Insights

Letter from the CEO: Happy New Year, and Welcome to 2022

Welcome, 2022!

As I said goodbye to my son on New Year’s Day in the drop-off lane at Reagan National Airport, a quiet gloom enveloped me. I was grieving. Grieving his departure after a two-week family adventure skiing and cheering on our various football teams. Grieving the end of 2021 with its highs of vaccinations, reunifications, and new client challenges, and lows of new variants, the loss of friends and family, weather disasters, and continued economic and political turbulence. And also grieving the loss of societal optimism. The media and various other information channels don’t provide the mental and social space for a hopeful mindset and spirit, making the longer-term future seem dystopian and frightening when it doesn’t need to be.

We play an active role in creating the future through our decisions and behaviors.

What would our world be like in 2030 if everyone became optimistic about the future? How would decisions be made? How would policy-making be different? How would empathy and compassion evolve?

Imagine if…it’s a time for creative thinking.

I envision being able to safely plan more vacations, parties with friends, and dinners at restaurants. At Toffler Associates, I see more client and team working sessions around whiteboards, laughter by the coffee machine, and in-person Future State Salons and dinners debating cyber security, environmental impacts, disruptive technology, etc. The human connection is critical to team productivity, engagement, and joy.

If optimism permeates, how will your personal and business decisions be altered?

Even with an optimistic outlook, uncertainty is the only thing we can plan for. Planning for uncertainly makes us resilient and able to respond when crises or new issues present. Planning for Alternate Futures ® scenarios allows us to identify risks, opportunities, and prepare for the various possibilities. Scenario exercises give practice to leadership teams to prepare and build resilience. It also sparks leaders to make decisions enabling the creation of the future environment they desire.

  • It’s about FORESIGHT, not forecasting.
    Forecasting is generally about predicting one future state. The goal of foresight is to prepare for multiple potential futures.
  • It focuses on IMAGINATION, not extrapolation.
    Since most disruption comes from discontinuities, extrapolating from historical performance can foster blind spots. Alternate Futures ® starts with imagining possible futures and then comes back to the present.
  • It emphasizes PLAUSIBLE, not probable.
    Being constrained by probabilities too early in the planning process stifles imagination. A threshold of plausibility allows for the exploration of more disruptive forces. Probabilities are applied when prioritizing responses.
  • It is intentionally EXTREME, not balanced.
    The real world is full of nuance, segmentation, and variation; however, when determining the impacts of disrupters, it is easier to envision them in their pure form and at a large scale.

Let me take you through an example. In future scenarios involving consumer experience at an event, like a sporting event or conference, a common risk is the consumer perception that “being safe does not equal feeling safe.” If optimism permeated, the scenarios would include people attending in-person events and both being safe and feeling safe at the events. What technology and policies should be adopted to help people feel safe at the events? We will continue to see an acceleration of many technologies, particularly those that play into health safety and health technology given the heightened anxiety and risks associated with the pandemic – contactless transactions and interactions in particular, and this will go beyond the cellphone and into biometrics. Example capabilities include:

  1. Frictionless checkpoints for health and security screening, such as airports and sport venues
  2. A new type of digital and biometric ID, such as replacements for a physical license and passport
  3. Supply chain verification, such as blockchain application or food supply transparency and tracking for event dining

After applying Alternate Futures ® planning, we are prepared, we think creatively, we don’t plan for if it might happen, only that it could happen, and we think big. We are able to flex and respond. We have investment ideas and opportunities to improve the future experience. Wouldn’t that make us less worried, better able to meet challenges, and generally more optimistic? Imagine if!

Sending this new year’s wish out to our Vanishing Point readers. I wish you good health. I wish you the ability to learn something new or about someone you didn’t know. I wish you influence on humanitarian causes and an impact on social justice. I wish you conscious acts that change the path of earth’s temperature rise. I wish you creativity and imagination to solve our greatest challenges. I wish you resiliency in times of crisis. I wish you an optimistic mindset about the future.

Sincerely,
Maria Bothwell
CEO, Toffler Associates

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To learn more about scenario planning and our Imagine If… approach, watch our demo video.

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About the Authors

Maria Bothwell

As CEO of Toffler Associates, Maria taps into deep experience with strategy development and execution, customer experience, business performance management, acquisition integration, and organizational transformation. She is an energetic and insightful executive who brings dedication and know-how to help organizations define business strategy, lead high performing teams, grow new markets, and create measurable results.