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In the current business environment, which is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA), enterprises need to strategize not only to remain competitive and profitable but be resilient to overcome potential predictable and unpredictable threats. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic is one such unanticipated occurrence, which besides having serious implications for public health has significantly impacted businesses in almost all sectors. As reported in the APO Productivity Databook 2020, the negative impact of the pandemic on economies was greater than that of the global financial crisis, challenging businesses, creating unemployment, hurting the financial sector, and jeopardizing asset markets. With the pandemic continuing, there is a need to shift the focus to business continuity, forecasting emerging trends, and being future ready.
To deal with VUCA conditions, enterprises need tools and methodologies to respond to future possibilities. The traditional way is to linearly extrapolate current trends without considering all factors, which could lead to incorrect decisions. Considering volatility and uncertainties, a paradigm shift is required to strengthen enterprises’ response, from forecasting/planning to looking at a range of scenarios under potential uncertainties.
Foresight techniques are designed to address these issues, enabling effective policymaking and strategy formulation within organizations to mitigate potential adverse effects. Those techniques include horizon scanning, problem framing, scenario planning, visualizing barriers, and other futurethinking techniques.
The APO has recognized foresight as a tool to address emerging trends, disruptive global changes, and an uncertain future. Various capacity-building initiatives on strategic foresight for public-sector organizations, including a self-learning e-course, training of trainers, workshops, and publication of a trainers’ manual, have been undertaken. This workshop aims to expand the concept of strategic foresight to SMEs and enhance the capability of participants in guiding businesses to become agile and identify new challenges and opportunities generated by events like the COVID-19 pandemic.
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