Scenario planning in the Age of COVID-19: Mandarin Interview with Trudi Lang

My interview with Oxford University’s Trudi Lang for the Mandarin, published in late April 2020, can now be shared beyond their paywall. The full text of the piece appears below.

‘Never assume the future will be an extension of the past’ Scenario planning in the Age of COVID-19

Matt Finch sat down with Trudi Lang, a senior fellow in management practice at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School. Lang is a researcher and strategist with particular expertise in scenario planning, a foresight methodology that seeks not to predict the future but to usefully challenge our assumptions about what’s coming next.

“The key challenge of government is to prepare for a future in which we will be surprised time and again,” said Peter Ho, then Singapore’s top civil servant, in 2009.

Few people at the start of 2020 would have anticipated an enormous symmetric shock affecting the entire world, demanding drastic interventions from the state — yet experts had been warning of a pandemic for considerable time. Indeed, as the New York Times reported in March, the US federal government had rehearsed for a pandemic three times over the last four years.

Despite such rehearsals and the warnings of experts, many governments have been caught on the back foot by COVID-19. Countries that were considered to have an excellent capacity for pandemic response — the US and UK had been ranked highest among 195 countries’ ability to prevent and mitigate pandemics in 2019 — have found themselves floundering.

With the world plunged into uncertainty, how do we navigate the turmoil of the current pandemic and look beyond the crisis, into a future that is hard to picture clearly? Read more

Getting Your Head Around Value-Creating Systems

In the spirit of showing your working in the margins of your exercise book, I’m sharing notes & thoughts from one of my summer reads – Rafael Ramírez and Ulf Mannervik’s Strategy for a Networked World.

Cover of Rafael Ramírez and Ulf Mannervik, Strategy for a Networked World

This book sets out the latest version of a strategic approach called Value-Creating Systems (VCS). The late Richard Normann and his colleagues first developed VCS over 20 years ago. Its focus on relationships and connections, exploring collaboration as well as competition in business environments, seems ever more relevant in our increasingly networked world.

As people go on summer holidays and the pace of work in the northern hemisphere slows a little, it’s a great time to read, learn, and grow. I thought I’d be honest and share a bit of my work as I get my head around a concept in strategic thinking which is also relatively new to me.

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