How to Think about the Future and Succeed with your Strategy

A successful strategy helps organizations shape their own future and avoid surprises. A robust strategy takes its cue from changes in the world, helps achieve the organization’s vision and leverages all its assets. TAIDA is a model and a methodology, as well as a process for developing future-proof strategies and acting on them. This article describes the components of the model and how it can be used in practice. In addition, we provide our top tips for a suc- cessful strategy process.

Explanation of TAIDA’s components
TAIDA is Kairos Futures’ proprietary model for creating long-term success, and its name is an acronym of Tracking – Analyzing – Imaging – Deciding – Acting.

Figure 1. The TAIDA model

Strategy is about planning for success in the future. Therefore, strategy work needs to include work on understanding what the future might look like. According to the TAIDA model, the strategy process therefore starts with Tracking and Analyzing:

Tracking is about looking for changes in the external world (outside your own organization), such as trends, uncertainties and possible events, and identifying your organization’s internal strengths and assets.

Analyzing involves analyzing the intelligence and information gathered during the Tracking phase and creating pictures of what the future might look like. Impact analyses and scenarios are two examples of useful met- hods for painting possible futures.

But understanding the world around us is not enough to succeed in the future; goals and action plans are also needed. That is why TAIDA also includes the steps of Imaging, Deciding and Acting:

Imaging is about creating desirable and positive futures, visions, that an organization can endorse and work towards – generally in the shape of multiple scenarios.

Deciding is about making decisions, sorting through the noise, i.e. developing and determining strategies for the coming years based on TAI.

Finally, Acting is moving from words to action. No strategies are good enough to be implemented by themselves – they need action plans.

TAIDA is a process-oriented working model that alternates divergent and convergent thinking.

Figure 2. The TAIDA process

TAIDA is a process in which participants – through multiple steps – open up to new insights, ideas and views (divergence) and ultimately converge on insights, visions, strategies and action plans (convergence). Alternating between divergent and convergent thinking is ideal for collaboration in large and small groups. It enables participants to get broad input and to anchor those new ideas through sharp analysis and conclusions.

Figure 3. The interplay between broad input and anchoring on the one hand and sharp analysis on the other allows strategy work to move forward in a goal-oriented exploration, which is rarely a straight line.

To create truly divergent thinking and at the same time gain broad support, it is advantageous to invite larger groups to contribute with input and knowledge. The input is then processed and analyzed by a smaller analysis group, who then brings this distilled material back to the larger group for feedback. This interaction is then repeated with an appropriate number of loops.

Through this cycle of large and small groups mentioned above, broader learning in the organization is increased and the collective intelligence is captured and used – all while making employees feel included and thus also valued. In addition, the implementation of anchoring work facilitates the subsequent initiation of change and development processes.

The TADIA model is constantly evolving
Kairos Future created the TAIDA model back in the early 1990s and it is still a valuable backbone to the vast majority of projects we undertake. But the TAIDA model itself advocates developing and keeping strategies up to date through iterative loops and we apply this same logic to constantly improve the model itself and the ways of working linked to it. TAIDA

is like a big toolbox and it is important that the tools can cope with new realities and do not rust or become dull. For example, the last few years have seen a major update of our ways of working to adapt them to working virtually and online.

Other recent developments in TAIDA-linked ways of working include a stronger focus on innovation and the incorporation of AI and Big Data analytics via our spin-off company Dcipher Analytics. We can now collect and analyze very large unstructured data sets as part of Tracking and Analyzing.

In practice, we often work on select parts of TAIDA
Implementing an entire TAIDA process naturally requires both time and resources. But not all the steps of the model need to be carried out every time – it is the needs of the organization that determine which parts should be the focus. Below are descriptions of what parts of the TAIDA process might look like in implementation and what products might come out of the work.

