SWRM Labs Blog

The Future Is Not Linear

Feb 8, 2018 1:20:27 PM / by Robert Binning


Photo by Rene Böhmer on  Unsplash

Most strategic plans involve projecting events into the future, often between 3–5 years, or about half of a normal business economic cycle. A few firms in very capital-intensive or regulation-controlled industries might look ten or more years into the future, but these exercises are usually meant to fully account for the business life of a major capital investment or R&D program into a new drug.

Projections for future demand and pricing are almost always simple extrapolations from today’s environment. Often planners will look back a few years, calculate the rate of growth across the history and project that the rate of growth will be sustained into the future. This is momentum planning, and actually works well for short periods. Sales for August should look a lot like sales levels in July.

However, one of the key observations I’ve made over 30 years of building strategic plans is that long term planning has very little to do with near term momentum-based forecasts. Rather, there are two critical factors that should dominate your thoughts.

First, you need to understand the critical uncertainties that will have a huge impact on industry structure and the value chain — the possible events that will change all of the assumptions about supply, demand, prices, share patterns, and competitive behaviors. Peter Schwartz introduced the concept of scenario planning in his book The Art of the Long View (1991); this tool helps leaders explore their core assumptions about industry structure and behavior and describe a number of possible future environments under which the project or firm might operate. There are five major sources of seismic shifts that planners need to explore — social, technological, economic, environmental (or ecological), and political (including regulatory change). These five dimensions may be abbreviated as STEEP, making a useful mnemonic. Usually one or two uncontrollable possibilities will jump out as having a major impact on the desirability of the future opportunity; at that point, the team should look for early signals that might suggest that the future will look like one or another of these “high impact” scenarios.

The second dimension has to do with the will of the team — the decisions that the team leaders take to influence the outcome to happen in one particular way. If a particular political environment is extremely favorable, then what can we do to lobby the decision makers to enable that regulatory environment? If a certain resource is extremely limited, what can be done to either expand the availability of that resource or to maneuver our project so we can take the lion’s share of that resource? Again, a handful of critical decisions and changes can often make a huge difference in the likelihood of success for a particular strategy. Bend the odds to favor the project team.

The StreamSpace project is an entrepreneurial blockchain team with the vision of disrupting the Streaming Video on Demand (SVOD) film industry. Today’s environment favors the largest provider, Netflix, along with the four broadband ISPs that share about 70% of the US market — AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Charter Spectrum. The supply side of the film industry is dominated by ten studio/distributors, each with a slightly different target audience and appetite for medium vs large budget investments to promote and merchandize their film offerings. The studios are starting their own consolidation process, with Disney planning to absorb most of Fox’s content businesses over the next year or so. Disney, which already owns 60% of Hulu, plans to launch a competing SVOD platform again Netflix.

Against the expected collision between Disney and Netflix, StreamSpace believes we can work closely with independent filmmakers and bring compelling content to consumers who will be otherwise ignored — those who seek great stories over lavish blockbuster productions.

The StreamSpace scenario challenge involves two dimensions of critical uncertainty — what role the SEC and related regulators in other major countries will take regarding blockchain crowdfunding programs such as ICOs, and the elephant battleground environment that is looming between Disney, Netflix, Amazon, and Google.

Against that backdrop, we are pulling beyond our expected weight by building loyalty to the indie film community, championing regional filmmakers and festivals in our search for great stories. This is a “Moneyball” strategy for the film industry. We are not seeking billion-dollar returns; we are looking to help filmmakers build successful brands and passionate follower communities and grow from project to project profitably.

Come join our community and participate in our project!

Tags: ICO, Ethereum, Bitcoin, Film, Uncategorized, Blockchain

Robert Binning

Written by Robert Binning