What is it about?
Vision is about the future and a hopefully better world. It is the essence of what you hope to achieve and forms the beginning of your strategy. For example, one vision would be to be a “carbon positive hotel in 2030”, “the most circular tour operator in Europe”. Vision is not a statement that you define once and then forget about. It should be revisited on a yearly basis. And it should not be overly complex or difficult to parse — everyone in the company needs to know and deeply understand it.
In order to frame your visioning exercise, a backcasting exercise can be helpful. Backcasting is a strategic planning method that asks a team to create ideal future scenarios and then work backwards as a group to figure out what is needed to get to the ideal states from the current state.
Why is it relevant?
You can use backcasting to:
- Develop visions of the future (“what will my tourism facility look like in 2030?”)
- Support strategic design projects such as transition to circular economy.
- Diverge from predictions that are conveniently extrapolated from what you already know (the forecasting approach) to freely envision a reality that is an extreme success.
- Simplified backcasting can be done in one day workshop using sticky notes, pens, paper, and string.
- Backcasting is a way to reach a common understanding of successful futures and the steps required to achieve them.
- Backcasting provides actionable information.
Steps to conduct this activity
Step 1: pre-workshop preparation
- Recruitment: Recruit a group of internal stakeholders within your organization. Backcasting is an activity that is easier if all participants are in the same room (though you could envision a future where this is done remotely and use backcasting to work out how to have a successful remote backcasting session).
- Frame the exercise: Determine how far in the future you will start from. Is your time horizon 2030, 2050?
- Then establish a set of questions about the time frame, current state, future ideal states, actions, indicators, risks and opportunities that the facilitator will use during the backcasting exercise.
Step 2: Backcasting workshop
Brief your stakeholders on the purpose of the backcasting session and the ground rules.
Conduct an ideation workshop to identify the current state and future ideal states or scenarios of your organization:
- Define one or more possible (and successful) future states based on sustainable and circular principles, applied to your organization.
- Describe the current state of the problem: unsustainability of current operations, reduced profits, disruption in the market….
- Consider each future state and work backwards to identify actions, assumptions, risks, benefits, and other indicators that could lead to these future states.
Step 3: Post workshop
- Publish the results using charts, maps, stories, list of actions required, risk/benefit trade-offs, and photographs of the actual items produced during the backcasting exercise. The outcomes will be formalized in the next activities “Strategy” and “Roadmap”.