Anticipating the future as a success factor for companies

Foresight is a mandatory part of future success factors in companies and organisations. In anticipation skills, it is especially important to see different possible futures and the ability to understand the paths leading to these futures. Anticipation is about proactiveness, actively taking responsibility for the future, rather than passively following developments. Anticipation allows the organisation to choose from many perspectives the ingredients for its own future and ways to pursue them.

The future is not predetermined and can also be influenced. The best performing companies are prepared for possible events. Proactive companies get more business opportunities and are better at risk management.

Society is undergoing a transformation – foresight is sustainable

If a company operates narrow-mindedly and ignores the change in the world, it will soon be a former company. Companies anticipate future legislation – regulation so that when it comes into force, they will be at least as good as their competitors when it enters into force. However, this is not enough. The situation requires swift action: the pioneering of companies to avoid, reduce, compensate and compensate for their own disadvantages. Nature and the earth are mandatory stakeholders for companies. Companies have a responsibility to act as part of a good society. Megatrends such as globalisation, urbanisation, digitalisation, digitalisation, climate change and resource shortages affect the future of every company, organisation and individual.

Anticipation is proactive preparation for the future of the company

Anticipation is more than just responding to megatrends. It is a useful systematic method and tool for everyday operation. It can be used for strategic planning, risk management and opportunity mapping, but it can also be taken to every level in the organization – part of operations. This is already the case with pioneering companies. Foresight is often associated with megatrends, but it is important to see it as a tool for continuous monitoring of companies, part of the organization's strategic management toolbox.

The operating environment challenges change

The drastic changes in the operating environment in recent years with regard to the effects of the Covid pandemic and the war in Ukraine have forced companies to react to preparedness for changes and to question the effectiveness of old practices. Foresight means looking at a long time horizon. We should therefore be talking about sustainability and tens of years instead of the current quarterly economy.

Anticipating the future is important in order to catch up with the kind of sustainability thinking that the new normal requires. The green transition requires massive changes in society. The change applies to values, new indicators of well-being and sustainability, a change in investment thinking and the consideration of planetary boundaries in all companies' operations. Sustainable investments are completely different from quick gains when focusing on the quarterly result and we need to move from short-sighted thinking to a long-term economic system that takes into account the long-term entity. At the latest, the climate crisis and the loss of nature have taught us that the world's resources are limited.

"Sustainable development means that we leave future generations as many opportunities as we have had, if not more."

– Ismail Serageldin, President of the World Bank

Reasons why it is important for companies to prepare for the future

A proactive and change-oriented company gains competitive advantage and know-how capital. The company gains a competitive advantage as the know-how capital increases. Systematic thinking about the future becomes part of its strategy. Foresight is a critical skill that will be required of every company in the future. A proactive company can see the forest from the trees and better understand the entities and the dimensions between them.

The business is becoming more profitable. The company avoids unnecessary costs. It also enables a better result by preparing for change by systematically anticipating different things, such as customer needs and stakeholder behaviour. When a company takes up future work and systematic foresight, the profitability of the business also increases. Research shows that companies with a foresight mechanism in place in their company are doing better.

The company survives better in a changing world. By anticipating, the company develops future resilience. At the heart of the future resilience is scenario thinking, i.e. constantly perceiving the options and making the best of them a reality. It means the company's ability to survive in a changing operating environment. A proactive company understands that uncertainty and surprises are a normal state rather than an exception. The ability to anticipate provides a basis for the company's continuous renewal. 

Questions are more important than answers

Good questions are more important than answers and questioning is necessary in order to bring about change. The importance of the questions was perhaps also understood by Albert Einstein's mother, Pauline, who used to ask her little boy: "What questions did you ask at school today?" He considered the source of wisdom to be the questioning of questions, not so much the pre-extracted answers.

We need creativity, new thinking and innovation capacity to overcome climate change and curb the ever-accelerating tempo of deforestation. These two threats affect the future of our children and grandchildren perhaps as badly as wars have put a burden on the generational chain. We all create the future with our own choices every moment.

grey lake scenery, foreground with green vegetation and white swamp bites

The author of the article Vuokko Isokorven's enthusiasm for foresight work stems from combining social phenomena and issues and a 25-year career in a financial sector vantage point, in the world of investments. The future work and foresight of companies have been influenced by various sources, including Sirkka Heinonen's futures study. With this article, Visoko wants to encourage people and businesses to anticipate and constantly ask questions about sustainability, and to do their best to bring about change in a sustainable future that takes generations into account.

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