How CEOs Are Using Futurestate Design to Guarantee their Company’s Future Viability

Planning for the future is always on agenda, but in the current economic environment, this is becoming increasingly challenging for CEOs. A recent survey by found that rising energy prices and soaring inflation are the top concerns for business leaders. But using futurestate design, you can guarantee the viability of your business in the future.

A survey by NerdWallet, the financial comparison site, at the start of the 2022/23 financial year showed that CEOs are concerned by the cost-of-lving crisis. While most factors are beyond the control of CEOs, they can do many things to shape their business and ensure its fit to thrive in to the future. Using a unique strategic methodology called futurestate design, CEOs can build a clear vision of how a future version of a company will service future customers.

There are plenty of examples where businesses haven’t done this and some of the UK’s biggest names have disappeared in recent years including Debenhams, Mothercare and Jamie’s Italian. And these are just the brands people recognise. Add in the hundreds of major businesses that failed in B2B markets, and it’s clear that no business is immune from becoming irrelevant. But there’s a way out.


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Ignore The Old Rules and Embrace the New

Some of today’s best-performing businesses are built for the past and optimised for today, but they are not ready for the future. Futurestate design can help change this and can be used by any type of organisation to overcome commercial challenges or build on a successful current position.

Futurestate design frees leaders from thinking about the same old things in the same old way. The future business won’t just happen; it has to be designed. The key is to ignore the old rules, and use these seven rules to avoid becoming obsolete:

Rule 1 – Don’t Look at What the Business Does No
By thinking about the current state of the business, leaders will carry things with them that they assume have to be there. They should only look back once they’ve figured out what shape the future might take. Only then can they figure out the gap between those two states and map out how to get there from today to a successful future.

Rule 2 – Think Digital-Only
Assume 100% of future customer interactions are digital. Leaders should ask “how do we do this with zero people”. Start with this assumption, and then, when they factor people back into the equation, they will find they are focused on doing much better things, without ugly legacy processes and systems holding them back. The aim is to ensure that their futurestate experience supports the rapidly growing market of people who are digital by default, with humans there to enrich and enhance.

Rule 3 – Think Only About Customers
Ban any reference to how the business does anything or who they do it for today. Think and talk only about the people they hope to serve – potential customers – and get into their heads. Imagine a future customer. Someone the business doesn’t have a relationship with today and can’t serve today. Imagine that they want something that changes how they live their life or do their work. This is harder than it sounds, but it’s worth the effort because it forces leaders to think beyond today’s market constraints.

Rule 4 – Think Without Tech Constraints…ish
If leaders see that someone else is using a particular technology, they can assume that they can too. This frees them up to think more broadly about what’s possible, as technology that’s already in live use, however advanced it seems, usually becomes mainstream rapidly. If their futurestate is envisioned on a three-year horizon, by that point the technology they are blown away by today will almost certainly be easily accessible. Think big, but with common sense.

Rule 5 – Imagine the Business is Competing with Everyon
The expectations of future customers will be defined by their best experiences of everything else. For instance, when Apple launched their iPhone in 2007 they reset the expectations of a portable device for everyone. Almost overnight phone manufacturers were judged by the standards of a business that hadn’t previously existed in their space. When designing the futurestate, leaders should assume they compete with the world’s best, not just the industry’s best.

Rule 6 – Think in the ‘Future Normal’
Saying “that’ll never happen. They’ll never do that” is a dangerous, current-state mode of thinking. Today’s customer might not do ‘that’, but who’s to say tomorrows won’t? Assume that the change has happened, and people are already doing ‘that’, and this will add all sorts of interesting new potential behaviours to design with. The rule is, as with technology, work on the basis that if people are already doing it somewhere, they can use it too.

Rule 7 – Think in Alternatives
Don’t just think about how to fix something or overcome a current challenge; instead think about what would make the current business or service completely obsolete. Irrelevant is tomorrow’s customer. Imagine the future business as the one that put the current company out of business. Leaders will only do this by creating an alternative to today. Not a better vision, but something customers would adopt instead.

Final Thoughts

Most leaders find it really hard to step out of today and plan the future, but using futurestate design and sticking with these rules, can encourage them to imagine their business without any limitations, which is key to long-term success.


Mark Wilson
Managing Partner & CEO, Wilson Fletcher

Mark is a digital strategist with more than 30 years’ experience helping established organisations make the most of their potential in the digital economy. He writes frequently about digital strategy and business topics. He leads the team at Wilson Fletcher, where they help to establish modern digital-first business practices, identify new areas of opportunity, shape breakthrough ideas, and design the strategies, services and experiences needed to unlock potential and power new growth.