Strategic thinking in an age of uncertainty

AT Kearney asked executives about strategy formulation failures. Most complained that it is an insufficiently inspired, unrealistic, impractical, and detached process due to: lack of understanding of future trends (88%), little understanding of internal capabilities (87%), too much top-down approach (84%), not enough logical thinking (84%). Are you ready for the emerging changes below? We hope so!

What is changing?


  • Conventional approaches to business planning and strategy will leave many businesses stranded at a competitive disadvantage.
  • Anticipating the future and shaping it ahead of rivals is the nextcompetitive advantage.
  • Business areas with low levels of investment and expertise could be left ill-prepared for anticipated demand in the period of recovery.
  • Scenario planning will be not unusual but a social technology that will be part of the “collective intelligence” of the future.
  • Scenarios will be used more alongside other strategy work as uncertainty increases.
  • Structures will become looser as society continues to become more informal and institutions more horizontal in the way they work.


  • Companies will begin formulating strategies for particular cities.
  • Businesses will need to be particularly responsive to customers.
  • Emerging developments, new business models and disruptive technologies could impact society, business, industries and government.

Knowledge gathering

  • Creating open access data will drive innovation around planning.
  • There will be unparalleled collaboration, productivity and innovation.
  • Interdisciplinary research and innovation activities will provide value systems that inspire humans to achieve results not thought to be possible today.
  • Enhanced competence and capability of knowledge-workers will increase flexibility and quality.
  • Human capability and machine intelligence will be integrated within strategic systems that can achieve maximum efficiency and response.
  • Knowledge will stand alongside law, power and money as one of the most vital corporate resources.



  • Companies who broaden their perspective on strategy will reduce risk and increase opportunity.
  • Style of management, incentive structures and approach to planning are all designed to minimise risk and maximise efficiency will inevitably be hostile to innovation.
  • Companies solving the problem of resource constraints will have an advantage.
  • Countries and organizations will need to consider a new strategic vision to address growing resource scarcity, climate change and changes in the broader socio-economic environment.


  • Marketers (and strategists) will need to be smarter in harnessing and leveraging data.
  • Three-quarters (77%) of businesses will have clear processes for identifying new, emerging risks and clear crisis management procedures in place.
  • Providing the ability to conduct user research and testing via mobile devices will result in better design decisions.
  • Intelligence capabilities will be improved to build predictive capabilities around business markets and forecasts for budgeting and strategic planning debates.
  • Multiple forms of market intelligence will include integration of macroeconomic developments, regional regulatory changes, supply and demand impacts.


  • Consumer preferences have shifted such that pumping more money into fixing old infrastructure will have no lasting effect beyond propping up the old, unsustainable economy and adding to deficits.
  • Organisations should not assume that devoting a certain amount of effort to engaging the workforce will automatically result in a similar amount of increased engagement and productivity.
  • Goals formed in the future will not be as likely to emphasize extraordinary growth as they do today.
  • Market participants will need to work together to attract, retain and develop the best talent from the widest possible talent pool.
  • In the long run industry profitability will depend on innovativeplanning, investment, and adaptation to stabilize inputs.


  • Organizations will need to develop a scenario-based planning process to optimize the benefits from changes in the landscape.
  • Preparing for the future will require organizations to embed scenario-based planning and budgeting for small investments to pilot and learn new capabilities.
  • Engaging in more strategic scenario planning will help mitigate the risks of commodity price volatility, regulatory uncertainty and water/energy availability.


  • Information technology will allow for better data gathering, analysis, planning.
  • Learning how to use “big data” and analytics will play a crucial role.
  • Research managers will be required to understand the complete value chain of client and how the data is flowing in the value chain.

Learn more
To find the sources and more resources on Shaping Tomorrow about the future of strategic thinking some of which were used in this Trend Alert. View: Strategic thinking in an age of uncertainty.

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