Bill Adams
Bill Adams

When looking for the right platform to create content, the least utilized yet most powerful approach is to envision the future.

Tech companies dominate future-focused discussions, as they’re perceived to be creating the next era of human experiences with new technologies. For example, GE and Oracle are masterfully touting a vision for the Internet of Things. But these companies and their peers won’t be the only firms in the market in 2050.

Having worked in China for the past 20 years, I can say with confidence that few markets in the world are as obsessed with the future or offer brands so many opportunities to discuss their role in shaping tomorrow. It’s for these reasons that we emphasize the power of future-based communications with our clients.

For example, I’ve worked with a Swedish home furnishings company to create a vision of China 2030 to accelerate internal communications and planning. I’ve also assisted a medical devices company in the development of a multi-stakeholder forum to discuss China’s role in the future medical technology innovation network. Right now, we’re working with a global leader in aviation to communicate a vision of China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative, in which regional airports and utility aircraft contribute equally to economic integration as will rail links and ports.

Unfortunately, most brands are hesitant to leverage the future and their vision of it. This is because the future is a complex and unknowable thing. Also, while reluctant to admit it, many CEOs and their management teams don’t have a clear vision of their place in the market over the next few decades. This is understandable, as having an MBA doesn’t automatically turn a business leader into the Oracle of Delphi. However, communicators should make the future a platform for content creation, engagement and influencer initiatives exactly because it’s such a big, complex and critical topic.

Here are some reasons and recommendations to consider:

If your firm doesn’t already have a vision of the future — and its place in it — get one. Your shareholders, employees and customers will thank you for it. The future-focused vision answers questions such as: Why should I invest in your firm? Why should I work for your firm? And, why should I partner with your firm? Building a vision involves getting smart people in a room to have a thoughtful conversation about your market, the trends impacting it, a thorough analysis of what this means for your business and how you will respond.

Building a vision of the future is a valuable exercise in stakeholder engagement, risk management and innovation. Developing a vision of the future is an opportunity to invite your leadership, partners, regulators, researchers and others to share insights and knowledge. Leading the conversation about the future of your market positions your firm as forward thinking and prepared to capitalize on opportunities. Furthermore, the exchange that follows is likely to reveal risks, such as previously unexplored market trends, as well as spur innovation as potential new products and services are identified.

Once you have defined your vision, continually test it and don’t be afraid to tinker. The megatrends affecting the global economy and shaping your market will shift and you should adjust your vision accordingly. Discussions about the future are fluid by nature and never become stale. This is what makes a future-focused platform so powerful.

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Bill Adams is an executive vice president in Allison+Partners’ Global China Practice and market leader in Shanghai.