Futurecasting helps you really push your big-picture thinking to develop a strategic plan that’s truly, well, strategic.

Unfortunately, most people can’t just jump mentally from now to the future. The following mind-bending exercise can help your team get its creative juices flowing.

Ask your team the following questions in a group setting. Read the answers after everyone has responded in an open setting. (Note: Some people may have heard this series of questions before, so ask those already wise ones to stay quiet.)

  • How do you put a giraffe into a refrigerator? The correct answer: Open the refrigerator, put the giraffe in, and close the door. This question tests whether you tend to do simple things in an overly complicated way.

  • How do you put an elephant into a refrigerator? Wrong answer: Open the refrigerator, put the elephant in, and close the door. Correct answer: Open the refrigerator, take out the giraffe, put in the elephant, and close the door. This question tests your ability to think through the repercussions of your actions.

  • The Lion King is hosting an animal conference. All the animals attend except one. Which animal doesn’t attend? Correct answer: The elephant. The elephant is in the refrigerator, remember? This question tests your memory.

  • You have to cross a river, but it’s inhabited by crocodiles. How do you manage it? Correct answer: You swim across. Why? All the crocodiles are attending the animal conference. This question tests whether you learn quickly from your mistakes.

According to Accenture Consulting, around 90 percent of the professionals it tested got all questions wrong. But many preschoolers got several correct answers. Accenture Consulting says that this statistic conclusively disproves the theory that most professionals have the brains of a 4-year-old.

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