What will be the social-political-cultural-economic backdrop for sports and recreation in 2025? This was the big question facing planners at a global marketer of consumer products and services facing both competitive challenges and uncertainties in a rapidly changing marketplace. FSG was brought in to infuse some new thinking into the firm’s innovation processes – in effect, to apply scenario planning imagination and rigor to a shorter-term assignment, more limited in scope compared to our alternative futures processes.
A typical alternative futures planning project begins with an expansive sweep of both demand and supply side issues shaping our client’s future operating environment. And that is what we did in this case, but without actually building out scenarios. We examined macroeconomic trends, domestically and globally, and considered how they would affect leisure and recreation resources and options. We considered the demographics of the marketplace – what does the aging of the US population mean for demand for recreation? We explored climate change effects. How will a hotter planet affect exercise – performance, infrastructure, and health risks, for example. We looked at science and technology trends, everything from eGames proliferation to the influence of genomics and epigenetics on recruiting and training athletes.
The first deliverable was a set of briefing slides highlighting these insights.
The second deliverable was a series of facilitated innovation workshops in which we worked with the client to evaluate the briefing slides and explore their implications for product and service innovation. We were especially interested in the confluence of trendsand their cross-impacts – for example, what might a slowing economy, an aging population, and higher out-of-pocket medical costs mean? This got us thinking about, for example, greater pressure on aging Americans to stay active and healthy, as well as competing demands on their time coming from their adult children, struggling with work, financial strains, and childcare requirements. This multi-dimensional thinking about the future turned out to be the greatest source of value for this FSG client.
The results of this work were further refined and presented to senior product executives to spur fresh thinking, challenge embedded assumptions, and stimulate innovative ideas around new products and services that the future will demand.