See the Future, Rehearse it and Adapt to the Inevitable Shifts


In my last post, I described a Sense and Respond model that sits at the heart of several activities, including scenario, opportunity, and risk analysis. As complexity and pace continue to intensify, uncertainty increases. To survive in this Emerging Future, we must embrace a framework for future thinking,  and an organization that can adapt as it shifts. In essence, we must see the future, rehearse it, continuously monitor for shifts, and adapt as the shifts occur. A sense and respond model sits at the core of the framework – but represents the biggest cultural challenge.

See-Rehearse-AdaptFigure 1: The See-Rehearse-Adapt Framework

The framework presents many challenges rooted in the structure and culture of traditional companies. It is not sufficient to do one or two of these things well. Seeing the future is meaningless if you cannot quickly and incrementally exploit its possibilities and mitigate its risks (rehearsing). With the exponential progression of science, technology, and societal change, rapid shifts are the new norm. If our organizations are not adaptive, then no amount of seeing or rehearsing will matter. Let’s take a look at a framework for the future.

THE “SEE” PHASE

This phase is all about Future Thinking, as the future is approaching faster than people think. Just look at the autonomous vehicle; a year ago, most people still viewed it as science fiction. The progress over that one year has been staggering. The speed dynamic is compounded by the collapse of traditional structures and the emergence of Ecosystems. The exponential progression we are experiencing drives a critical need for the see phase, which involves the following. 

The See PhaseFigure 2: The See Phase

THE “REHEARSE” PHASE

“The challenge is to rehearse the future and prepare for a range of possibilities”Fast Future Research

Marc Andreessen famously said that Software is Eating the World. His words back in 2011 were very prophetic. Software lies at the heart of complex adaptive systems containing multiple intersecting building blocks, and behaving and interacting in a way that make prediction impossible. Although we can’t predict, we can inform our rehearsing with an ever expanding amount of insight and foresight. In addition, technology now enables us to continuously probe and learn. Learning our way forward through continuous learning loops enables the rehearse phase, involving the following:

The Rehearse PhaseFigure 3: The Rehearse Phase

THE “ADAPT” PHASE

One of the most challenging transformations facing any traditional institution lies in this phase. Our traditional structures (policies, organization models, regulations, professions, government, etc.) were designed for a different era. In the digital age, they don’t stand a chance against community, interdependence, freedom, flexibility, transparency, meritocracy, and self-determination (Gary Hamel). There are four broad categories that support efforts to become an adaptive enterprise:

The Adapt PhaseFigure 4: The Adapt Phase

New Era Characteristics and the enabling mechanisms

New Era Characteristics represents that set of characteristics that enable an adaptive organization. This is not the strength of traditional organizations rooted in a manufacturing era style of management. Enablers are those activities that help us transform and embrace these characteristics.

New Era CharacteristicsFigure 5A: New Era Characteristics
EnablersFigure 5B: New Era Characteristics

Emerging platform: Holistically leverage the emerging general purpose technology platform, described in detail in this post on a Third Revolution. The next revolution (some call it the fourth) is driven by an emerging platform that replaces our current second revolution platform. The holistic use of this platform creates our new future. Digital is merely the foundation. As innovation accelerators multiply, converge, and progress exponentially, this platform emerges. Lagging in terms of a digital foundation makes us ill-prepared for the holistic use of this general purpose technology platform as it emerges.

Emerging PlatformFigure 6: The General Purpose Technology Platform of the Next Revolution

Next generation experiences: Create a foundation that allows the organization to shift as interaction paradigms transform. The experience journey is expanded upon in this recent post on Interaction Paradigms. At the end of the day, it is about our own life experiences; whether it’s the simple task of hailing a cab or the complicated task of improving medical outcomes. Innovators will remove friction from one experience after another, initially via platforms and ultimately through a finite set of ecosystems.

Next Generation ExperienceFigure 7: Next Generation Experiences

Next generation productivity: Enable a level of productivity that reduces marginal cost and positions the organization to exploit opportunity at scale. Future productivity efforts will leverage the emerging platform to overcome a productivity wall. This wall stems from the fact that we have exhausted the productivity potential of our current second industrial revolution platform. Leaders will avoid the productivity lag associated with past innovations by rapidly advancing their capacity and speed to innovate and automate. This pillar of transformation is explored in more detail in this Post.

Next Generation ProductivityFigure 8: Next Generation Productivity

As you continue on your journey, see the future, rehearse it, and adapt to what is likely to be a continuous and rapid series of shifts.

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