Corporate Path Leadership frequently works with clients on Generative Thinking projects. This approach combines wearing a strategic planning “hat” with a futurist “hat” to make existing Strategic Plans more nimble. We find this to be a beneficial way to guide planning teams to become more effective at understanding how to think about and plan for the future.

Often, when we start a conversation about being a futurist, or talk through generative thinking as a concept, we are met with looks of skepticism. And we understand that reaction! Talking about the future can surface imagery of reading Tarot cards or staring at a crystal ball to unearth fragments of wisdom for business leaders. Rest assured planning for the future is nothing like staring at a Ouija board.

A better business example of how elements of Generative Thinking and Futurism can be useful comes from hurricane tracking. Scientists use relevant data (such as wind speeds and direction, changes in water temperatures and salinity) that will impact the trajectory of a hurricane and help develop and refine a projected hurricane path. In this case, careful monitoring of impactful trends helps adjust the mapping and projected hurricane path, and guides deployments of proactive emergency resources. This practice is paramount in saving lives. Without the practice, emergency resources might be sent to incorrect locations.

“There is a direct correlation to helping ensure a strategic plan is designed in a flexible manner to accommodate business trend changes. Most strategic plans can be easily refined to account for influence factors that would change the direction of the plan.”

Ken Giffin

President, Corporate Path Leadership

How to make your business plan nimble

If we shift the analogy of hurricane planning over to business planning, there is a direct correlation to helping ensure a strategic plan is designed in a flexible manner to accommodate business trend changes. Just like with hurricane planning, you don’t want resources going to incorrect locations.

The key for businesses is to identify the equivalent of changes in wind speeds and direction, or changes in water temperature and salinity – in addition to determining the timing of those factors – that would cause you and your team to consider shifting your existing strategic plan.

One way to identify business trend factors is by tracking and having holistic insights on direct and indirect competitors.

  • Are they launching a new product or service?
  • Are they shifting away from offering a product or service?
  • Are they making acquisitions or expanding into new markets?
  • Are your customers asking for something your competitors offer?

This tracking offers great insight on how the overall market is shifting, and how rapidly those shifts are materializing. With this type of knowledge available and part of leadership discussions, it is significantly easier to be proactive and adjust strategies and action items that might need to adapt in a quarter, depending on changes your competitors make. Too often, companies wait until a competitor’s change is already having an impact on the ability to recruit or retain customers. Which means the damage is done, and the only mode of operation is emergency damage control.

How often should you evaluate your strategic plan?

While hurricane tracking is updated on a minute-by-minute basis, most strategic plans can be refined on a monthly or quarterly basis to account for influence factors that would change the direction of the plan. This is not an activity that has to happen every week or be constantly scrutinized.

Of course, if you need expert help with your foray into Generative Thinking, feel free to contact Corporate Path Leadership. We’ve been leading teams through the process successfully for the last five years, and are happy to help you plan your adaptive strategic plan – and leave the Tarot cards in the dust!

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