“Are robots taking over?” and other questions we explored in Scenario Planning Class
Written by Global Ambassador, Adwoa Benefaa Ofori, Class of 2017 Master of International Business student, Dubai Campus
In a documentary called “Humans Need Not Apply”, modern examples of technological advancements are used to piece together the captivating argument that tells us how humanity, if not prepared, will face a problem with the rate at which technology is growing. The narrator likens this issue to how horses were replaced by the automobile saying: “The horses probably did not see the automobile as a threat when it was originally introduced. They probably predicted it wouldn’t catch on fast enough to put them out of business”. His underlying argument is that machines: “Don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be more efficient than human beings at the task”. Whether this is the case twenty years down the line (or sooner) or, if we will have evolved to a point where humans and machines become as one, a singularity, is still unknown. However, there’s a branch of business that uses current events to project the future to create scenarios and build business strategies in each of these possible situations. I recently completed a course at Hult in Scenario Planning under the auspices of Dr. Olaf Groth.
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As Professor Olaf would put it, businesses exist not just to make a profit but also to solve problems for humanity. As such, the businesses that were created to solve some of our current problems must pivot as society’s problems change. This is different from a business strategy which usually consists of a series of short-term approaches that piece together into a long-term strategy. Why do business analysts plan scenarios? Well, the answer to this question is simple. The performance of a business is not just determined by the business’ actions nor by the actions of its competitors in the market. There are factors outside the industry that are not within the company’s control. The company must anticipate these factors and adjustments must be made. A car manufacturer, for example, has no control over climate change and society’s reaction to it. But knowing how this will pan out over the years can help the car manufacturer adjust its product or business model to better suit a changing culture.
“What struck me the most during the course was how scenario planning, as Professor Olaf taught us, can be applied to our own personal lives.”
But what struck me the most during the course was how scenario planning, as Professor Olaf taught us, can be applied to our own personal lives. In as much as businesses are affected by large-scale issues outside of their control, we as individuals are affected by these things as well. Personally, these factors become important to my future as I decide to focus on working in a particular industry or applying for a job position. Scenario planning starts with a question that looks at the bigger picture. For example: How will worldwide patterns of movement of people and goods evolve in the next 25 years in a way that is relevant to company XYZ? Knowing a few factors like the industry I have an interest in and the job I ultimately want to do in the long-term, I can ask a question that helps me look at the bigger picture in a way that affects me.
“Long-term analysis becomes worthwhile when you have a team of people who have a diverse experience in an assortment of fields and are willing to work together.”
Starting with the focal question, we then brainstorm numerous factors that should be taken into consideration. These factors are narrowed down to few important ones, based on the consensus of the group. From this, any two or more factors can be combined in different outcomes to produce different possible “worlds” that could exist in the future. Say I was to decide that I want to start a taxi company in a certain city. My analysis would have to move outside of competitors and market conditions and consider broader political, environmental, social, economic, technological, and legal factors. This analysis becomes worthwhile when you have a team of people who have a diverse experience in an assortment of fields and are willing to work together. The final step is to go back to the business and plan different strategies in each of the scenario.
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In conclusion, current trends indicate that robotic tech just might be taking over, green energy is rising in popularity, and businesses, individuals, and society as a whole can benefit from it.
Adwoa Benefaa Ofori is a Master of International Business student at the Hult Dubai campus. Pursuing her post-graduate degree internationally became a springboard for her to discover new markets and her inner entrepreneur. Ajwe is has a keen interest in business development and finance. Her goal is to establish a tech business that becomes a major player in the finance industry.