Is our strategy and business plan sustainable and resilient in the light of current trends and disruptive changes? This is the question that is often asked by executives of businesses and organisations.
A relatively simple, but effective method of testing the future-readiness of an organisation is to carry out a test in a suitably designed wind tunnel. The process will test how well the business strategy and specific products or services can perform when challenged by critical trends and uncertainties. Are the strategy, revenue streams and relationships with key partners resilient or will fundamental transformations be required for the organization to meet the challenges of the future or to effectively seize the opportunities ahead?
There are several variations on the wind tunnel method, but the fundamental approach is the same. The organisation, usually with the support of experienced foresight experts, tests its core operations against a set of scenarios and trends for the future, derived at an earlier stage, following a thorough and systematic process. The testing will reveal the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation and highlight the areas that need improvement or redirection.
The wind tunnel test is usually part of a strategy review or redesign process and is a starting point for developing a forward-looking strategy and planning specific strategic actions to be implemented by the organisation today.
In the context of supporting innovation support services, the UNESCO Chair has designed an alternative, simplified but effective version of the method, the futureproofing tool, which focuses on the current operational structure of a company or organisation and highlights the areas that need to be redesigned.
The tool uses a pre-selected set of megatrends, drivers of change and critical uncertainties, derived from research carried out by the Joint Research Centre, the Millennium Project and SITRA. Initially, the company selects from the set, those trends or uncertainties that it considers critical to its operation, analyses their impact on the wider environment and finally assesses the positive or negative impact on the company’s structure and operation through a simple structured process.
The aim of the futureproofing process is to create the right context to highlight issues that are usually overlooked in favour of the urgent challenges, and are rarely addressed. It should be noted, the process not only highlights problems, but also opportunities that can be exploited to maximise the benefits to the organisation.