Change, transformation or new establishment?

Sep 11, 2023

What do we need to keep thriving in this current time of of unrest and hyper-change? Do we need to talk about change and transformation or would it be more honest to consider a new establishment in many cases?

Innovation - once it seemed to be the most magical word that catapulted companies into new spheres.

But suddenly the demand for innovation managers seems to be dwindling, and innovation hubs are closing their doors. More and more often we hear that corporate innovation might be in crisis and going out of fashion in the light of efficiency measures.

It seems that a certain resistance is spreading around the topic of innovation methods such as design thinking. Is this a sign of disillusionment because ideas have not found their way into implementation fast enough? Or is there a deeper reason behind it?

Why are we "tired of innovation" when we know deep down we have to move forward boldly?

One positive hypothesis could be, that there is an evolution and insight that is materializing: Companies realized that innovation managers often operated in a bubble without any real punch.

There were many "creative" feel-good workshops, so-called "innovation theatre". Methods like design thinking were twisted and burnt out, used in a lipstick on a pig kind of way. Individual ideas might shine, but many concepts did not make it into implementation and tangible success failed to materialize.

Innovation managers could not or were not allowed to get to the "holy grail", the core of the business model, the long-term strategy development or the operating model. Rethinking the business did not take place holistically or at the right level to really or it did not get the right execution support to create real impact.

I strongly believe that getting ahead and achieve future readiness requires courage, a holistic approach that goes beyond isolated innovation efforts, and a strategic design process that spans and orchestrates renewal efforts from vision and strategy to business model and organization design. It involves all areas of the company and relevant stakeholders (customers, employees, partners, society, the planet).

Recently I read a post from a CEO of a german hidden champion, and it was saying something along these lines:

In the face of what is happening in the world and in order secure future readiness of our business, it would be wrong to just talk about change management or transformation. Looking at the business in the context of digitalization and sustainability we should question everything that worked yesterday and I would rather talk about a complete reset or new establishment of the business.

How can we get to future readiness?

Looking around we can see a development in which holistic future management or future design is moving into focus as a new key competence and management discipline - not as an isolated role or area, but as a central task of the entire leadership of organizations and across all company divisions.

What is future management and future design?

The Zukunftsinstitut GmbH describes future management as follows:

Future Management is a crucial management approach that should be pursued in every organization - in companies, institutions and even in politics - in order to understand developments at an early stage and actively shape the future.

Future Management includes all measures and actions to maintain the future viability of organizations. What is crucial here is a triad: Observe developments outside - i.e. in the organization's environment - and identify areas of action and shape the future in the long term through measures inside the organization

Future Design is a creative, systematic process that helps companies and teams to explore vivid tangible visions of possible desirable futures and to design scenarios on how to create value in these scenarios.

The process does not end with the development of possible futures visions or images of the future, it takes vision into action with the design and execution of new business models, value propositions and tangible prototypes or MVPs of new offerings and services.

Where does Future Design come from?

Future Design is a young design discipline and no common terms have been firmly defined or established

Other terms range from Critical Design, Speculative Design, Strategic Foresight, Design Futures, Design Futuring or Discursive Design.

Many of these approaches complement each other, but also overlap.

What are considerations for holistic Future Management and Future Design

Exploration of Possible Futures: Rather than just focusing on short-term innovations, companies should aim to create tangible representations of possible futures and long-term strategic visions to guide their strategies and actions.

No Sacred Cows: What brought success in the past should be re-evaluated, especially in light of sustainability, digitalization, and major trends.

Harness Collaborative Intelligence and Structures: Collaborations across departments lead to deeper insights into changing customer needs, market shifts, and upcoming trends. Dismantling and reimagining rigid hierarchical structures encourages employees to actively shape their collective future.

Development of Future Skills: Organizations should prioritize the development of future skills in their employees as a vital component of an overall future management as skills such as creative problem solving, technology literacy or empathy are essential for staying competitive and adaptable in a rapidly evolving world.

Iterative development of business model & oganizational structure: Organizational structures, methodologies, and team empowerment should evolve iteratively, in tandem with creating the business of the future.

Creation of the Future: Crises are opportunities for transformation. Agile companies can adapt to new scenarios, shaping their destinies and hence create a positive future for themselves.

Planet & Human-Centered Focus: Innovation should prioritize the needs of future generations and our planet, ensuring a brighter future for all. Seeing future generations on this planet as the strongest stakeholder helps to create a business with future relevance.

Twin Transformation: The business models of the future will be driven by both digitalization and sustainability, creating two strong joint forces for transformation.

A sense of disillusionment with the current state of innovation should be viewed as an alarm bell as well as a ‘kick in the ass’ to get going, prompting us to innovate rather than revert to supposedly tried-and-true methods.

Holistic future management dives deep into the business core, linking a robust future vision with business strategy and a meaningful future value proposition.

Want to know more and start designing the future?
Get in touch and become a futureneer.

Stefanie Knoren

By adopting a proactive and positive approach to creating the future, we can work to shape a better tomorrow for all. This sums up our motivation as Futureneers and we will share more of our experience with system change through Futureneering in different contexts on this blog.