Wharton’s Baker Retailing Center conducted a workshop that brought together the members of the Wharton Retail Club to answer the question, “What will happen to the retail competitive space in 5-10 years?” The rules were simple, the members split into two groups and individually thought about all that could happen and noted their hypotheses on post-its. These were then categorized by larger topics like ‘economy,’’global,’ ‘technology’ etc., and cohesively arranged into a larger framework. The possible hypotheses were further placed into a well-defined matrix, where the x-axis was Uncertainty, while the y-axis was Impact and the scale ranged from Low to High on both axes. From here, the High Impact High Uncertainty hypotheses were placed into separate scenarios and presented as possible future worlds.
On completing this task, we were explained about the importance of visualization for a vibrant and ever-changing future, drawing light to the widespread reliance on virtual vs.real, thus raising questions about the implications for the future of the waxing digital space and the waning brick-and-mortar world.
The exercise, currently being conducted for research purposes, with MBAs and undergraduate students, made us realize the importance of not thinking just about the present or just about one possible future; but constantly planning for several multiple realities, because after all, anything can happen in the world of business!