mindofafox was born in the world-famous High Road/Low Road scenarios that prepared the path for South Africa’s peaceful transition to democracy and the election of Nelson Mandela as its first president. Consequently, the High Road/Low Road scenarios remain a cornerstone of academic study of the successful use of scenarios in strategy.
During the 1980s South Africa was in the vice-like grip of apartheid with little possibility of peace and democracy. Concerned with the country’s future, Anglo American Corporation commissioned studies on the future of the country that produced a pair of scenarios: the ‘High Road’ of negotiation with the objective of creating a non-racial society capable of becoming a winning nation; or the ‘Low Road’ of retaining the status quo, leading inexorably towards economic stagnation, and possibly civil war.
Clem Sunter, then a senior executive at Anglo American, realised it was a message that needed to be spread further if the ‘High Road’ was ever to be realised. In 1987 he led a team on a road show that addressed tens of thousands of South Africans, including political and business leaders, academics, teachers, students, farmers, the military and the police.
He presented the two scenarios and encouraged audiences to make what was then not an obvious choice. However, the team’s relentless pursuit of the High Road helped develop the narrative in the minds of political and business leaders, and ordinary South Africans, thereby laying the firm foundation for negotiation and the peaceful transition into a respected democracy. The story turned from a remote possibility into reality even sooner than the team itself anticipated.
Successful though the High Road/Low Road scenarios were, scenario planning itself remained, globally, the almost exclusive domain of multinationals like Shell and Anglo American, and required highly skilled teams working over weeks, even months to produce a complete set of scenarios. It was a chance meeting between Clem and Chantell Ilbury over coffee that was to change all that.
Chantell was a successful entrepreneur and a UCT Executive MBA student at the time and was convinced there had to be a way that scenarios could be adapted so that small-to-medium sized businesses, even individuals, could benefit from scenario planning. She presented her ideas, and, legend has it, they scribbled their combined insight on a napkin, which became the nucleus of their first book – The Mind of a Fox. It contained their Foxy Matrix, which lies at the heart of their methodology: accept that much of the future of any game is uncertain and beyond your control; and adapt your strategy and tactics as best you can to cope with it.
The age of the fox had begun.
Since then, we have presented on incorporating scenarios and flagwatching into strategic thinking and action to tens of thousands of people around the world; helped guide the strategic conversations of executive teams of hundreds of multinationals and other organisations; and influenced many of the world’s business leaders in how they should approach the future.
We have worked in China, the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands, the United States, Australia, Singapore, India, Ukraine, Austria, Belgium, Italy, Kuwait, Jamaica, Mauritius, Réunion Island, and throughout Africa.