We live in a VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. Organisations are trying to make strategy in a fast-moving and changing environment where the target keeps moving. With many focused on day-to-day survival issues, there is little time to stop and think about the future.
Strategic foresight is the ability to observe and interpret the drivers of change and their implications for your business. Along with scenario planning (thinking about different future business environments) and strategic visioning (defining your desired future), strategic foresight is a key skill that many managers lack the time and possibly the skills to undertake. Yet it can make a big difference to your success.
CSBP, the University of Northampton’s Centre for Sustainable Business Practices, can help. A mix of business academics and practitioners, with wide experience across many sectors, we can work with boards and senior management teams on tailored strategic foresight sessions, helping your business not only anticipate the future but create the one you want – as well as enhancing your risk management processes at board, ie governance, level.
Building back better
Good governance is expected not only by law but by all stakeholders – employees, media and the community. It is no longer sufficient to do the right thing. Business should also monitor, measure and report on the right thing – this is what the Environment, Social, Governance (ESG) movement is all about.
CSBP can help you make sense of CSR (company social responsibility) and ESG in a way that is strategic, focused and where possible local in a way that strengthens your business resilience, innovation and sustainability.
A good place to start on this ‘journey’ is the Good Business Charter. Open to all businesses and charities, the Good Business Charter is an independent, not-for-profit organisation, supported by the CBI and the TUC, encouraging responsible capitalism and publicly acknowledging those companies who exhibit such behaviour.
Based on ten key principles (as outlined in the advert on the opposite page), the Good Business Charter offers a simple, low or no cost self-audit accreditation which organisations can sign up to in recognition of responsible business practices. Northamptonshire is working with the Good Business Charter to create a place-based county approach to
The business case
But why bother? What is the business case? Well, think and link responsible and sustainable business to your innovation, productivity and growth. There is plenty of evidence to show that businesses that do the right thing in these areas are better run, with more engaged employees and perform better.
As firms in the county focus on their post-COVID recovery plans, it is crucial to develop the right skills and capabilities needed not only to survive, but succeed, in the fast-changing technological landscape. A recent study highlighted some key ‘how’ questions that CEOs will have to address, such as
- Build capabilities to harness digital innovation?
- Adopt new ways of working that enable us to move at digital speed?
- Attract and retain the next generation of digital-native talent?
- Drive and sustain innovation pace across our entire organisation?
Cold spot for scale-ups
Northamptonshire is home to many successful businesses operating across key sectors including high-performance technology, advanced manufacturing, logistics, food and drink, and the creative and cultural sectors. The county has one of the strongest rates of business start-ups in the UK, but it has been identified as a cold spot for scale-ups, with support needed to innovation.
Many local businesses have reported a new lease of innovation under COVID – born out of necessity, the ‘burning platform’ syndrome. How can we as a county sustain this innovative energy and drive?
Collaborate to innovate
In a recent county survey about innovation, the word collaboration was mentioned most frequently. This refers to collaboration internally within firms, and externally with suppliers, partners and other stakeholders (such as LEPs, academic institutions and local
Priorities include innovation commercialisation capability; employer-led skills; energy, digital and transport infrastructure; provision of commercial premises consistent with business needs; wider business support; and high-quality place-making.
Mapping our innovation ecosystem
The University is working with boutique strategy firm Whitecap Consulting on an ecosystem analysis that will include a comprehensive exploration of the county’s innovation capabilities and resources and a set of clear, evidenced and actionable recommendations.
The proposed innovation ecosystem exercise will:
- Map the innovation capabilities/activity by sector
- Identify examples of best practice
- Engage with key stakeholders to obtain input and insights
- Analyse the capabilities, strengths, weaknesses
- Recommend areas of competitive advantage and growth
- Suggest investment opportunities for innovation
It is proposed to crowdfund this multi-client project via contributions from key stakeholders in Northamptonshire, including local businesses, business support institutions, local government authorities and professional services firms.
Sponsorship packages are available. The return on investment for sponsors will be around brand profile and association with the project as an organisation that demonstrably cares about the county’s future economic success. They will also be able to input into the research process, and thereby gain deeper insights from the results.
The University is here to help, and its centre for Sustainable Business Practices can advise on all business productivity issues. Let’s all work together more closely together in 2022 to raise the bar in innovation and sustainability and let good and responsible business practices be the driver of productivity and growth.