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VOL. 130 | NO. 208 | Monday, October 26, 2015


Michael Graber

Strategic Foresight For Key Projects

By Michael Graber

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Here are notes from the back end of Innovation conference 2015, in San Jose, California. These tips come from a workshop led by Tamara Carleton, Innovation Leadership Board LLC.

This session focuses on strategic foresight, which is the ability to build the future we envision.

Strategic foresight is based on choices made today intended to influence future action. The goal is to lesson ambiguity with a mix of mindset and foresight. The reason is that the early decisions in any undertaking impact the actions you take.

So, what is the process, what are the steps?

Foresight in Action 1: Build relationships as you build your ideas.

Ms. Carleton introduced the Crowd Clover, an exercise to help identify the social network that maps out the people who help us succeed. It asks who are the catalysts, connectors, promoters and enablers.

Identify as many as possible, and then mark the ones that are either formal or informal relationships. You can do this exercise on the individual, project, team, divisional or organizational level. The key learning is that you realize your strengths and blind spots in areas where people capital can be integral for success.

Foresight in Action 2: Excite current and new champions with a vision.

This tool is a version of an elevator pitch. It is a Vision Statement whose goal is to get the story down to essentials and convey the key points of value. This vision helps others create a mental picture of the impact and value of this project. The drafting process works like Mad Libs. You fill in the blanks:

Our Vision is to ___. It was impossible until today because ___. The timing is now right to ___. Precedents of this idea include ___ and ___. By working with our partners ___we will make this vision real in ___months. Today, we’re beginning this journey by ___.

Foresight in Action 3: Help others see what is coming next.

This tool is a version of the quad chart. It is called a NewCo Four-Up, which summarizes the essence of your plan according to the promotion of the concept, the strategy, the competitive advantages and the path of change. So, at this end of this exercise you have defined the What, Where, Why, and How as a working definition.

A quick exercise proved that this process is exceedingly both descriptive and generative.

Foresight in Action 4: Practice Receiving Ideas.

This tool is a practice in simply sharing and socializing ideas and getting feedback. This practice of storytelling keeps you sharp and attuned to your audience and how well your communication is being received, more important, how well you listen and receive feedback.

Think of these as buddy checks. Have everyone on the team practice these, and turn them into project evangelists and good listeners.

The idea here is not to sell a pitch, but to communicate, and to learn and refine the story arc by receiving valuable feedback.

Michael Graber, managing partner of the Southern Growth Studio, can be reached at southerngrowthstudio.com.

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