Today it’s astonishing that a start-up brand can dominate a US grocery category five years after its launch. Tomorrow, it could happen in five months. In the early stages of change, trends can look linear. It’s only when the compound multiplier takes affect that the curve accelerates away.
If you don’t adapt your thinking, and rely on a linear mindset, you’ll miss trends that suddenly take off, creating threats or opportunities that you either hadn’t imagined, or that seemed too implausible.
We’re all aware of some big, global trends that will reshape the consumer, from the changing global climate, to the rise of the emerging-market middle classes, to the rapidly aging populations of the developed world.
But what about the future ubiquity of artificial intelligence and machine learning, the coming advances in neural processing and synthetic foods? What impact could they have? When will they achieve critical mass? What will happen when multiple different exponential trends collide with each other, leveraging their impact in extraordinary ways?
Focus on too narrow a set of assumptions and your perspective on the future will be too limited.
Stress test every assumption
The leaders who create profitable growth will be those who think about the future in a different way.
They will explore the radically different ways people might live and consume, and imagine how different trends could affect each other. They will use the insights from the future worlds they model to “stress test” all their assumptions.
Three key questions for leaders endure: What will consumers value? What will you change in your organization to meet those needs? How will you lead that transformation? But it’s time to approach these questions differently:
How can you create a better understanding of future consumer needs by modelling the worlds they will live in?
How can you use that modelling process to stress-test your business against what it will take to succeed in those future worlds?
How can you use the learnings from that stress-testing to actively shape the future in your favour?
Address those questions and you can design better ways of doing business that will make your business more relevant to changing consumers. You can take bolder actions that will drive the right transformation faster.
The ability to adapt to whatever is happening now will always be important. But success in business – as in so many other walks of life, from politics to sport – is about anticipating what might happen next; about ‘reading the game’.