Unlocking business opportunities with futures studies

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Why think about the future if the present demands all our energy and attention? This is a common question asked within companies. However, in a context of unpredictability, futures studies can help navigate today’s incremental changes and turbulence. 

LLYC, the global communications, marketing and public affairs consulting firm, has partnered with CENTRO, a higher education institution specializing in creative economics, to develop the report ‘Thinking about the future to take on the present.’ The report aims to understand some of the keys that futures studies can offer companies to adapt to complex and increasingly uncertain environments. 

“The many challenges that companies face today, which LLYC already analyzed in ‘New Times, New Rules‘, take on a new light when viewed through the field of futures studies,” said David Gonzalez Natal, partner and managing director of LLYC’s Northern Region and co-author of the recent study.

A look at futures studies and their role for businesses

Each organization must have a strong understanding of itself and its environment to be able to adapt to necessary changes and maintain stability where needed. Having the ability to differentiate between what requires changing and what must remain unchanged contributes to an organization’s readiness for change.

Futures studies, through a variety of methods and tools, can help organizations explore potential futures and develop change strategies that can influence their likely outcome. This is done by applying systems thinking, cathedral thinking, and creativity, which allow organizations to gain a more holistic understanding of their future possibilities.

– Systems thinking allows the identification of relationships between multiple elements within a given context. For instance, the correlation between airspace, logistics, natural phenomena, and human mediation needed for an airplane to take off or land.

– Cathedral thinking enables the design and execution of long-term projects with a view to their potential impact in 10, 50, or even 100 years or more. This requires planning and making decisions with a long-term vision, as seen in Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia project, which has required a vision beyond the artist’s life expectancy.

– Creativity helps identify problems and possible solutions based on ingenuity, and it is more than essential to make an organization survive and prosper in times of great uncertainty.

“Often, companies declare: ‘We can’t think about the future. We are absorbed by the operation.’ This could not be more true,” says Karla Paniagua, Futures Studies Coordinator at CENTRO and co-author of the study. “It is a manifestation of the present syndrome that compromises the strategic work of organizations of all sizes and in all sectors, where it becomes impossible for teams to imagine what might happen to the company and its environment if things go well, if things go more or less well, or if the kraken arrives.” 

Use Cases for Tackling Today’s Business Challenges

This report also delves into three major current challenges facing companies, the solution of which can be helped by this vision of futures studies.

– Leaders as growth drivers. Leaders who have acquired and further developed this skill set for themselves, their teams, and those within their sphere of influence can better prepare their organizations for survival in the face of change. 

– Harnessing transformation as a reputational asset. Companies that can navigate the factors of the past, present, and future will be better equipped to survive. Adaptability makes survival possible, but change is often uncomfortable and costly. Therefore, it is crucial to harness transformation as a reputational asset. 

– Navigating a complex and polarized context. In complex and polarized contexts, elastic organizations are better equipped to manage knowledge, navigate highly turbulent environments, and discern between polarized discourses and realities.

Companies that increase their future coefficient can navigate these challenges and embrace the opportunities they present will be better positioned for success in the long-term.

Download the full study by LLYC and CENTRO here.