I consider Kate’s video a go-to for understanding and applying Bill Sharpe’s Three Horizons Framework.
From 3:56 Kate describes how to use the framework for deeper dives in group strategy workshops. I’ve extracted her step-by-step guide below.
H1 — BUSINESS AS USUAL
A — What is business as usual?
What are the key characteristics of the prevailing system?
B — Look back — how did we get here?
What values, cultures, laws, events led to this?
C — Why do we believe it’s not fit for purpose and is failing?
- Give examples
- How fast do we want to see it decline? Collapse is rarely beneficial
D — Is there anything valuable about the old system we would want to retain rather than lose?
- Such as its infrastructure.
H3 — EMERGING FUTURE
E — What is the future we want to bring about?
- What are its key characteristics?
- What would it look like and feel like to be there?
F — What are seeds of that future visible in the present?
- Give specific examples
G — Looking back — whose work are these present possibilities built on?
- What history, values and culture are embedded within them?
H — How could these “seeds of that future” be scaled and spread?
- Give examples of actors who are already working on this.
I — What are competing visions of the future being pursued by others?
- Could we collaborate with them because we share enough core elements, or are theirs inherently competing visions? If so how do we prevent their vision from derailing ours?
H2 — DISRUPTIVE INNOVATION
J — What is being disrupted?
- Think of many different types of factors — economic, technological, political, ecological, social, cultural disruptions?
K — What are the roots of those disruptions?
- For each one identified what would it look like to be captured H2– or harnessed H2+?
- What can be done strategically to ensure that it is harnessed?
- Give examples of disruptions of things that you believe have been captured or harnessed, and in each case, why did it happen and what made it possible?
L —If you are a disruptive actor, whether a social movement, a tech innovator, or a new form of finance, what kind of guidance can you set for yourself to help influence whether your disruption is captured to extend the life of H1, or harnessed to bring about H3?
- What allies will you seek?
- What action will you take?
- How will assess potential offers for collaboration or finance?
- How will you work with others so that H2+ disruption scales and spreads?
Now reflect on what’s been mapped to L — this is where you determine your strategic programs of change work and what practical things are needed to get there.
- Which assumptions will be most challenged by change?
- Which are most vulnerable to these emerging changes?
- Are there any which are being strengthened? Pick one highly vulnerable assumption.
- How can you use the emerging changes to create entirely new products, services and markets?
- Is there another business model that could replace a challenged model? Other production process(es)? New sources in the supply chain? Emerging customer segments?
Choose two or three emerging changes that could be used to build entirely new business models, source raw materials, build new production processes, or open up entirely new markets or means of advertising and distribution.
The goal is to create an interesting transition idea for your business/industry that helps successfully bridge from Horizon One to Horizon Three.
These aren’t in Kate’s video, but I’d suggest are useful to determine what comes next and close out the activity.
Discuss key highlights from the exercise:
- What current assumptions will be most challenged by change? Will any become obsolete in the face of the changes we’ve identified?
- What changes offer the most promise and immediately actionable opportunities?
- Which innovations or initiatives hold the most promise?