Archive by Author | Jasmina

What if… organizations could prepare for uncertainty?

What if an organization would know what are the pain points of its future customers, which are emerging competitors and partners, what type of ecosystems organization should be part of, what type of legal, social or political issues are arising, what is going to be next industrial trend, how to disrupt the industry? “What if” is one of the most important questions in futures thinking. It enables stretching our thinking and imagine possible futures.

Photo from https://www.pixabay.com

Minna Koskelo, futures designer had a presentation about “What is futures thinking” on Waffle Wednesday at Wonderland in February 2020. According to Koskelo “you can’t control the future but you can have a sense of control if you do understand more the drivers that are affecting the future. “ We don’t know the future but futures thinking gives us a mindset and offers a systematic approach that combines, methods, and tools to explore alternative futures which can support organizations to make right decisions. Koskelo’s presentation made me think about how well organizations are actually aware of the powerful mindset of futures thinking and its methods? Organizations are doing customer insight, business insight but how systematically and continuously companies are conducting future-oriented insight a.k.a. futures thinking? Feels like many organizations are focusing more on what is already visible instead of investing on what is about to come. Research shows that future-prepared firms outperform the average by a 200% higher growth and were 33% more profitable than average!

From where to start Futures Thinking?

When talking about the future there are certain terms that we need to understand. These terms are: megatrends, trends, signals.

Megatrend is a dominant long-term phenomenon with a global impact. Megatrends can change slowly. Examples of megatrends are climate change, senior citizens, digitalization, and circular economy. Koskelo mentioned that many times it is said that companies shouldn’t focus on megatrends when finding business innovation because megatrends aren’t bringing any competitive advantage. Then again we could also ask how many companies are today actually tackling on helping senior citizens?

Trends are changes in people’s behavior, attitudes, and values locally and globally. They have an impact on the culture, society or business sector. Trends indicate which direction development is going. Trend has a lasting impact, but the impact is smaller than megatrends’ impact.

Signal is a phenomenon, the first expression of change or a new trend. Signal might be a weak signal that is very surprising and weird that forces companies to challenge current assumptions. So if a company would spot a weak signal and tries to develop it to a trend, it might offer a competitive advantage.

Tools for exploring the future

The more aware organizations are of the opportunities that the future holds, the more future-proof decisions can be made. There are various tools for supporting in future decision making. Four of them are described below.

What if an organization would get a holistic view of opportunities and obstacles in its future environment? It feels like organizations focus their future view heavily on technology and ignore other important trends. But in order to get a more holistic view, an organization could utilize a framework called STEEPLED that is an acronym for: Social, Technology, Economic, Environment, Political, Legal, Ethical, Demographics. STEEPLED offers a checklist for exploring external factors that might have an impact on the organization’s success – the organization could find signals that might turn into trends!

What if organization could really reach their vision? Backcasting would be the tool to be used in this case. In backcasting the organization defines first its desirable future and from there works backward to identify the critical steps necessary to achieve the desired future, the vision.

What if organization would be able to anticipate its future customers? By using future personas the organization would provide insights of future customers, anticipate what motivates them and what are their future needs.

What if organization would recognize the direct and indirect consequences of a decision, trends and events that might have an impact on the organization’s ecosystem? Futures wheel is a visual tool that supports to create a structured map of the future. When working with the futures wheels a particular trend will be put in the center after which the primary, secondary and tertiary impacts of the trend will be explored in a structured way.

Six business benefits of Futures Thinking

Based on Minna Koskelo’s presentation and my earlier studies in futures thinking I would sum up futures thinking benefits as below.

Futures Thinking
1. offers a safe space to consider and discuss unthinkable options,

2. encourages to think beyond the company’s current value proposition and reveal new business opportunities,

3. offers new innovative ways for decision-making processes and enhance decision making under uncertainty,

4. enables test ideas before translating them into business or innovation strategies,

5. helps to align the whole organization working towards a common vision in their daily work practices,

6. offers a roadmap for navigating complexity and reaching the vision.

Future does not just happen, it depends on today’s choices and is created through interaction and collaboration. What if we start to influence our future today?

