There must be some way out of here Said the joker to the thief There’s just too much confusion I can’t get no relief.
-Bob Dylan, 2016 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature
“All Along the Watchtower”
What a year it’s been. And there’s still a week left. How many wild cards, Black Swans, once-a-century events and disruptive unintended consequences are still lurking out there? That’s not a wish, by the way. Most of us are hoping for some end-year tranquility and holiday relaxation before the business of the New Year storms in.
We found, in 2016, aspects of some of our more extreme scenario narratives coming true. Not that we ever created a “President Donald Trump” scenario per se. (It’s always risky to do scenario planning around a presidential election outcome.) But for years we’ve insisted that our scenario planning clients explore the real – even if remote sounding at the time – possibility of a global, populist backlash against the liberal world order. The year now ending, with the Brexit vote, the Trump election and populist, anti-immigrant rumblings sounding across Western Europe, marks what could be a long-term shift away from globalization. If so, the implications for global security arrangements, economic relations, supply chains, living standards and multilateral progress on critical issues like the environment, cannot help but be profound.
True to form, we’re not predicting specific outcomes of current trends. We know from our long scenario-consulting experience that powerful trends of the current moment are, like past performance of a mutual fund, a dubious predictor of what the future will hold. Since the November US election we’ve been intensifying scenario R&D, both to help clients sort through the new, uncertain direction in Washington as well as to help other decision-makers get out from under the current confusion to understand the strategic and competitive implications of powerful technological forces, like artificial intelligence, genomic medicine and, beyond that, quantum computing.
Alternative Futures Work in 2017
FSG’s support for the work of the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) will enter a new phase in 2017. In addition to supporting strategic thinking and strategy implementation, we will be applying the ACGME scenarios to thinking about future requirements for specialty graduate education. The scenarios will be used to gain insights into the future demands for specialized medicine delivery, and that will be one of several inputs into designing new education requirements.
We’ve also initiated scenario-planning work for a large US federal agency, in an exciting new partnership with Evans, Inc., a dynamic consultancy specializing in human-centered change leadership. Early in 2017, FSG will also be initiating scenario-based strategic planning for a technology company that’s concerned about the direction of federal policy and regulatory affairs, as well as new directions in science and technology. Finally, closer to home, we’re applying scenario planning tools to support a New England organization in helping the Rhode Island fishing industry explore and adapt to the challenges of climate change.
While helping our clients anticipate and prepare more effectively for the future we’ll continue to comment and speculate on our blog page on emerging trends and events and what they may mean for consumers, citizens, and leaders of government and commerce. We look forward to your comments and ideas. See you on the watchtower.
The principals of FSG wish our clients, partners, associates and friends a joyful and peaceful holiday season, and a successful and rewarding New Year.