At Shapiro+Raj, we recognize the goal of future-casting is not to predict a single future, but rather understand potential scenarios to guide strategic planning. Our approach to future casting work is designed to look for the intersection of possible + probable futures that are strategically relevant to define and create plans for.
Critically, we also recognize the future is not created by a single party. A complex web of stakeholders will influence and shape the market realities of tomorrow. Consider the Blind Men and the Elephant analogy – each person touches just one part of the elephant, one believing he is touching a rope (the tail), another a spear (the tusk) and another a wall (the side), etc. In the same way, each stakeholder may provide a glimpse into the future, but only by putting it all together are we able to recognize the true potential futures (the whole elephant).
These core tenants shape the Future-Casting Roundtable approach. Each Roundtable discussion is composed of diverse viewpoints – for example different physician specialties that engage on the same condition, or a network of intermediaries / professionals in a value chain. The Roundtables’ primary role is to pressure-test hypotheses, co-create a range of relevant future scenarios, and provide perspective on the dynamics of the marketplace.
To achieve this, within each Roundtable we tap into several future-casting inspired techniques:
- Look back to see forward: Explore past shifts in the marketplace. Exploring cause and effect as well as what could have gone differently and why.
- Think laterally: We leverage analogies and analogs – both near in and far out – to inspire new thinking and ensure we expose all possibilities.
- Embrace debate: Throughout, we intentionally spark debate. Roundtable participants review stimuli – e.g., patient profiles, hypothesized ‘what-if’ scenarios, etc. – and deliberate on each.
The benefits of this approach include:
- Observed insight into marketplace dynamics: We not only hear how the stakeholders interact today and, in the future, but we also literally observe the dynamics between stakeholder types – which stakeholders are more vocal, on what topics is each stakeholder the lead voice, what power dynamics seem to be at play?
- Enhanced clarity in highly uncertain situations: Group setting and interaction is well-suited to questions with more uncertainty, allowing the group to co-create and build together.
- Fully integrated view of the probable future(s): Rather than interview each stakeholder type individually and attempt to piece together a vision of the future, this approach ensures we achieve the full, integrated picture. Moreover, we understand the areas of convergence and divergence among stakeholders on the vision for the future – revealing opportunities to shape the marketplace towards certain outcomes.
Here is an example of a Future-Casting Roundtable in action with one of our pharma clients.
Many types of physicians play specific, defined roles in treatment decision-making for a condition. The introduction of our client’s treatment would require a new specialty who previously played a small role, if any, to join the conversation sooner. This would fundamentally shake up the treatment landscape in a meaningful way, posing big questions like:
- Who will be the new, primary decision maker at each point?
- What will be the expectations of that role?
- How will treatment logistics work?
We knew our client needed a clear picture of potential futures – empowering them to guide the market towards the future scenario that would be best suited for the success of their treatment. To achieve this, we leveraged S+R’s Future-Casting Roundtable method.
For each Roundtable session, we brought together five physician types – one from each specialty that would be relevant in the future treatment landscape. In these sessions, the group discussed their experiences in treatment today and charted together how their roles and treatment decisions could change in the future. Specific data scenarios as well as role-plays illuminated the areas convergence and divergence in thought, as well as what would need to be true for each potential future to come to be. Additionally, the groups collaborated on ways the specialties could better work together in any of the future scenarios – revealing opportunities for intervention and support by our client.
Ultimately, the insights gathered through S+R’s Future-Casting Roundtable revealed which physician specialties would be blockers vs. enablers in creating an advantageous future treatment landscape. This empowered our client to prioritize the right physician specialties to connect with, as well as guidance on what to say and how to say it. This set up the team to actively shape the future, rather than simply react as the marketplace shifted.
Connect with us at [email protected] to learn more about S+R’s Future-Casting Roundtable and how it can help you shape, not just respond, to the future for your business and brands.