Predicting the Future, Thinking Strategically

25 Nov

What is strategy? Strategy can mean many subtle things to different people and tasks depending on the context. But all strategy involves currently being at point A, and then aiming to be at point B some time in the future. In certain contexts this can mean a single person surviving a single night. In other contexts it can involve improving the quality of life for older people within three years across a local area. And in another context it can mean the expansion of a company into another country within twelve months. Strategies involve forecasting, an expectation of the future, and the accompanying potential risks. And strategies involve a plan of how to move forward, whilst overcoming barriers and risks based on available resources. With that in mind, below are two brief examinations of what makes effective strategic thinking.

Sir Lawrence Freedman (2013), in his colossal exploration of strategy, stretching from primate behaviour to ancient Greece to executive boardrooms offers an explanation of strategy. Strategy is the means to lever negative situations to your advantage. Phil Tetlock and Dan Gardner (2015), in summary of their huge forecasting study, identify that outstanding forecasters treat initial beliefs in the following way

“beliefs are hypothesis to be tested, not treasures to be protected”

The connection between Freedman and Tetlock et al is that strategy and prediction need to be adaptable. Expectancies of the future are always going to be violated in some way or at some point. So if your predictions are treated as testable hypothesis, then there is a far greater chance of levering negative situations in your favour.

Reading

Tetlock, P. E. & Gardner, D. (2015). Superforecasting: The Art and Science of Prediction. New York: Crown

Freedman, L. (2013) Strategy: A History. OUP USA

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