The Association of Finnish Technical Traders, that represents the interests of more than 350 companies in technical trade, undertook a strategy renewal project this year. A key objective was to build the new strategy on a profound understanding of future trends and drivers of change, how those will be transforming society at large, and how the changes will be impacting customers as well as the association’s member companies.
“A key aim was to engage the member companies to think broadly about drivers of change,” said Markku Uitto, Managing Director of The Association of Finnish Technical Traders.
To support the strategic planning process, the association chose to work with consulting firm Talent Vectia. Based on Talent Vectia’s recommendation, the Futures Platform digital foresight tool and working method was utilized as a central part of the process. Futures Platform helps think about possible futures.
The Futures Platform tool contains brief descriptions of many phenomena that will be shaping the future, phenomena such as artificial intelligence, platform economy, climate change and many more. Futures Platform foresight analysts have created a database of more than 300 phenomena that are key drivers of societal change. The Futures Platform online tool allows a group of people to work together to prioritize key drivers of future change that must be considered.
Futures Platform enabled a productive way to exchange points of view about the future.
”The discussions were exceptionally fruitful and engaging. These discussions among executives from different companies concerning the future of the whole industry also made us realize new things related to each of our own company strategies,” said Markku Hämäläinen, Group CEO of Otto Brandt Ab, and a Member of the Board of the Association of Technical Traders.
In the second phase of the project the new strategy for the industry association was created. The previously identified future opportunities and risks were considered. The heterogeneity of the member companies set an additional level of challenge, as their needs and expectations for the industry association naturally vary.
”We feel satisfied with the outcome. We believe we certainly got much further than we would have gotten on our own, only among the association and its member companies”, Markku Hämäläinen said.
As part of the new strategy, the industry association is expected to offer more industry foresight to its members than before. A part of the association’s role is to function like a radar that monitors trends, emerging disruptions, and regulatory developments. Naturally the members also wish that the association will make interpretations of what the impacts of change will be for its members.
”The member companies may, for instance, perceive that they lack some competencies that are needed in the changing industry landscape. The association can then explore, what networking possibilities are available to help build the required competencies for the future,” Uitto said.
Posintra is a development company owned by the local business community and municipalities, and its purpose is to support and reinforce the competitiveness and increase the wellbeing of the Eastern Uusimaa region. Together with Keuke Development Centre Helsinki Region North Ltd. and Novago Ltd., Posintra is implementing a development program in which the region’s companies are working together to create new business concepts for growth. Applying foresight, with the help of Futures Platform, is a key element in the process.
“For municipal development and the business community we want broaden the perspective for looking into the future. The world is changing at an enormous speed and here at Posintra we are looking ahead“, says CEO Ulla Poppius as she observes entrepreneurs working together at a foresight workshop. The participants are from local companies, taking part in the growth program. The task for the entrepreneurs is to identify relevant future trends and assess the opportunities and risks they pose for their companies. The aim then is to create new business concepts for growth that are linked to three core themes: digitization, innovative investments and evolving service and production value chains.
Futures Platform helps the entrepreneurs obtain a structured view of foreseeable future changes and enables building new growth plans on understanding of the future business landscape.
With the help of Futures Platform and Alternative Futures, a consulting company that originally developed the foresight tool, Martela ran several workshops to identify and prioritise the trends that were deemed as most relevant for Martela’s business. Based on the groundwork of forming a shared and structured view of the company’s future among the leadership, Martela formulated its vision: It would first transform from the manufacturer of high quality office furniture (2013) into a ‘partner for developing workplaces’ (2017), then gradually into a ‘thought leader of workplaces’.
Panu Muhonen, Martela’s Offering Director, describes how the journey of transformation has brought future and strategic positioning into the center of Martela’s everyday work:
“I no longer present our company to customers as an ‘office furniture manufacturer’ but rather as an expert in modern workplaces. The discussion these days focuses on facilitating fruitful collaboration, enabling flexibility in the office space and so forth”, Muhonen says.
Also, future foresight for Martela is no longer a one-off exercise but an integral part of continuously staying on top of how the concept of ‘work’ is evolving.
TEKES (The Finnish Funding Agency for Innovation) and Team Finland support Finnish companies in their efforts to create innovative and future-proof products and services. Futures Platform helps them provide an organized view of the future in a variety of industries and geographical areas. The key benefit that Futures Platform brings is structure; Trends are grouped into clusters and placed on a timeline, which paves the way to informed decision-making.
Tekes adopted Futures Platform to help with structuring and prioritizing the signal data that exists in Team Finland’s Oppspace, a database that contains hundreds of observations and trends submitted by people in the global Team Finland network across locations and industries. In practice, the two systems have been integrated, so that whenever a new trend analysis piece is produced or updated in TF Oppspace, it can be tagged to be shown on a Futures Platform radar view. There are different foresight radars about topics such as Operational landscape in Asia in 2020, Future of traffic and mobility, Bioeconomy and cleantech, and Health and wellbeing. With the help of the structured foresight radars, Tekes can run effectively facilitated foresight workshops, concentrating on the impact of the trends rather than browsing through databases. In addition to running workshops, TEKES can invite key players and companies globally to view the trends radars regarding a specific theme or industry for a selected period of time.
”Visualised and structured information on future trends and disruptions is a key enabler for effective and productive foresight work. At Tekes, we continuously strive to offer information in the best possible formats to our users. Our collaboration with Futures Platform is an example of how we work together with innovative partners to build our Future Watch services to be both impactful and user friendly”
Soile Ollila, Foresight Manager, Tekes
What are the skills and knowledge that people will need to thrive in the future working life and society in general? How can these skills be taught by the education system? Which new methods will teachers and the administration need? These were some of the key questions that the Finnish National Agency for Education sought to answer through its 2-year foresight program that leveraged Futures Platform.
The Finnish National Agency for Education hired a Finnish consulting company Alternative Futures to facilitate the process. Alternative Futures used Futures Platform as a central tool in its workshops over the course of the project. Five different foresight radars were built during the process of generating views about the future in different areas of society: Manufacturing, Services, Wellbeing, and the Creative sector, plus one radar that combined them all.
During the two years that the project lasted, 26 different working groups worked with the foresight radars. The working groups met several times during the project. They were tasked with identifying and describing potential future professions, and they also worked to make suggestions and recommendations as to how students and employees could be educated towards these new professions, and how the educational system and learning at work should be enhanced to meet the new needs.
The foresight radars built on Futures Platform were used as a tool for mapping out the scenarios of future professions, and bringing structure to the seemingly complicated future landscape. The visual radars provoked fruitful discussions in both face to face and online workshops. Also importantly, the participants could vote and add their thoughts and insights to the topics afterwards, straight on the radars.
Thanks to the accumulating insights on the radars, and the related foresight workshops, the Finnish National Agency for Education was better equipped to plan and implement modern educational paths. These paths will serve to take students of all ages towards the professions of the future.