Foresight: The Organizational Alternative to Fight or Flight

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It has been said that those who fail to plan, plan to fail. While I believe this statement to be trite and overused, I am also annoyed by how true it is. Today’s post provides two examples of companies who prove this idiom contains truth you should heed!

The Bad – Failing to Plan

The story of a Nevada power company exemplifies what occurs when we fail to plan. When the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino completed installation of 26,000 new solar panels, they told their power provider (NV Energy) they were leaving the grid. NV Energy’s inability to foresee the impact of solar use (in the sunny desert!) led to them losing 7% of its revenue when Mandalay stopped using their services. And it gets even more interesting! This energy company took them to court and Mandalay ended up having to pay $87 million to NV Energy so their losses would not be passed on to existing NV Energy customers. “This is what happens when disruptive technology becomes popular: the monopolies fight back” (CBC).

The emergence of solar as a clean energy alternative is not new, especially in sunny desert regions! States have been legislating changes which require companies to use more clean energy for many years. However, many utilities have neglected to plan for these changes. As a result, this example reveals what occurs when we fail to plan.

The Good – Anticipatory Planning 

In contrast, UPS, known for their logistics solution, is branching into something unusual and new – 3D printing. While this may seem like a stretch, this decision is a result of intentional foresight work. Foresight is the ability to anticipate and respond to trends and key external forces which have the ability to disrupt the way we do business. Here is how UPS used foresight to respond to disruptive technologies in their environment:

‘Aside from its main package delivery service, UPS gets an undisclosed portion of its revenue from storing and shipping parts for manufacturers. If those customers were to switch to 3D printing their own parts, that business would face a drastic reduction. To counter that threat, UPS has chosen to get on board the 3D revolution, and is now looking to offer a service in which UPS will print out plastic parts – anything from nozzles to brackets to prototype soap dispensers or multi-faceted moving parts – around the world and deliver them’ (Freuters).

Foresight also explains why UPS is investing in companies that make drones and an upstart one-day delivery company (Frueters).

As a futurist and strategic foresight junkie my heart is warmed when I read stories about companies like UPS. In contrast, my blood begins to boil when I read examples about the electricity industry (because I pay for their ineptitude on my monthly bill). So even though the statement may be overused, failing to plan is indeed planning to fail.

If you don’t have a strategy, you’re part of someone else’s strategy. Alvin Toffler

In times of rapid change, a crisis of perception – the inability to see an emerging novel reality by being locked inside obsolete assumptions – often causes strategic failure, particularly in large, well-run companies. Pierre Wack


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Jeff Suderman is a futurist, consultant, and professor who works in the field of organizational development. He partners with clients to improve culture, leadership, teamwork, organizational alignment, strategy and organizational future-readiness. He resides in Palm Desert, California. Twitter: @jlsuderman Email: jeff@jeffsuderman.com

Source: Reuters, CBC

Photo Credit: FreeImages.com/MalikBhai

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