In a transformative process we want to be informed by and act upon insights from a desired future. A co-owned vision story is one of the most effective ways of engaging stakeholders, building ownership, and formulate the elements of a desired future.
Envisioning a new future is a method to create a shared vision story that drives and informs transformation. The process starts by co-creating a description of a desired future, the vision, and then working backwards (called backcasting), to identify possible actions and interventions that will bridge the present and the desired future.
The vision story is not the same as setting goals and objectives based on how we understand the situation and projections from today. In particular, we regard the desired future as a dynamic situation, rather than an end state, and we look for emerging patterns rather than prescribed solutions.
The direction set by a vision story replaces the goals and objectives of a traditional strategy process.
The three horizon model
A vision story should have a timeline of at least 10 years into the future. The scope allows the stakeholders to consider what interventions (actions) that can drive transformation towards the desired future.
Inspired by the “Three Horizons Model” (Sharpe & Hodgeson, 2006), we have further developed the model as a tool for addressing the present with the future in mind.
In the model above, the X-axis represents time, and the the Y-axis represents level of activity and investment. The three curves show paths towards different futures, guided by H1: Business as usual, H2: Disruptive innovation, or H3: Regenerative future.
The model is useful to map out the leverage points and interventions that can support systemic transformation towards a regenerative future. This type of backcasting reminds stakeholders that the there are alternative outcomes that depend on collective decisions and interventions.
The model supports four necessary aspects of the vision story:
– a co-ordinated way of managing innovation
– a way of creating successful interventions
– a way of dealing with uncertainty
– a way of seeing the future in the present