The signs of a pandemic have been visible for a long time and yet corona took the entire world by surprise. In many companies, the crisis has raised the need to prepare for change and build their own and shared future resilience. But what does it mean and how does it happen? Futurist Sanna Ketonen-Oksi explains this.

 The speed and inevitability of change has been known for a long time and mega trends, such as climate change and urbanization, are already part of the regular news. However, corona awakened us to the reality of change: it is not enough to be aware, we must also act in such a way that the unfavourable trends are cut off and that the future becomes what we want.

Companies are also involved in building the future. Foresight has long been used in the corporate world as well to build future- and vision-proof strategies that appear below the line. Pioneering companies not only react to change, but also know how to read it, influence it and build a market that suits them. This generates euros and a positive change. The size of the company does not matter.

– The more widely one sees and understands the change in the operating environment outside one’s own business, the easier it is to be able to prepare for the change and increase resilience, i.e. to adapt to and cope with future changes – preferably to flourish, says futurist Sanna Ketonen-Oksi.


Future able company understands the big picture

The key to building future ability is to question one’s own thinking. A good starting point is to think about your own radar: what kind of news you follow, what kind of people you follow, where you look for information, what do you think about things. Many business leaders do follow their time, but only pick up changes, ideas and experts in their own field. In this case, your own thoughts become repeatedly reinforced, but a lot of important things are not seen and understood.

Each company is inevitably part of a global context and common challenges. In the future, the skills needed by companies will also be related to solving these challenges. If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem. For companies, this is a matter of fate.

– We are all connected to each other and the market is tied to a global context. In addition to the economy, ecological, social and cultural change must also be considered. This requires a conscious challenging and expansion of one’s own thinking, as in many cases these things seem somewhat distant. Very often in the corporate world, things are still thought of from the perspective of one’s own industry, business and substance. Let’s ignore the big picture, because we think it does not apply to us, at least right now, Ketonen-Oksi points out.

Ketonen-Oksi also recommends increasing our own understanding of the changing relationship between technology and man, as it is fast becoming part of our daily lives. It is important to learn to utilize devices and data in a more people-oriented way. In a way that they benefit people and help us feel better. In addition, the key competence for the future is the ability to operate in different networks, ecosystems and platforms.

– The corona crisis has shown very concretely that, in addition to luck, those who have the most courage, networks and multidisciplinary skills linked together and who also spend their time trying to understand the change in the operating environment in the long-run do best.


Employees are the company’s future asset

Global challenges and the technological revolution affect not only each other, but also working life. Companies need to think in a new, open-minded way about what kind of strategic capabilities are needed and how the change in values is reflected in the way we work. The future brings many opportunities, but also risks and confrontations. However, they should not be feared, as it is through employees that it is possible to ventilate dusty thought patterns.

– Companies are still very homogeneous in their recruitment and often recruit employees who reinforce their own ideas. However, it is heterogeneity that would bring about a welcome but safe questioning and strengthen the company’s future ability, Sanna Ketonen-Oksi reminds.

According to Ketonen-Oksi, there is no need to be flexible about the company’s values, but otherwise it is worth to look for a challenge to existing thinking.

– There should be the ability and courage to recruit people from different backgrounds. And I do not just mean different educational backgrounds, but different cultural backgrounds and otherwise just those thinking differently. Companies want to look for similarities in these things, even though recruitment would be a perfect opportunity to look at things from different perspectives and strengthen in-house expertise.

Involving employees in change is essential anyway. Few companies utilize the expertise of their personnel as extensively as possible. For example, traditional PESTE analysis is a good and easy method to awaken personnel skills and seek information from different perspectives. At the same time, it will be checked whether we approach the issue at hand through ingrained ideas or whether there is room to broaden the perspective.

– It is important to involve the personnel, for example, in the preparation of strategy from the very beginning. Management often prepares things with each other and communicates them at a personnel meeting. If change is to be implemented in practice, this is not enough at all, but systematic and long-term cooperation and common intent are required, says Ketonen-Oksi.

Giving the employee the opportunity to understand what kind of skills and competencies are needed from the strategy perspective also creates better motivation for developing their own competencies.

– Future ability is a systematic structure and process, but equally a way of thinking and leading the development of human competence. It must have a sensible long-term and short-term time span for action.


Stop looking at your feet and the next quarter

This is also where the time span of future thinking comes in: one must understand history and the present in order to understand the future. At the same time, however, one must break one’s own thinking, taking advantage of the past and learning from it. What should be done so that we can face the future of the ideal, how can we mitigate the risks associated with it, what measures are needed to achieve it?

The desired future cannot be a locked-in objective, but must have the ability to be flexible and change the desired vision of the future, and therefore the strategy whenever information accumulates and the environment changes. The most important thing is to keep your gaze far enough so as not to stray to stare at your feet and take the wrong steps.

– If a company does not have enough prospects ahead, it will only focus on earning its next euro. This can actually be devastating to the business in the long-run, Ketonen-Oksi concludes.

This article has been published as part of the Helsinki-Uusimaa Regional Council
crisis-funded Business pool project.

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