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  • Writer's picturePetri Rikkinen

Strategic foresight is fundamental in resilience

In 1991, Kenichi Ohmae wrote about a borderless world with a free flow of ideas, humans, investments and industries. However, since 2020, Covid-19, the Ukrainian war, extreme weather, and trade tensions have severely disrupted the idea of a borderless world and global economy.

Surviving in a turbulent business environment requires companies to become resilient more than ever. Our blog has examples from Intel of how foresight can support resilience and how to build foresight capabilities.

"Change before it becomes desperately obvious."

Gary Hamel and Liisa Välikangas published an HBR article about resilience already in 2003. They wrote, "Strategic resilience is not about responding to a one-time crisis. It's not about rebounding from a setback. — It's about having the capacity to change before the case for change becomes desperately obvious."

There is a need to identify and anticipate critical and disruptive trends in your business and use that in strategic planning. Therefore, strategic foresight Is seamlessly connected to organisational resiliency through ability plan and prepare for constant change.

Foresight as a source of strategic resilience - Case Intel

Intel has a foresight programme with a diverse community of contributors monitoring trends and interpreting their impact on Intel and computing. The idea is to analyze Intel's impact on the world in the following decades and what to do.

John Mirada, Senior Director from Intel's Strategy and Business Development office, thinks that sustainability and the carbon-climate crisis will significantly impact the corporate world. As computers consume energy, Intel approaches these sustainability issues beyond the manufacturing process. Sustainability is embedded in their products as well: extending the life of their products and managing the end of the product life cycle is part of the approach.

Another trend Intel is interested in is decentralized computing which means the software and hardware are dispersed to individual workstations or office locations. This very much relates to Metaverse discussion.

The third trend that Intel considers necessary is the rise of populism and debates on trust and validity of information. How Intel is part of this discussion, brings both strategic opportunities and threats.

Intel's approach is systematic and focuses on trends beyond technology development. First, they crowdsource trend spotting. Then they validate if the assumed trends and their impacts are actual and explore what else might be happening. Finally, they discuss trends with the business executives about what might be the best action.

The illusion and lure of best practices

The Intel example above shares something important. "The quest for resilience can't start with an inventory of best practices. Today's best practices are manifestly inadequate." as Hamel and Välikangas describe.

We've seen that companies who have open-mindedly analyzed changes in the macro-environment, and have a culture of experimentation are in a better position than their competitors when it comes to resilience.

There are two main ingredients how foresight can support resilience. The first is to build a culture of an open mindset that allows challenging what is known today. Again, we use Intel as an example. The second step is to set up a systematic process that frames thinking and actions in the company.

Have you spent an afternoon talking to antiglobalization activists?

Andy Grove and Gordon Moore had set up the company in 1968, and the company dominated the memory business. When Japanese firms started making memory chips cheaper and better in 80's memory chip companies, such as Intel were in trouble. Grove asked Moore that "What would happen if somebody took us over, got rid of us — what would the new guy do?".

"Get out of the memory business," Moore answered.

Grove agreed. And he suggested that they should focus on Intel's side business microprocessing. As a result, the company laid off more than 7,000 employees, almost a third of its workforce and shut down plants. Grove said it was agonizing but helped Intel to thrive as the need of microprocessors increased dramatically to control elevators, traffic lights, garage door openers, office printers, and computers.

Challenging the current mindset and finding the questions come from meeting people with different backgrounds. Another source of insight is experiencing the trends hands-on.

Hamel and Välimäki state this nicely: "Have you visited a nanotechnology lab? Have you spent a few nights hanging out in London's trendiest clubs? Have you spent an afternoon talking to fervent environmentalists or antiglobalization activists? Have you had an honest, what-do-you-care-about conversation with anyone under 18?"

Turn foresight information into resilience

We've summarized key elements of how foresight can support organizational resilience. Without structure, foresight information quickly turns into a cacophony of news, trends and signals. Intel's program also constantly looks at adopting new tools and methods within an evolving environment to better shape the information and guide the company's direction.

However, coming up with insights without the accompanying change is not enough. Foresight needs to build trust and gain credibility from leadership. In the core, there's an open mindset and culture of collaboration. At Intel, the foresight programme supports resilience by providing critical insight into the business unit strategy leads, strategy office and marketing.

Are you interested in hearing more about our approach? Download our strategic foresight toolkit or have a call with us to discuss the opportunities to use mathematical and human insight methods to solve your strategic resilience challenge.

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