I had a pleasant surprise on my first day at ‘proper’ work after college (I’d joined Gillette on a graduate entry scheme). We were all given a large pay rise from the graduate offer – in my case, more than 35%; and we were told that our pay would be increased each month in line with inflation.
Yes, you’ve guessed it I started work in the mid 70’s, when inflation was more than 2% a month in the UK. Difficult to credit now, or to imagine that those days can ever come around again. But, it’s very easy to forget the lessons learnt in that period, and to assume that current experience is the norm.
Which leads me on to the point of this blog: how do you get strategists and planners to genuinely think the unthinkable when they are considering the future, and where to go with their business? It’s difficult not to be driven by two main factors when considering the future; extrapolating current trends, or calculating the impact of an impending – but predictable – big event.
At the moment then, many business strategists will be considering where digital technology takes us, and working out the possible impact of Brexit – which, it is clear, is of global significance. These are important – but they don’t fully allow for the consideration of the truly bizarre ‘what if’ scenarios, which may be unlikely but which genuinely can change everything.
The biggest single ‘event’ of my working life was the collapse of the Warsaw Pact in 1989, and the subsequent breakup of the USSR in 1991. The aftershocks of this seismic event will continue for years, and have had profound effects on every organisation we have worked for since that time. My guess is, however, that few organisations outside a select few sectors, such as defence, made any assumptions about the events of 1989 when they produced their strategies and plans in 1988.
Planning, and planning assumptions, always sound like one of the drier parts of business. In fact, they should draw on, and benefit from, the best brains, and seek to equip organisations with the greatest of planning gains – sustainability. We may not be in for another seismic event like 1989 in the next few years, but I hope you’re including in your planning the likelihood and impact of a new leader in North Korea, the end of the Syrian Civil War, and England winning the European Championship! (only kidding about the last one!)