Predicting the Future


1. Study Trends

2. Identify trends that will impact you

3. Build a strategy to leverage, or mitigate risk of these trends

4. Build a picture of the future state

5. Make investments in that future state

PURPOSE – The High Beam process is designed to help organizations better strategize elements of the future that will have a big impact on results, and prepare a plan to leverage, or defend, these areas.

DELIVERABLES – The deliverable of the process will be an organized portfolio of investments in the future that will assure a more dependable ability to reach goals. A secondary result will be that the team that follows this process will be of the same mind as to where the organization is headed and why.

OVERVIEW – The High Beam Strategy Process is best completed by an executive team with input from the management layer of the organization. The process is a three part framework that teams can use to plan for the future in a concise and disciplined way. This is an increasingly important step because the velocity of the world is increasing and the time to adjust a plan is shrinking. Without a clear picture of the future, leaders risk being unprepared when current trends, and changes, alter the landscape. Each step of this process builds towards an investment portfolio in the future. Once the process has been completed, it is highly recommended that the information be shared with the whole organization so that everyone has a clear picture of where the team is headed.

Important trends come in three different categories – Macro trends, industry trends and organization trends. The first step is to create a list of the most important trends that will have impact on the organization over the next 5 years in each category. This is usually accomplished by providing a form document that explains each category and gives examples. This document can be completed in advance of the first meeting and can be handed out as widely as seems appropriate. The goal is to get a good list of possible trends to choose from.

Once the list has been created, the executive team attends a meeting with the express purpose of simply narrowing the list to the top three trends in each category that will have the most impact on the success or failure of the entity. This is normally accomplished by looking over the list of possible trends (starting in the macro category) and combining like trends onto groups until you have a number of final possibilities. If there are more than five options, it is a good idea to simply use the Post It note method of having each person in the room vote on their top three choices and then put them on the table and see if three emerge. If not, further debate and discussion should be used to try and narrow the field to three.

This process is repeated for each of the categories until there are 9 top trends identified.

*** A possible addition to the process of reducing to the final three possible trends that is fun and can be useful is to assign a prosecutor and defender for each trend. Give each person about two minutes to make their case for, or against. Then use the Post It note process to narrow the field.

At this point, the meeting is closed and people are provided with the list of nine important trends that will have an impact on the entity so they can give further thought to the concepts.

In this step, the team will paint a fleshed out picture of what the market, or environment, will look like in 5 years. This is done by having each person in the room create a list of bullet points that describe new elements in the future that do not exist today. One by one each person describes these areas and defends why they feel they are important and plausible in the future. Each element of change is written on the white board as people present so that by the end, the list that remains has combined the like elements, and only the unique ideas are left. From this list, approx. ten future elements are chosen based on their likelihood and impact. The process of choosing the top ten is handled much like the trends were chosen in part one. With these ten new points of view, a clear picture of the future 5 years out can be painted.

This session is really meant to be a green light creative process that gets all the participants on the same page as to what the environment will be like over the coming years. It is important that all the participants get the chance to express their unique views on how the future might be different. This is also the most difficult part of the process because it requires a unique ability to hold a new picture in your head, and most people have a hard time getting the today picture out if their minds eye.

At this point, the team is ready to create a plan to either leverage, or mitigate risks on the factors they see coming in the future. This is done by first reviewing the nine trends and making a determination as to whether the trend can be leveraged to make progress, or if it needs to be defended because it is potentially dangerous to progress. As the team works through making these determinations a list of possible action steps should be created in a parking area. Once completed, the team moves on to creating the investment portfolio for the future.

The goal for this portfolio is to create a group of investments that the organization can afford, and that will help to set the entity up for success in the coming 5 year timeframe. This is accomplished by agreeing to specific areas to invest money, time and energy into that will help leverage, or defend the trends and picture of the future we have developed. In order to keep the portfolio diversified, the investments should be made in three different areas:

People – for example, investments in training, reorganizing, or equipping

Processes – for example, identifying the new or current processes that will be critical to execution in the future, and mechanizing, or improving them

Products – for example, adding new products or services that will appeal to the market in the future state.

The final portfolio will be a set of action items that must be divided between the participants to own. Each item must be looked at as a single profit and loss center so that it is clear from year to year whether the investment is paying off, or not. Although some investments might be difficult to measure, it is very important to find some method for valuing the return.