Foresight: Strategic Intelligence Analysis
Strategic Intelligence Analysis can be carried out with different scopes and approaches. Perhaps an organization just needs a quick scan of their environment to identify key trends. In this case, the focus needs to be on Tracking and partly on Analyzing. In that case we produce a TrendBrief, i.e. a concise report with the most important trends for the given issue.

Beyond the TrendBrief, there is possibility to produce a more in-depth analysis of the world, with implications and long-term significance for the company and its issues. A so-called TrendWatch provides good support for this type of longterm development work.

The intelligence analysis can be carried out on an ongoing basis in an environmental scan or similar process. Here several people in the organization are involved in contributing their insights and analyses to the process.

Futures study: Scenarios
Oftentimes organizations need to deep-dive into how the future can be shaped in order to design robust strategies. It can sometimes feel obvious that nothing will be the same as before – but how then can it look like?

A thorough scenario analysis, involving a full and in-depth Tracking & Analyzing exercise, results in a number of different futures which provide a broad understanding of trends as well as uncertainties and different outcomes. The scenarios are an excellent basis for the strategic development of an organization and should be redone about every five years, to always have an up-to-date understanding of the future.

The Vision: The Desired Future
All organizations need a benchmark for the future – something they want to be or want to achieve in a certain time – perhaps ten years from now. For this work, the Imaging phase of TAIDA has the right tools. Here, Imaging means envisioning the desirable and extracting a vision out of this to lead the organization and its people forward. A visioning process is also best carried out in an interaction between many (all?) members of the organization and a small analysis group. We recommend first conducting some form of foresight analysis to better place the vision in a larger context.

The Strategy: The Decisions for the Future
The Deciding-step of the TAIDA model represents the actual develop- ment of strategies and goals. But a robust strategy is based on insights about the future (i.e. what we should prepare for), helps us achieve our vision (what we want to be) and leverages our assets and capabilities (what we can do). Strategy is thus best developed from the insights and products of the Tracking, Analyzing and Imaging steps, and is thus based on what the organization should, wants and can do.

A full strategy process thus encompasses the major elements of TAIDA. However, it does not have to be done all at once; different parts can be done at different times, and it is therefore possible to design the process so that it really helps the organization to move forward in relation to where it is now.

The Action Plan: What to do
Words must be translated into action to have an impact. How the stra- tegy will be implemented, who will do what and at what time, is the last thing to be developed in the TAIDA process, represented by the last A of the acronym – Acting. Even this step can be carried out in different ways, with greater or lesser involvement of different groups. Our experience however, tells us that it is best when those affected by the decisions are involved in the process.

Six Tips for a Successful TAIDA Process
The following are our top 6 tips for a successful strategy process.

  1. Define a clear issue
    Start by defining the purpose and question. Is the process intended for the whole organization or for a specific part? What is it you really want to investigate? What is your time horizon – how far into the future do you want to look?
  2. Set up a well-thought-out organization for the project
    Think about how the work is best organized for your objectives and circumstances. Should everyone be involved or just a few? How do you ensure broad input and ownership? Who controls the process and makes the final decisions? 
  3. Agree on the scope
    Is this a short trend scouting exercise or a whole new strategy process including scenarios and a new vision? The larger the scope, the more resources are required. 
  4. Define the framework and ensure resources are available
    How long should the work take? What resources do you have available: people, money, gadgets? Is there anything that should not be worked on or included in the process? 
  5. Make a communication plan for the results
    What kind of results do you foresee and how will they be communicated? Is it a simple PowerPoint, a comprehensive text report or an animated video? Will you communicate beyond the management team, beyond the department, beyond the organization? Who will benefit from the results? These are good questions to think about from the start. 
  6. Challenge your ingrained thinking and paradigms
    A well-executed TAIDA process helps participants to challenge themselves and to think in new ways. Take advantage of the opportunity to be challenged and surprised and thus be stronger for the future. 

See our current course offerings here if you would like to learn more about the tools of TAIDA yourself. Or contact COO Johanna Danielsson and she’ll put you in touch with a future strategist who knows your industry best.