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How to visualize to plan for the future

IbyIMD+ Published 23 August 2021 in Brain circuits • 3 min read

If the past year and a half has taught us anything, it’s that we cannot possibly anticipate what the world will look like even in the near future. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try shaping the future – the most successful companies in the world do exactly that. Research, however, has shown that people who use the current situation for future planning tend to be overly optimistic. Instead, to help us think a little bit differently it’s better to start in the future, in the unknown, and work backwards.

Create a collage of your desired future

This exercise is inspired by the strategic planning method called “backcasting”.

Backcasting is used in business to challenge the status quo, rethink the way things are done and help come up with fresh ideas to add value in your organization. This method also helps you to identify potential growth opportunities that can ensure long-term differentiation of your business in the future.

The aim here is to start to gain a solid understanding of the current state and then start designing your desirable future. Once you have a clear idea where you would ideally like to be, you can then work backwards to figure out what you need to do today to connect with that vision.

It isn’t important to create an extremely detailed or perfect collage, but it will encourage you to reflect on aspects of your situation today, and what you would like to change for yourself and your business to keep creating value and be successful in the future. Many of us are working differently as a result of the pandemic. Business models and offices themselves have changed. Which parts of this do you want to keep? What do you hope evolves? Now think about what action you need to take today to start making that happen.

This is an exercise you can do individually, or you can ask your entire team to participate – or both. If you choose to involve your team members, this can be a very good way to share your ideas in a visual way that can trigger good conversations. You may be surprised at some of the creative ideas and motivation that start coming out of the session.



Louise Muhdi

Louise Muhdi

Affiliate Professor of Innovation and Strategy at IMD

Louise Muhdi is Affiliate Professor of Innovation and Strategy. She helps organizations adapt to uncertain and fast-changing business environments, drive innovation and growth, and sustain value creation for the long term. She has an MSc in biology and a PhD in technology and innovation management from ETH Zürich, Switzerland. Prior to joining IMD in 2019, Muhdi was Head of Innovation Strategy and Portfolio for Global Science and Technology at Givaudan International where she developed the global innovation strategy and implemented multiple strategic initiatives to drive short, mid, and long-term growth. She also spent several years in the pharmaceutical industry.

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