Finding time for the future

by Apadmi|Tue Feb 14 2023

Finding time for the future event

Looking forward is an essential thing to do for any business, but how can we be better at it? Here’s how…

Trying to carve out just one day a year for planning can be hard to fit into busy schedules.

The one time when all organisations do plan is for the annual budget. But it’s often inaccurate and far from where you end up at the end of the year. But it doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom.

“The skill of looking at the future and seeing what’s coming next is critical for anybody with any level of leadership in business, and yet we’re absolutely terrible at it,” says applied Futurist Tom Cheesewright.

So we took some time with Tom and a panel of business leaders from TalkTalk, Barnardo's and Domino’s to look at ways to make that easier and why it’s important at our Finding time for the future event.

Here’s what we learned.

Faster further

Technology means businesses are able to move faster than ever before. Digital processes have stripped out friction which makes for faster growth and development. But more speed means you need to be able to see further down the road. So being able to look as far as we can has never been more important.

Have a vision

Looking into the future requires a vision. You have to know where you’re going and plan for the eventualities that could help or hinder you getting there. And then you have to effectively communicate it so people will come with you - think ‘I have a dream’ or ‘Just do it.’

“Customer understanding is really important for us,” says Denise Maskew, head of digital products at TalkTalk, which is rolling out fibre to the home broadband services. “When we talk about digital products at TalkTalk, customers will ask why do I need this faster product, why do I need to have an installation into my house. So the education piece is a top priority.”

Take risks

Forward thinking businesses are the ones which are taking more of a risk by betting on the future, but not without doing their homework. You have to create the processes and the capacity to do the thinking and then have the confidence to leap and avoid the risk of falling behind the competition. Take some risks to avoid the risk. 

“I think it’s about having an understanding of where the capacity sits inside a day-to-day team to think about the future and what they have to do to get that message heard,” says Stuart Jones, head of digital products at Domino’s. “It’s about having the confidence and I’d love to think that confidence doesn’t have to only exist in a big consultancy.”


Be mercenary by staying on top of trends (both positive and negative) and always focus on what’s most relevant to your business. A good way to approach this is to ignore everything which isn’t capable of either doubling or halving your business in the next year.

Zoom in, but look up at the same time

Broader trends are important, but you have to zoom in on them to figure out how they will impact your business, your people, your supply chain and your customers.

And while you’re focusing on those, you also need to remember to use the rule of adjacency. Look at the companies and the sectors next to your own and see what’s impacting those businesses and whether the threats or opportunities are transferable.

Context, commitment, culture

As well as thinking about how much time you should be asking teams to look into the future, you also have to think about appropriateness and context.

Phil Neilson, head of emerging technology and continual improvement at Barnardo's says: “We have to balance the appropriateness of what the longer term future might look like for Barnardo's, with what the future might look like in the real world. You can be asking people to think about what things are going to look like in two years’ time and they can’t even get past the next two days. Appropriately looking at the future is not a five year view, it’s a three year, two year and possibly even a one year view.”

Finally, there has to be a commitment to carving out the headspace to look forward, and a big part of that is creating a culture which supports and nurtures the need to plan better.

“It’s such an incredible innovation practice if you’ve built a culture inside your organisation where people are willing to bring new ideas forward,” says Tom. “Where you’ve got a little bit of money to prototype the ideas, and then you’ve got board level commitment to approve and then move forward. You’ll then constantly be moving slowly in the right direction.”

If you missed the event, catch up below.

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