Learning from the Future

Learning from the Future

In times of great uncertainty, it’s difficult to formulate strategies. Leaders can’t draw on experience to address developments no one has ever seen before. Yet the decisions they make now could have ramifications for decades.

The practice of strategic foresight offers a solution. Its aim is not to predict the future but to help organizations envision multiple futures in ways that enable them to sense and adapt to change. Its most recognizable tool is scenario planning. To use it well, organizations must imagine a variety of futures, identify strategies that are needed across them, and begin implementing those strategies now. But one-off exercises are not enough: Leaders must institutionalize that process, building a dynamic link between thinking about the future and taking action in the present.

“What Is the Next Normal Going to Look Like?”

In this roundtable discussion, HBR’s editor in chief, Adi Ignatius, leads a conversation among five top executives: the fashion mogul Tory Burch; Geoff Martha, of Medtronic; Nancy McKinstry, who heads the professional information services firm Wolters Kluwer; Chuck Robbins, of Cisco Systems; and Kevin Sneader, of McKinsey & Company. These executives discuss leadership during the Covid-19 pandemic, how the crisis has affected their companies, and how they are responding. They also speculate on what the future might hold for business: more reliance on digital technology, a new relationship with government, and fresh thinking about social inequality, environmental sustainability, and the delivery of health care.

Helping Your Team Heal

The author collaborated with Elisabeth Kübler-Ross on the book On Grief and Grieving, which adapted the five stages of grief from her landmark work in the late 1960s on the five stages of dying: denial, anger, bargaining, sadness, and acceptance. He has since come to believe that grief has a sixth stage—meaning—which can take many forms: remembering the joy that someone or something gave; rituals of remembrance; gratitude; or turning the loss into something positive for others.

In this article Kessler advises leaders, managers, and organizations to recognize that people may be experiencing different kinds of grief and to treat them accordingly.

The complete Spotlight package is available in a single reprint.

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