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Ask the hard questions

The thoughts here continue from my previous post, Question Continuity.

Your future in questionOnce you have recognized that you cannot assume continuity across the systems, technologies, relationships, etc. you depend on, you should recognize that you have to ask some tough questions: “Do we have a future?” “What makes us think so?” “What could disrupt the systems we rely on?” and “What do we have to do to ensure our future?” You have to ask these questions bravely and honestly, getting past assumptions of continuity.

The scanning that supports probing those questions has a different character than routine organizational scanning. It puts a focus on the fundamental and big systems in global society, on changes in technology, on changing in the global economy, and on threats from other areas of knowledge and professions. It lets in the more-speculative provocations and leading edge of change discoveries that are not normally on an organization’s radar screen, or that it may have difficulty conceptualizing and facing.

A valuable step in the process is to build positive and negative scenarios for the organization’s future, and use them to explore the potential for disruptive change. The scenarios don’t assume continuity. Some of them challenge it, and propose alternative futures in which there is sharp change or negative outcomes. Those possibilities need to be the focus of scanning and monitoring regarding the organization’s future.

If your “what if” scenarios don’t shake people up, they probably are not about the tough questions you need to ask.

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