“Every action involves some view about the future – as we expect it to be, or as we desire it to be, or as we fear it may be. If our image of the future were different, the decisions of today would be different. If our expectations are inaccurate, our decisions are likely to be faulty. If our vision is inspiring, it will impel us to action. If our collective vision arouses no enthusiasm, of if there is no commonly held image of what is worth striving for, our society will lack motivation and direction.
– Willis Harman, An incomplete guide to the future
Design Farm’s strategy service focuses on solidifying this vision by defining your “North Star”. This North Star represents the future service, venture, product, business unit or new business that you should be aiming for in the medium to long term. At Design Farm we work with you to understand and evaluate future opportunities, and then turn these findings into your North Star.
Understanding the landscape
There are three horizons that organisations should keep in view when determining their north star: the short, medium and long term. We consider the short term to broadly be within 12 months, medium term 12-24 months and long term between 3-5 years. These timings will however depend on the specific nature of your industry and the size and nature of investments required.
The short term view, whilst important, should not be your sole focus. Strategy fails when it is based on a short term view. When your goal for the future is defined only by competing on industry trends and assumed knowledge, you are likely to remain in competitive and saturated markets as everyone draws on similar information. However in the same way, maintaining just a long term view without an understanding of the short and medium term will make it challenging to execute your vision and move towards your North Star.
Planning your journey
At Design Farm we work to shift your thinking to consider a wider range of factors that are likely to redefine how your industry works and what customers consider valuable. This process starts with mapping you and your industry’s current orientation. We then use strategic foresight to understand the potential futures for your organisation and industry. Using this understanding of the orientation of your business and industry, we create a North Star that is based on evidence and creativity that will set you on a path to ongoing success. Your north star could be a range of things and encapsulates the products, services, mindsets and capabilities that represent the immediate opportunities we can take towards the next evolution of your business.
So now I know where I’m going, how do I get there?
Creating, executing and maintaining your journey towards your north star requires a range of innovation mindsets. We see these as being three different categories that match to the three different horizons discussed before.
For the long term view there are Pioneers. Pioneers are explorers, creating a map in previously uncharted territory. They lay down the first tracks and report back about whether others should follow.
Settlers relate to the medium term view, they follow the pioneers and are adaptable and resilient, making them able to create productive systems in unfamiliar territory.
The short term experts are the town planners, who focus on ensuring that the needs of the community are in the right place, ideally avoiding known pitfalls. They are the ones who understand the terrain inside and out, and refine their plans to get the best possible outcome. If a town planner fails, the entire town is at risk.
So where does Design Farm come in?
At Design Farm we bring a pioneer and settlers mindset to help you find new places to settle and grow. Initially this requires investigating to understand the many potential futures of your industry and organisation and plotting a course for how to get there. This is where the Pioneers mindset is most useful. During this stage we work with you to produce artefacts to communicate strategic foresight, in the form of maps, plans and signals that identify the path ahead and how you should approach it.
Once we have completed this investigation stage we move on to establishing where the settlers get involved. During this part of the journey we will work with you to co-develop practical and bold ideas and concepts to drive your business forward. This could be the design and development of products, services, capabilities or ventures, as well as governance methods to ensure you do so sustainably.
The final stage of the journey is maintenance, and this is where the town planners are most effective. At Design Farm we focus on the previous two stages, however we will often come into contact with parts of the business focused on town planning initiatives. Maintaining is the core skill set of continuous improvement that will extend the lifecycle of your business and requires alignment with your north star to ensure success.
Defining your North Star will give purpose and direction to your company and its people. At Design Farm we will work with you to define your North Star, as well as the initiatives you need to undertake in order to build towards it.