Identifying Business Opportunities with Strategic Foresight

 The importance of shifting from a risk to opportunity mindset

The importance of shifting from a risk to opportunity mindset

by Willow Pryor

One of the key benefits of strategic foresight is its ability to support organisations and leaders to shift from a risk to an opportunity mindset. By challenging business as usual, new possible futures can emerge, and with that can come new opportunities.

The old strategy "to do" list won’t provide you with the competitive edge that is required in the times of unprecedented change that we are experiencing. The practices that created success yesterday won’t necessarily create success today.  This is really highlighted in Professor Sohail Inayatullah’s article about being in the midst of dramatic changes where a CEO says, “we had the perfect strategy for yesterday’s future.”

In today’s fast paced world we are being called to step off the hamster wheel and re-ignite our capacity to shape the world. In other words, to move from being reaction-focussed to opportunities-focussed. To do this we need to unlock the futurist’s mindset and use strategic foresight tools that enable us to anticipate the future and challenge our actions today.

Here are 4 things you need to consider when unlocking your futurist mindset and shifting from risk-focussed to opportunity-focussed:

Identifying Business Opportunities with Strategic Foresight

1. Understand why critical thinking is essential for shaping the future

While it is our worldview and mindsets that can enable us to see new opportunities where they didn’t exist previously, it is our deeply held beliefs, attitudes and assumptions that underpin them that can both create our preferred future or derail it. Ask yourself, "what are the assumptions I hold about the way I think we need to do business?"

 If you want to better understand why critical thinking is fundamental for shaping the future, you can read my article here.

2. Know your landscape

Strategic foresight is not so much about predicting the future as it is about anticipating it. Use your future insights as an asset that can inform your decisions today. Start by identifying key emerging issues and trends as part of your horizon scanning process to identify the landscape that lies ahead. You can then follow this with scenario planning to further reveal alternative futures and opportunities.

3. The Power of humility

I’ve recently developed a crush on the incredible historian Yuval Noah Harari. Why you ask? I listened to his powerful presentation titled "Will the Future be Human" and I was inspired by his ability, when asked questions at the end, to say, “I don’t know the answer but I think we need to start discussing this." When we challenge the status quo a space emerges and it is OK not to know. It is from this very space that new opportunities can emerge.

4. Diversity of thinking

Breaking down the silos across teams and departments can create a diversity of thinking that supports the emergence of new solutions that have not previously been thought of. Foresight practices can provide the platform for this diversity of thinking and cross-pollination by creating a shared language and understanding of how future trends can impact your organisation or sector.

The bottom line

So, if you want to become opportunity-focussed instead of reacting to the environment and becoming trapped in the “old ways of doing business,” consider this. Understand why critical thinking is an absolute must, and start implementing it in your thinking. Then make sure to study what the landscape looks like and be humble in the face of uncertainty. And lastly, break down silos and foster a culture of diverse thinking. That way, you can create a shared vision of the future and find the best ways to shape it.