End of year reflection: the trap of looking at what has already happened as a guide to the future

End of year reflection: the trap of looking at what has already happened as a guide to the future

Katherine Teh, Managing Director, and Alison Penfold, Director of Futureye, explain. 

Why are we obsessed with measuring outcomes and assessing results?

The answer is reasonable and straightforward enough – because as organisations we all want to measure our progress toward the goal and benchmark how close we are to achievement.

In an ideal world without any change to societal expectations, this is a perfect approach. But Futureye’s Managing Director, Ms Teh, says in actuality this is not the case at all making measures often irrelevant.

She says: “The measures that matter are lead indicators of progress towards a positive reputation or social licence.”

Risk assessments often focus on post-event measurement such as negative media. These too need reassessing. 

“Mature issues are likely to have resulted in negative media, and therefore from a reputational point of view, the risk has already occurred. They are essential for understanding the level of reaction from society but uninformative in terms of how to influence the future reputation or social licence of the organisation.”

For instance, Westpac could have forecast 18 months before its recent negative media that there would be a reputation risk, but without putting lead indicators of the resolution in place its management of these risks didn’t prevent their occurrence.

More importantly, lag indicators fail the industries that are facing rising societal expectations.

In an exclusive interview with Farm Online National, Futureye Director and former Federal Agriculture Minister Chief of Staff & CEO of the Australian Livestock Exporters’ Council Alison Penfold, said this had been the case for the live export industry.

“Activist perspectives of animal welfare are influencing the general public – and the rate of change is extraordinary. Therefore, if we measure that change by polling the general public, we are looking at the wrong point on the social maturity curve for the edgy insights on what is influencing trust, for example.”

Click here to read more about Ms. Penfold’s view

Futureye’s Managing Director, Katherine Teh, highlights the need for a novel and innovative transformation – the lead indicators – to adapt to the dynamics of the business, political, and regulatory environment.

Katherine Teh, Managing Director

“We’re not saying that the averages or the majority are wrong. The average, nevertheless, is potentially misleading without taking into account the so-called ‘vortex effect’, that is how the passionate activists are the principal driving force for public opinion and social development.”

“Determining those who are highly-involved around a particular topic is crucial to identify the emerging issues and predict the rate of change.”

“Identifying the highly-involved is easier than you think, and our experience shows the dividends from positioning and responding early are enormous. Foresight is a powerful tool.”

With the year’s end quickly approaching, we all take a moment to reflect on the year that has passed – how much we have progressed and how well (or poorly) we have performed.

Let us also take this moment to look forward and ask ourselves: Do we really know what is influencing public expectations of our industries? Are our industries considering the lead indicators that can predict and respond to this change effectively?

If you are interested in learning more about Futureye’s approach to social research, social maturity analysis and strategic foresight and how this can benefit your industry, organization or business, please contact us on 03 86361111.

For your information, Futureye office will be taking a break over the Christmas/New Year break.  Our office will be closed from 21 December 2019 and reopen on 6 January 2020. We know that issues can arise over this period that may need an urgent or immediate response.  Futureye has particular expertise and experience in issues management and crisis communication.  Please reach out to our Director, Alison Penfold, on 0408633026 or alisonp@futureye.com if you need assistance.

We wish you a wonderful holiday season and a New Year full of health, happiness, and prosperity in 2020.