Framing the Future — Which Instru­ments are at our disposal?

The previous articles in our series “Navigating Complexity” discussed the essence of changes and options for action in our VUCA world. This issue will present instru­ments, which help to make comple­xities and inter­re­la­tions of forces of chances more trans­parent, and thus enable developing powerful frame­works of the future. As a result urgent needs to act, options for action, and new potential areas of growth become more visible based on an advanced under­standing of the mecha­nisms and inter­ac­tions of ongoing change processes.

By Dr. Friedhelm Böttcher and Dr. Karl-Michael Schumann

Strategic Mapping — Orien­tation by Visua­liz­ation

Effective Navigation systems need to make complex inter­re­la­ti­onships trans­parent, and simplify complexity in a way that the essen­tials are quickly recognized and under­stood. At the same time they need to ensure that the relevant and deter­mining links between the key factors are not lost.

In this sense, Strategic Mapping [1] can create compact, visua­lized repre­sen­ta­tions of complex inter­re­la­ti­onships which offer unique oppor­tu­nities. The challenges of creating and managing business growth in a VUCA world have proven Trend Maps and Innovation Maps to be parti­cu­larly useful.

Trend Maps visualize a landscape of trends and counter-trends that are partly already effective and partly still to come, and which might transform entire industries and business sectors. By displaying the develo­pment of these trends along a time axis, it is possible to predict when certain trends will likely become percep­tible and by when they will have reached their maximum effect. Practi­tioners of Trend Maps can draw conclu­sions about which trans­for­ma­tional develo­p­ments might affect their company and industry and initiate measures in good time.

Our Trend Maps are based on simple trend catalogues, which are regularly updated via surveys and workshops among the wider community of our cross-industry network “future_bizz”. They are subse­quently adapted and optimized to match the parti­cular needs of individual companies.

Figure 1: The landscape of the future presented by a Trend Map provides oppor­tu­nities for predicting trans­for­mative develo­p­ments for initiating responsive measures in good time.

Innovation Maps function as central navigation systems to sustainably create and growth businesses in our VUCA world. Every Innovation Map is based on a Trend Map. The Innovation Map contains …

  • A description of the present situation by visua­lizing (a) the most important physical and non-physical assets of the business, (b) the recognized business oppor­tu­nities and challenges, and most import­antly © the innovation gap, which represents the requi­re­ments and challenges of the company’s innovation portfolio relative to its business growth goals;
  • a picture of the future, derived from the trends that are important for the company;
  • areas of potential business growth evaluated in terms of growth potential and innovation level;
  • a roadmap that highlights how the company intends to exploit its areas of potential growth and to close its innovation gaps.

The effec­ti­veness and efficiency of a navigation system depends to a large degree on its ability to involve the key employees of a company in their entirety, so that they collec­tively (a) recognize changes, challenges and oppor­tu­nities in their markets (and in their wider business environment), (b) define their common goals, and © coördinate their actions. Jointly recognizing and agreeing on priorities is a crucial factor in a situation where available resources are scarce, and where compe­tition exists between the needs of day-to-day businesses and future-oriented growth activities. Effective collective action presup­poses that common images of reality exist and that these images are constantly updated via multi-direc­tional commu­ni­cation [2]. The quality and quantity of future-oriented inter­ac­tions among the key employees of a company have a profound impact on the usefulness of its navigation systems, and therefore on the long-term success of the company as a whole.

This is where Strategic Maps come in. Strategic Mapping requires intense inter­ac­tions at the map-creation stage, but also during discus­sions of the maps, which are printed out as posters as a means to stimulate debates of the future-orien­tation of the company. The Maps become working tools. They are written and noted on. They are thus the subject of permanent change and they make the change process trans­parent.

Figure 2: The Innovation Map exhibits pathways to sustainable growth in a coherent form

So there are proven tools to help us sustainably grow even in our highly complex VUCA world. There is value already in simply recognizing this fact.

However, these tools will not deliver their full potential if applied bureau­cra­ti­cally so that decisions are delayed or watered-down. In order to reap the full benefits of Strategic Mapping, many companies must lean to act with higher degrees of Agility. But how can agile organiz­a­tions be realized? This will be the subject of another article in this series on within the next few weeks.

And by the way: How do you judge your chances of navigating your business in our changing world with the outlined approaches of Strategic Mapping? We look forward to your feedback and sugge­stions.

List of sources

[1] See also:
[2] Weick, K.E.; Sutcliff, K.M.: “Managing the Unexpected”, Wiley, New Jersey 2015, p.21f