Back to the future


If only we all could travel to the future in a plutonium-powered DeLorean time machine like Marty McFly, it would make strategic decision making in drug development a whole lot easier.

 Given the long development period required to get an innovative drug on the market, it is necessary to look into the future to understand what the market might look like in 5, 10 or 15 years' time, and understand how it might have changed from today. A new drug that will not hit the market for a decade needs to be fit for the future, not for today's market. Foresight – the ability to predict or plan for the future – is more of an art than a science. To be great at developing and implementing foresight, requires the crystallisation of emerging trends from multiple information sources, and  a range of differing perspectives from both experts and 'naive experts' (i.e. individuals that bring relevant perspectives from outside of the industry), and a unique blend of skills and capabilities:

  • Critical thinking: Questioning assumptions and developing reasoned, evidence based arguments and hypotheses
  • Robust analysis: Structured evaluation of essential factors and their relationships
  • Strategic interpretation: Establishing the meaning or significance of complex and, on first sight, disparate pieces of information
  • Creative story-telling: Painting a vivid picture of the future using more than just words

Given the accelerating rate of change in today's complex world and also the unpredictability of that change, long-term strategic planning using a range of plausible future market scenarios is a robust way to develop future-looking strategies, identify new potential opportunities, and stress-test the potential longevity of new ideas. Future market scenarios can also act to galvanise the team around a common vision.

Whilst future market scenarios will not necessarily paint an accurate picture of the future (nobody has a crystal ball after all!), they act as a powerful tool for challenging strategies and can lead to: greater aligned understanding of the market, both today and tomorrow; the ability to shape the future rather than merely react to it; and ultimately better strategic decision making for sustained competitive advantage.

By Debbie Allman