Our original Foxy Matrix has, over the last 12 years, changed the lives of many organisations and people around the world who have used it for the better. It allows its user to think more imaginatively and yet more effectively about his or her future. It comprises a set of commonsensical steps based on two principles:
Before you decide what you can do based on what you control in your career or your life, you have to understand the environment around you and particularly the relevant factors you do not control and how they may have changed or might change; and,
In life there are things which are relatively predictable and certain; but equally there are a whole range of issues and influences which are beyond your power of prediction and which you have to consider before commtting yourself to action.
If you follow these two principles, you will capture all that is happening around you; and you will also acquire the speed and flexibility of response needed to pursue the opportunities and counter the threats posed by the changing environment. Remember that, according to Charles Darwin, the most successful species are not necessarily the most powerful ones, but those that most readily adapt to whatever nature throws at them. The same applies to human pursuits whether you are involved in education, business, government, charitable work, medicine or any other professional career. No better test exists than trying out The Matrix for yourself, so let's take you through each step:
1. Rules of the Game
There is always a recipe to life, made up of ethical rules, rules to succeed, rules of the market, rules of the country you live in and rules of the organisation you work for. Any plan you formulate about your future must be within these rules if it is to succeed. Break them, and as many convicts, bankrupt businesses, disgraced sports stars, and failed countries know to their cost, you lose. It is advisable to list these rules before you decide which game you wish to participate in, and, once chosen, how you will win that particular game. Rules are conditions which apply to all scenarios and which in fact rule out certain scenarios because they break the rules.
2 (a) Key Uncertainties
Life is different to a game of sport in that most sports do not change that much over time. However, the games of business, education, politics, the economy, and virtually any activity associated with real life, can change dramatically in a short space of time. It is important to note the forces behind these changes and the surprises they can create for you so that you at least have those key uncertainties on your radar screen. Being prepared will allow you to adapt more efficiently and quickly to them if they materialise. But realise also that the future will inevitably deal you cards that come completely out of the blue, however well-prepared you are. You just have to cope with the unexpected too.
2 (b) Scenarios
Now you will have the tools to sketch different scenarios or stories of the possible paths ahead of you within the rules of the game, but allowing for the key uncertainties. Sometimes we recommend that you represent your possible futures visually on a gameboard, examples of which you can find here. We advise that you look at both positive and negative scenarios so that you have an idea of what you want to reach for as well as avoid. Equally, you may feel it advisable to look at the big picture scenarios for the global economy and your country in the short to medium term, in order to provide context for your own scenarios. We have added flags to these big picture scenarios so that you can get a feel for their probable occurrence, while we give you our own best shot at the probabilities too.
The next step is to consider your own options in light of the impact these scenarios may have on you or your organisation and their probability of occurrence. The greater the consequences in a positive or negative sense, the more carefully you have to weigh up the ways of grabbing the opportunities or countering the threats contained in each scenario - in other words adapting to the challenges identified in the most creative manner possible. Equally, the cost of each option and the chances of implementing it successfully have to be fed into the equation. Broadly, there are two kinds of options: strategic options which will determine the direction of your life, and tactical options of how to get there in the best possible manner. A third option is to do nothing, but it runs the risk of letting life pass you by.
The final step is the hardest part, which is to decide between the options and act on your decisions. So many people fall down at this stage and fail to execute the strategies and tactics which they have selected. The best way to avoid this is to break the decision down into components and give a milestone date to each component. If a decision is being made by a team, then each task has to be allocated to an individual or individuals with a regular report back on progress. In the course of implementation, it may be necessary to adjust your plan of action as new, unanticipated circumstances arise.
During the years that followed the publication of The Mind of a Fox, the matrix was developed further into a Conversation Model. The latter has been embraced enthusiastically and successfully by businesses throughout the world. The reason is that it offers any executive team a structure through which the future of their organisation can be intensely debated in a matter of one or two days.
The final say on the matter lies again with Charles Darwin. He stated that the survival of a species rests on its ability to adapt to the changes in nature taking place around it. If you think about it, most species last millions of years because nature changes relatively slowly. Yet how many businesses last 100 years? The business environment changes much more dramatically and quickly than nature. Hence our insistence that alongside a vision, a mission statement and hedgehogs seeking an alignment to both, there have to be foxes who constantly question the relevance and solvency of the business in light of the changing context.