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Foresight helps you get un-stuck

stuck bikeFive or six times a year I lead workshops with groups in organizations. Usually the stated goal is to find new opportunities for growth, based on the trends and forces the organizations face in the next few years.

One nearly universal discovery they make, however, is that they are stuck. There are lots of reasons why an organization might be stuck, but this post isn’t mainly about those reasons, it’s about the need to recognize “stuckness” and use foresight to help get un-stuck.

A stuck organization sees itself with little room to maneuver, because of sunk investment, market expectations, leadership of limited vision, commodity status of products and services, internal silos, and so on. While the organization feels stuck, it’s also under pressure to find revenue growth. Trying to grow with a straightjacket on is not fun.

Exploring the future offers an organization the chance to get un-stuck. Taking a futures view lets an organization see past the limits it feels today, and think about a future where the conditions have changed. It can show how the organization can take the initiative to break out of its constraints by changing what it does, how it thinks, and its place in the marketplace.

In getting ready to get un-stuck, you need to answer the question, “what is on the table for reconsideration?” and find out if you have the right and authority to challenge the organization’s thinking, and how much of the operation you can work on. If you’ve been charged only with exploring potential growth opportunities for one division, you probably don’t have permission to reconsider the entire organization, but that may be essential to getting un-stuck.

If you don’t have the authority to reconsider a big enough part of what the organization is doing, then the problem you need to work on is getting that permission, and getting the right people in the room to rethink what you are doing and where you want to go. You may even want to stop a process that’s underway that only looks at the future of one division, and instead get a bigger mix of people from across the organization in the room to explore future opportunities.

It’s nothing but painful to open up a foresight process that leads to revolutionary thought, when there’s little or no chance of making real change. Get permission and get the organization un-stuck.

Image: JasonRogers, via Flickr, cc license

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