Now that 2018 is well underway and the long. lazy holiday is all but forgotten, it’s back to business and, for most senior management anyways, a deep-dive into the consumer trends, scenarios and soothsayer-like ‘predictions’* for the year ahead.

But what practical value does this information really have?

Before we get into the answer to that question, it is useful to understand something fundamental about all business that many business people all too easily forget.

No company is an island.

Every single organisation operates within a larger contextual environment, which is constantly shifting and changing on multiple dimensions. In South Africa, the local contextual environment shifts on its head constantly; in particular our political, economic and social landscape is extremely fluid and volatile and we are unfortunately particularly susceptible to changes in the broader regional and international environments too (just think of how volatile our local currency is to the mood swings of global traders). Operating a business and offering a stable value proposition into this ever-changing landscape is treacherous for the uninformed.

And it is for this reason then, that organisations that practice an ongoing scanning of the changes in the environmental context are better prepared and more ready to shift themselves into the opportunities that present themselves as a result  of this understanding.

I would argue even further to say that a lack of this kind of proper foresight practice in a business that operates in South Africa in 2018 is downright irresponsible and reckless. To add to this, not all information that this foresight practice is based on is of equal worth. Much of it is produced more for entertainment value than as structured intelligence that should be taken seriously, so be very careful what trends and ‘predictions’ you take to heart.

But as strategies are finalised and budgets are signed off, the value of having a comprehensive understanding of context, and then the ongoing spotting of early changes to that context throughout 2018, is very useful for the effective execution of your plans to achieve the results you were hoping for.

As the speed of change accelerates into the future, having a pedantic, company-wide focus on context will certainly be an investment well made.