Have you ever wondered what dreams mean? In 2008, Richard Coutts introduced the Emotional Selection Dream Theory, suggesting that we use our dreams to prepare for the future. According to his theory, we modify our mental schemas during dreams. Schemas are those structured clusters of pre-conceived ideas we carry around with us. While sleeping, we compile multiple variables, within specific parameters, and test our responses with a dream. Our brain is searching for positive emotional responses to the scenarios it creates. This allows us to be future ready to emotionally cope with similar real-world events.
Dreaming for Success
The premise of the Emotional Selection Theory for dreams also applies in the business world. The future environment in which you operate today is likely to be different tomorrow. Formulating and testing imaginary scenarios is the best way to be future ready for actual events that might affect your business strategy. Consider both positive and negative scenarios for both the long and short term. Think about the key elements, forces, issues and trends that could combine to create differing scenarios. Increase your strategic agility by imagining and testing multiple scenarios around your strategy. The future will be less of a surprise if you have already considered some of the possible outcomes.
The budget approval process for a project is an example of a short-term scenario. Test this scenario by considering what your next steps would be if the budget got approved. Mentally pre-organize and prioritize specific actions you would take. Test all of the possibilities around this scenario. The negative short-term scenario would be if the budget approval was put on hold, or was denied. What direction does this lead to? Look for any added opportunities or possible threats that a scenario may present. Weigh the possible consequences of the actions you would take. How would these scenarios alter or change your current strategy?
The positive or negative state of the economy in five years is an example of a long-term scenario. What if, a few years from now, your business grows so much that you need to increase your employee base? How would this affect your current strategic goal? Could you be in a position to handle this type of change? If the economy tanked and you had to downsize your workforce, how would your strategic goals change? By thinking about these scenarios and visualizing the action steps you would take, you will create a flexible strategy that is better prepared to handle change.
Improve Strategic Agility
Your effectiveness as a strategic thinker is largely dependent on your ability to predict how future events will turn out. Just as your brain naturally uses dreams to test possible real-world scenarios, you must take time to think about the plausible scenarios you may encounter in the business world. Having a flexible strategy allows you to easily adapt or change course when you encounter a scenario that you have already thought through. You can be proactive instead of reactive in these situations, thus giving you a strategic advantage. You will be future ready to act on positive scenarios, or chart another path when you encounter negative scenarios. Avoiding future threats and capitalizing on future opportunities could be the difference between a good or bad strategy.