How much time do you spend thinking about the future of your business? For most leaders of consumer goods and retail companies, the answer would be “not enough.” The challenge of meeting quarterly targets today means most of the executives I talk to are usually laser-focused on the current financial year.
That isn’t surprising, and it isn’t a criticism.
New technologies, innovative business models and unexpected sources of competition are disrupting the consumer goods and retail industry at a pace that can feel bewildering. In that context, taking time to imagine what the consumer might be like in 5 or 10 years — and what that means for your business now — can seem self-indulgent.
But it isn’t.
Having a long-term vision can help you to compete
In my experience, the harder it becomes to imagine the future, the more advantage there is for the few who are able to develop a long-term vision. It’s not necessarily about predicting what will happen; rather, the value is in stepping out of the flow to see the direction of travel.
This is something we’ve been helping our consumer-facing clients with over the last few months. At weeklong hack events in Berlin, Los Angeles, London and Mumbai, we’ve been bringing together a diverse group of industry leaders, futurists, creatives and EY subject professionals to imagine what the world of the future consumer might be like.
The process we’ve been using — which is like no workshop or brainstorming session that I’ve ever experienced before — involves crunching together more than 150 different change drivers and 8 core hypotheses to create what we call “futureworlds.” Those drivers range from advances in personal technology to changes in social norms.
One aim is to challenge some of the ideas and preconceptions that have shaped the consumer and retail industries for decades, so we can imagine and explore entirely new paradigms — and, importantly, understand where value will be created, and how a business needs to change.
Having your trusted notions challenged in this way can — at times — be an uncomfortable experience. The hack events took me a long way outside of my intellectual comfort zone.
But it’s deeply necessary. To quote racing driver Mario Andretti, “If everything seems under control, you’re not going fast enough.” It’s important that we find the time — and make the effort — to think ”outside the box” and disrupt our default views of the world, so we can create a more relevant perspective.