How to be future-ready

This afternoon I’m speaking about Applied Futurism to an audience of MBA and masters students at Manchester’s Alliance Business School. In preparation for this talk I put some more thought into a loose analogy I have developed for explaining agile organisations: the athlete.

Future-ready organisations are like athletes because they have three crucial characteristics that make them more able to respond to incoming trends: perception, reaction, and physical agility.

Perception

Perception is about the acuity of the senses. The ability of athletes to see, hear and sense the environment around them, and the position and state of their own bodies, better than the rest of us.

Future-ready organisations achieve this in a number of ways. They have smooth, slick data flows into and through the structure of the business, routing relevant information to the right people, fast. And they have formalised processes for horizon-scanning, keeping a watching brief on new trends and pressures and feeding this into their operations.

Reaction

Reaction is about the ability to translate the input from the senses into a response, fast. Making rapid decisions about how to respond and driving that decision out to the relevant parts of the body.

For organisations this is about the deeply interconnected processes of planning and communication. Future-ready organisations understand the impact of external changes on their key audiences — staff, shareholders, customers and partners. They can build and communicate a response quickly in a format that compels action.

Physical Agility

Of course the greatest perception and reactions are worth nothing in an athlete without the physical agility to translate plans into real action. Athletes, like organisations, need to be fit.

A fit and future-ready organisation has well defined muscle groups, just like an athlete. It’s clear which parts of the organisation perform which functions. Their inputs and outputs can be clearly understood and measured.

Training the Greats

Like great athletes, future-ready organisations rarely develop on their own. They are surrounded by a team of trainers and professionals who help to keep them on course, developing every part of their capabilities to maintain a high-functioning whole.

With the Applied Futurist’s Toolkit, we are trying to fill in the gaps in this training regimen for future-ready organisations. To equip an army of professionals with the tools to transform their clients into athletic specimens who can build and sustain success over the long term.

That’s why speaking to an audience of MBAs and masters students is so exciting: these are the Applied Futurists of tomorrow.

 

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Tom Cheesewright