An associate recently asked, “What can managers do to prepare for the future?” We are under no delusion that we have a definitive answer, but it is certainly an important question, well worth discussing (for us) and addressing (for you).
First, we must acknowledge that we can't prepare for all possible future states. That certainly does not mean we should throw up our hands and wait for our fates to unfold. It does mean we should be intentional about deciding which potentialities to prepare for. Paying attention to emerging trends can help us make some decisions. Periodic SWOT analyses (or some similar exercise) can help as well. Many of the most important opportunities and threats, however, are unknowable today because unpredictable events dramatically change the economic and competitive landscape. Here are a few examples: earthquakes, terrorist attacks, the creation of the polio vaccine, the discovery of the Zika virus, the invention of the personal computer (then the laptop, the Blackberry, the smartphone).
Focusing on these fundamentals can position you to be prepared for however the future unfolds: