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CLIENTS ASK:


How can we develop a shared vision for our fast-growing community that everyone - urban and rural - can get behind?

Clients: Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce, Asheville Buncombe County Economic Development Coalition, and Buncombe County

Products: AVL Greater plan, AVL 5×5 2025 economic development plan, and a strategic plan for the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners

Asheville is one of the most popular, fast-growing regions in the country. It has attracted big brands like Sierra Nevada Brewing and has a dynamic startup community. But the Asheville-Buncombe County region needed a shared vision for its future, one that everyone had a voice in. How can foresight help the region's residents and leaders coalesce around a shared vision?

This wasn’t one project, it turned into three dynamic projects, all future-focused and reinforcing:

  1. A regional vision, AVL Greater, built with an eye for the future and an ear for all residents’ input, spearheaded by Kit Cramer of the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce;

  2. A 5-year economic development strategy, AVL 5X5, which was inspired by AVL Greater and is the first economic development plan in the United States to declare a values-based approach to development - to balance economic development with its impact on people and the planet

  3. A 5-year county strategic plan crafted by Commissioners with support from the staff, based on future trends used by AVL Greater.

Gathering of people attending the roll out of the new plan

NGC services provided:

  • Sensing: Local participants played “The Big Sort,” a tabletop card game designed by NGC. The game’s purpose is to engage participants in discussing and prioritizing STEEP trends (Society, Technology, Economy, Environment, and Politics) most likely to impact Greater Asheville by 2040. NGC compiled the trends research, designed the game, worked with local leaders to choose an exciting venue, and facilitated the day-long workshop which resulted in a compiled list of the “Top Trends” facing the region sorted by impact, certainty, and readiness. The community also weighed in on top trends in the shareholder engagement phase.

  • Imagining: Small, diverse teams designed challenging, visionary, and expectable scenarios for the region through 2040 based on the Top Trends identified in the previous phase. NGC designed the scenario prompts, taught the scenario fundamentals, created the workbook and team materials, and facilitated the session. After all teams completed and shared their scenarios, participants zeroed-in on what should happen to pursue a preferred future. These strategies make sense in multiple futures, increase Greater Asheville’s resilience, and help the area not just survive but thrive in a range of circumstances.

  • Defining: In this phase, participants answered the following questions: For each of these strategies, what would surprising success look like by 2040? How will a person in 2040 know that Greater Asheville has been successful? The top vote-getters were turned over to the community for their input.

  • Doing: When the plan is done, the real work starts. In this phase, key stakeholders used the Strategic Doing approach to start taking action on major strategies. Participants identified high-impact pilot projects that can help Greater Asheville immediately build momentum for the future and vision it has created.

  • Futures Literacy: NGC met with any Chamber members or interested organizations who wanted to know more about how to apply foresight to their organization. Leaders who leveraged this opportunity represent real estate, local government, health care, education, culture, nonprofits, utilities, building/construction, small business development, and more.

Related:

FROM CLARK DUNCAN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF THE ASHEVILLE-BUNCOMBE COUNTY ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT COALITION:

“The EDC was recently awarded a $365k grant from the North Carolina Golden Leaf Foundation funding 1.5 FTE resources to advance our Equity Employer Partnership in collaboration with Asheville Housing Authority, Sparc Foundation, and Community Action Opportunities. So exciting to see the early equity commitments of the 5x5 (plan) being funded and germinating so soon. The values and framework of the AVL Greater plan and 5x5 documents have been immensely valuable as we navigate the dual crises of the pandemic and the BLM reckoning. Thank you.”

Q: Why did it matter to think about the long-range future we want for Asheville-Buncombe County?

Clark: Future-oriented thinking immediately starts from a place of common ground. No matter how polarized society is – we will share the future and live with the outcomes.

Q: Why did it matter to work on the future together, regionally? Public and private and nonprofit sectors, startups and established companies, youngsters and experienced folks?

Clark: Crises forge commonality of purpose. We had the advantage in Buncombe County of recently going through the cross-sector foresight work together so we were prepared to tackle the pandemic day 1. The organizational relationships were in place – were tested and grew stronger.

How can we create a future we want, not just inherit a future we’ll get?

Client: Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce

Product: Velocity 2040 Report

Chattanooga and Hamilton County have a lot going for them. The mountains, the natural beauty, high-speed internet going to every home through their visionary utility provider. How could local leaders come together and leverage their momentum? “We want to make the future we want, not just hope for the best,” said one local leader. Christy Gillenwater, CEO of the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce convened a broad cross-section of leaders, activists, and young professionals to complete a strategic foresight process.

NGC services provided:

  1. Sensing: Local participants played “The Big Sort,” a tabletop game designed by NGC. The game’s purpose is to engage participants in discussing and prioritizing STEEP trends (Society, Technology, Economy, Environment, and Politics) most likely to impact the Chattanooga and Hamilton County area by 2040. NGC compiled the trends research, designed the game, worked with local leaders to choose an exciting venue, and facilitated the day-long workshop which resulted in a compiled list of the “Top Trends” facing the region sorted by impact, certainty, and readiness.

  2. Imagining: Small, diverse teams designed four alternative scenarios for the region through 2040 based on the Top Trends identified in the previous phase. NGC designed the scenario prompts, taught the scenario fundamentals, created the workbook and team materials, and facilitated the session. After all teams completed and shared their scenarios, participants zeroed-in on what should happen to pursue a preferred future. These strategies make sense in multiple futures, increase the area’s resilience, and help the Chattanooga and Hamilton County area not just survive but thrive in a range of circumstances.

  3. Defining: In this phase, participants answered the following questions: For each of these strategic directions, what would surprising success look like by 2040? How will a person in 2040 know that the Chattanooga and Hamilton County area has been successful?

  4. Doing: When the plan is done, the real work starts. In this phase, key stakeholders used the Strategic Doing approach to start taking action on major strategies. Participants identified high-impact pilot projects that can help the Chattanooga and Hamilton County area immediately build momentum for the future and vision it has created.

Related:

Velocity 2040 plan cover projected onto a screen, showing photos of various residents

How well does our 2040 plan hold up against the pandemic, Black Lives Matter, and the economic reset? What do we need to change? What do we need to speed up, or let go? What’s possible now, that wasn’t before?

Client: Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce, Urban League of Nebraska, United Way of the Midlands, and Latino Center of the Midlands

Product: Greater Omaha 2040 Remix - Revisiting the 2040 Vision and Plan to meet the moment of the “Triple Pandemic.” A media brief version is available here.

With the onset of the economic, health and social crises of 2020, Greater Omaha community leaders recognized a need to pause and ask these questions about the results of the Greater Omaha 2040 initiative where hundreds of people across the region collaborated to prioritize the trends facing our region and imagine a future vision and course of action. The plan’s three strategies of People, Place, and Prosperity had become a rallying cry for the community, offering direction for an ambitious, shared future.

In this remix project, more than 170 community leaders, invited by the original three partners plus the Latino Center of the Midlands, gathered in virtual focus groups to address these questions in 2020. The results of this initiative did not change the directions of the original 2040 plan and favored intensification and acceleration of ongoing efforts in two key areas. Respondents also noted specific activities within each that would advance them.

NGC services provided:

  • Sensing: Key stakeholders in Omaha’s future completed two rounds of survey questions using both qualitative and quantitative strategies, giving insight into what’s working with Greater Omaha 2040 currently, and where the greatest opportunities are. NGC designed these online surveys using the Delphi study methodology, analyzed the results, and created written summaries. Round No. 1 questions captured a widely divergent view of strategic foresight factors for the Greater Omaha area. Round No 2. summarized the results of Round No. 1 responses and asked respondents to rank each strategic foresight factor as to the probability of occurring and the potential impact each would have.

  • Shareholder Engagement: In a series of online community-wide interactive meetings, residents and leaders of Greater Omaha learned about the objectives of this project, received an introduction to each survey and invitation to complete it, as well as learned about the survey findings and discussed next steps for action.

Related:

What should local government pay attention to today, to be ready for what's coming?

Client: Alliance for Innovation

Product: The Next Big Things

The report provides detailed information on the “Four Forces” model of scenario development and 44 trends, a summary of four plausible scenarios for communities, basic, intermediate, and transformative solutions you can consider, along with tools to put The Next Big Things to work in your community.

NGC services provided:

  • Sensing: NGC conducted a Delphi Panel, composed of representatives from the private sector, nonprofit professionals, city and county leaders, and university scholars, to determine local government’s possible futures. NGC also compiled research on STEEP trends (Society, Technology, Economy, Environment, and Politics) shaping local governments across the US. Additionally, NGC conducted an exhaustive literature scan to determine what else was being written and studied regarding the future of local government.

  • Imagining: NGC led a team of experienced and emerging local government leaders as well as international architects, futurists, and innovators to develop scenarios for the future of communities. NGC then used the scenarios to identify and decide what should happen to pursue a preferred future. This set of strategies make sense in multiple futures, increase resilience, and help communities not just survive but thrive in a range of circumstances.

Related:

Group of people hanging trend cards on a wide wall, ordered by readiness score

How can we anticipate and respond to the future of biking?

Client: Trek Bikes

Product: Strategic Foresight Workshop for Trek’s Leadership Seminar

What’s the future of biking? NGC provided a two-day workshop at Trek’s Leadership Seminar, which is designed to give Trek’s up-and-coming leaders exposure to the issues affecting Trek’s future and to help them develop the management and leadership skills to be more effective in their present roles, and in possible future leadership roles.

NGC services provided:

  • Sensing: On the first day of the workshop participants played “The Big Sort,” a tabletop card game designed by NGC. The game’s purpose is to engage participants in discussing and prioritizing STEEP trends (Society, Technology, Economy, Environment, and Politics) most likely to impact Trek Bikes by 2036. NGC compiled the trends research and facilitated this workshop which resulted in a compiled list of the “Top Trends” facing the company sorted by impact, certainty, and readiness.

  • Imagining: On the second day, small teams designed alternative scenarios for the company through 2036 based on the Top Trends identified in the previous phase. NGC designed the scenario prompts, taught the scenario fundamentals, created the workbook and team materials, and facilitated the session. After all teams completed and shared their scenarios, participants zeroed-in on what should happen to pursue a preferred future. These strategies make sense in multiple futures, increase Trek Bikes’ resilience, and help the company not just survive but thrive in a range of circumstances.

  • Defining: In this phase, participants answered the following questions: For each of these strategic directions, what would surprising success look like by 2036? How will a person in 2036 know that Trek Bikes has been successful?

  • Futures Literacy: Participants used techniques and methods to anticipate the future, mitigate threats and leverage opportunities, identify key issues that will be important to Trek’s 10- and 20-year future, and convey to Trek’s senior leaders how to address, neutralize or leverage these issues. Participants also learned techniques to think more like a futurist and bring the mindset of strategic foresight to their department’s planning and the company’s long-term future.

What’s the future of investing by 2030?

Client: TD Ameritrade

Product: Big Sort Workshop

What’s the future of investing by 2030? NGC provided a keynote and workshop at the Elite Advisor Summit. This summit is geared towards top-tier Independent Registered Investment Advisors, Third Party Administrators, and key senior executives at TD Ameritrade, which provides investing and trading services for millions of client accounts. 

NGC services provided:

  • Sensing: Participants played “The Big Sort,” a tabletop card game designed by NGC. The game’s purpose is to engage participants in discussing and prioritizing STEEP trends (Society, Technology, Economy, Environment, and Politics) most likely to impact registered investment advisors by 2030. NGC compiled the trends research and facilitated this workshop which resulted in a compiled list of the “Top Trends” sorted by impact, certainty, and readiness.

Group of six people standing in a semi circle working on a future scenario

What's the future of public sector risk pooling?

Client: Association of Governmental Risk Pools (AGRiP)

Product: Framing the Future: A Guide to Strategic Foresight and Foresight Resources

AGRiP sought to sharpen its thought leadership profile with its membership about the future of public risk pools. This includes: strengthening AGRiP’s reputation as the “go to” organization for foresight information within the public entity and pooling industries; creating awareness and respect for foresight’s advantages among AGRiP audiences; preparing AGRiP member pools – including staff and Boards of Directors – for the future (help them be “future ready”); and equipping AGRiP staff and Board of Directors with best-in-class foresight skills and templates, for application at AGRiP and in their own member organizations.

NGC services provided:

  • Sensing: NGC created a deck of “trend cards” and instructions for AGRiP members’ use. This included compiling research on STEEP trends (Society, Technology, Economy, Environment, and Politics).

  • Futures literacy: NGC served as AGRiP’s “Resident Futurist” for two years to help develop futuring content, establish thought leadership, and encourage member pools to contemplate important organizational and environmental influences. This included presenting keynotes and facilitating roundtables, meetings, workshops, and panels to discuss and practice foresight skills and techniques and showcase foresight projects for the AGRiP audience. NGC also developed articles and reports based on the work in this project with AGRiP to serve as member resources and a springboard for other activities.

Related:

"Rebecca’s work exceeded our expectations to educate our members, engage them to be excited about a future-focused planning process, and lay a foundation for their pool-specific work at both a Board and staff level…. [She] is a skilled facilitator who is knowledgeable about the public sector, including risks and issues paramount to managing public resources. Rebecca is savvy in terms of the careful economic, political, and social balance at play in local government entities and pools. In my experience, Rebecca is not a “pro forma" facilitator – she isn't going to ask the same generic questions to a public entity pool that she would to a clothing retail business, or a gas production company. She has preferred facilitation methods and techniques, but Rebecca's strong familiarity with public sector clients, issues, and realities means that she can quickly get into the most meaningful conversations, adeptly sorting discussions into what matters and what doesn't.”

- ANN GERGEN, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, AGRIP​​​

Client: California Joint Powers Insurance Authority (CJPIA)

Product: Foresight Strategic Plan, which summarizes the entire process and presents all of the major materials and deliverables

What's the future of public sector risk pooling in California? CJPIA sought to develop an ambitious and impactful 2030 strategic plan that anticipates the future, so that it can be best positioned for success. The results of the foresight project culminated in a Foresight Strategic Plan, which summarizes the strategic foresight process used and presents all of the major foresight materials and deliverables. CJPIA then transformed this plan into its new strategic plan.

NGC services provided:

  1. Sensing: Participants played “The Big Sort,” a tabletop card game designed by NGC. The game’s purpose is to engage participants in discussing and prioritizing STEEP trends (Society, Technology, Economy, Environment, and Politics) most likely to impact CJPIA by 2030. NGC compiled the trends research and facilitated this workshop which resulted in a compiled list of the “Top Trends” facing CJPIA sorted by impact, certainty, and readiness.

  2. Imagining: Small teams designed alternative scenarios for CJPIA through 2030 based on the Top Trends identified in the previous phase. NGC designed the scenario prompts, taught the scenario fundamentals, created the workbook and team materials, and facilitated the session. After all teams completed and shared their scenarios, participants zeroed-in on what should happen to pursue a preferred future. These strategies make sense in multiple futures, increase CJPIA’s resilience, and help the organization not just survive but thrive in a range of circumstances.

  3. Defining: In this phase, participants answered the following questions: For each of these strategic directions, what would surprising success look like by 2030? How will a person in 2030 know that CJPIA has been successful?

  4. Futures Literacy: CJPIA staff participated in workshops and study sessions facilitated by NGC, to learn the core components of foresight. These included the futurists’ mindset -- how to overcome cognitive bias, separate opinion from fact, and engage “System 2” thinking (reflective, not reactive) for foresight.

"Our organization has thoroughly enjoyed working with Rebecca Ryan and NEXT Generation Consulting. We began with the intent of revising our strategic plan to be more reflective of our desired future. Rebecca helped us recognize that our old strategic plan was rooted in the past, where as our future was dependent upon our looking forward with strategic foresight. As an organization, we have undertaken a systematic exploration of many of the trends affecting our industry, and our organization individually. This exploration has allowed us to identify plausible desired futures, and the sign posts along the way that will guide us toward our desired result. ​Rebecca's energetic and captivating delivery engaged members of our staff and our governing board as we worked through this process. I would highly recommend working with Rebecca and NEXT Generation Consulting to anyone looking toward the future of their organization."

- JON SHULL, CEO, CALIFORNIA JOINT POWERS INSURANCE AUTHORITY

Client: Virginia Risk Sharing Association (VRSA)

Product: Foresight Strategic Plan, which summarizes the entire process and presents all of the major materials and deliverables

What's the future of public sector risk pooling in Virginia? VRSA sought to develop an ambitious and impactful 2030 strategic plan that anticipates the future, so that it can be best positioned for success. The results of the foresight project culminated in a Foresight Strategic Plan, which summarizes the strategic foresight process used and presents all of the major foresight materials and deliverables. VRSA then transformed this plan into its new strategic plan.

NGC services provided:

  • Imagining: Small teams designed challenging, visionary, and expectable scenarios for VRSA through 2030. NGC designed the scenario prompts, taught the scenario fundamentals, created the workbook and team materials, and facilitated the session. After all teams completed and shared their scenarios, participants zeroed-in on what should happen to pursue a preferred future. These strategies make sense in multiple futures, increase VRSA’s resilience, and help the organization not just survive but thrive in a range of circumstances.

  • Defining: In this phase, participants answered the following questions: For each of these strategic directions, what would surprising success look like by 2030? How will a person in 2030 know that VRSA has been successful?

  • Futures Literacy: Participants learned techniques and methods to anticipate the future, identify key issues that will be important to VRSA’s future, and think like a futurist.

“This was a daunting process, but the result is one of the best if not the best plan we’ve ever had.”

- VRSA SENIOR STAFF MEMBER

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