CONCLUSION – An annual High Beam meeting must be convened each year to review the trends, future vision, and investment portfolio. At this meeting, new information and observations will cause each part to be upgraded. The investment portfolio must be reviewed to see what kind of return was achieved. Just as with a financial portfolio, changes must be made each year. Losers that provided no value should be dropped. Winners that have completed their value run should be replaced, and the process starts anew.

Do not miss the opportunity to use the output of the process to inspire the whole organization. Every member of the team is interested in where the entity is going. They will have more zeal for their role in the organization if they know where the whole team is headed.


NADP Conference made an excursion to the Experience Music Project.  Touring through some of the history of the Seattle and Northwest music scene provided the backdrop to a fun experience for attendees.  The museum-type exhibits were enhanced by a number of exhibits that provided for an experience with different musical instruments and a little training in vocals. 

After a little “training” with different instruments, several adventurous musicians-in-training tried their hand at a mock’n’roll concert.  “Bands” like the Kaviteez, Floss, and the Sharonites sold out virtual concerts in the EMP’s experiential exhibit.

This is Seattle, so of course the rains came and soaked a few of the attendees as they returned to their hotels.  All-in-all, the night was fun for everyone in attendance.

This morning’s peer to peer breakfast was very well attended for such an early start.  Discussions on the dental/medical connection, technology, small business marketing, dental benefits ROI, universal healthcare, provider networks, discount dental , children’s oral health, retirement market and working with brokers were fruitful in the ideas generated.

A big issue permeating many of the discussions was the management of provider networks.  The complexity of credentialing providers and maintaining systems to accomodate accuracy in networks spans across a number of functions within the dental plans including impacts on the auto-adjudication of claims, difficulty consumers have negotiating loosely accurate provider directories, and timely credentialing.

Other issues addressed included the need to utilize product and pricing segmentation in retirement markets, education of the various audiences of the dental benefits industry about the value of dental benefits, the use of discount dental products to address the needs of the dentally underserved market and better collaboration between public and private payers to provide more access for the care of childrens’ oral health.

One might not put the words entertaining and research statistics in the same sentence, but the break-out session covering NADP’s research offerings and activities was both fun and informative.  Modeled after the game shows Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?, Jerry Berggren, playing the part of Regis Philbin, guided the audience and the victim contestant through a series of progressively more difficult questions about NADP’s research reports and activities.

The session was held twice, on Wednesday afternoon and Thursday morning.  Experts Karen Gustin and Darrin Hall were on hand to assist the contestants in their quest for the grand prize.  Jennifer Erb of DenteMax, Gary Pickard of Pacific Dental Services, and NADP’s own Kris Hathaway ALMOST made it through the series of questions, but Kim Sheldrake of United Healthcare successfully waded through the arcane and odd research questions posed to her through the course of the game to win the grand prize, a collection of promotional items from the NADP Conference exhibitors.

Attendees appreciated the innovative format and plans are in place to make the show a regular feature on cable public access channels across the country. 🙂

Once you’ve had your fill of the Farmer’s Market, pick up a coffee or a bowl of suro to-go, and walk north 10 minutes to the Olympic Sculpture Garden.

This free, outdoor venue is relatively new– and offers a 30-45 minute opportunity to enjoy both art and fresh air. There are plenty of places to sit and take in the view.

Even if you don’t make it to the Olympic Sculpture Garden, look around as you walk the blocks close to the hotel– art abounds in public spaces on each and every block (even the base on some of the cross walk signs is ornate…).

Most people think Nordstrom started in San Francisco. Not so.

At 6th and Pike you’ll the Nordie’s Flagship store– and, of course, you’ll also find service that is second to none.

Even if you’re not buying, walking the store and watching the way staff interact with guests will remind you of the great impact that good service can have on customer perceptions of a brand.

World Famous Espresso Shop

Seattle and coffee go hand in hand. In this land of “a Starbuck’s on every corner”, we asked some locals where the very BEST Seattle coffee could be found. Hands down, they said it’s at Cafe Vivace.

Located in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of downtown Seattle, Cafe Vivace is reputed to have some of the best espresso in the world (yes, that includes Italy–!).

Cafe Vivace is about a 15 minute walk from the Sheraton (ask the concierge for a walking map and directions). They are open into the evening so head there tonight (it’s near this evening’s group dinner location), or try this cafe tomorrow morning to jump start your day. The link below provides more information on this special place.