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You might be interested in below links:
Megatrends 2020, Sitra
Futures Day 2020

References:
From signals to future stories
Futures Thinking
Ojasalo, Koskelo and Nousiainen. 2015. Foresight and Service Design Boosting Dynamic Capabilities in Service innovation. In: Agarwal, R., Selen, W., Roos, G. & Green, R. (ed.) The Handbook of Service Innovation. London: Springer. 193-212.

What’s the secret recipe to becoming an agile and customer-centric company?

Futurice hosted Service Design Network Finland’s event in Helsinki in January 2020 where Marc Stickdorn* talked about how companies can use journey maps as a management tool. Stickdorn explained three different situations where journey maps can be used: in workshops, projects or as a management tool. Workshop journey maps are used only once and they will not live after a workshop. Project journey maps are used throughout the project and they can be research, assumption or future based. Journey Map Operations is a management tool that combines different projects and business units in a company and supports companies to become agile: it builds relationships across silos, collects information and the most important – manages customer experience across departments.

Journey Map Operations, Marc Stickdorn

The reality in many organizations is that different departments are working with different projects and processes. There might be lots of handovers, various targets, expectations, practices and end solutions. This is because departments have different ways of documenting, they use different tools, terms, and language in their projects. The focus of the projects might be different depending on if it’s a legal, IT, sales, product innovation, marketing, or finance project. But in the end, all the internal and external projects impact also directly or indirectly on company’s customer experience. Many projects might also overlap and from the customer’s point of view there may be shared the same steps in the journey but then the journey continues for different directions which might be really confusing and frustrating for the customer. For a company it is difficult to operate and manage this kind of complexity.


How to get a shared perspective and language across departments?

Companies talk about being customer-centric and agile, but few companies really are because it is impossible to be agile in practice without a shared perspective and tools. According to Stickdorn journey maps would support companies be agile in operations by offering a common visualized language and understanding across different departments and levels in the organization. By mapping and combining different internal and external projects from customer’s perspective organization gets better transparency and understanding what’s going on in different parts of the organization that have an impact on customers or employees’ experience. This helps employees and management to see what are the ongoing initiatives where the organization needs to align? Is there an overlap in the processes? What ongoing and planned projects are around the organization?

I like how Stickdorn compares journey maps for maps in geography: by zooming in and zooming out it is possible to see different levels of the journey. By zooming in the company can see details and understand micro-interactions while zooming out helps to see the high-level journey, the bigger picture.

Different level of journeys zoomed in and out


A recipe for the secret sauce

Stickdorn proposes that there should be specific roles or teams in charge of the journeys. These would be called journey map coordinators. Coordinators are responsible for different parts and levels of the journeys. Somebody on the higher level, for example, CXO, is responsible for the highest-level customer journey. When zooming in the highest-level journey there might be different teams and departments responsible for other parts and experiences of the journey.

Journey map coordinators are split around the organization into different departments and they should meet regularly – once per quarter, month or once per week depending on how close the organization wants to be with the customer, how quickly they want to react and adapt to change. In these meetings, information is shared from microlevel customer interactions to higher levels. The power of the meetings would not only be in sharing information but they would help to see what kind of qualitative and quantitative information organization has from its customers on different levels. And when you add customers’ and employees’ pain points and KPIs there, soon a company might have a dashboard of customer experience!


The value for business

I think that Journey Map Operations is a perfect example of service design method – it brings people from different parts and levels of organization together, focuses on collaborative problem-solving, offers a holistic view, brings clarity in complexity, creates a common language by visualizing things and shares information between different departments with a common target – the customer. At the the same time Journey Map Operations provides a lean way of working and supports company to become more agile.

In overall, journey maps are helpful when company wants to get a holistic understanding of customer or employee experience, recognize their needs and pain points and seek opportunities for innovations. We just need to keep in mind that it’s not about the tool but what the tool can deliver for employees, customers and business. “Journey map isn’t a f..inkg deliverable” as Marc Stickdorn would say.



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You might be interested also:

How to co-create journey maps https://www.thisisservicedesigndoing.com/methods/journey-mapping

How to map journeys https://www.thisisservicedesigndoing.com/methods/mapping-journeys

*Marc Stickdorn is co-founder of More than Metrics, and editor and co-author of the award-winning books This is Service Design Thinking and This is Service Design Doing. He regularly gives talks and workshops on service design and innovation,and teaches at various business and design schools.