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Every summer, for the past 12 years, my family has visited the Hamptons. After inching our way out of Long Island traffic, the road opens to a narrow escape. Trees and oceanfront villages dot the side of Route 27. The first glimpse of waves always fills me with an unfailing sense of serenity.

We stay in Montauk, visiting our favorite beach clubs and restaurants. It’s a peaceful getaway for us—one that we hope to come back to for many years—but lately, there’s a threat looming in the background of our joyful vacation.

Of course, we’ve been aware of the potential impacts of climate change for years. But this year, Montauk is considering taking action to prepare for a future when rising sea levels will eat away at the borders of the town. One solution high on the town board’s agenda is a “managed retreat”—a planned relocation of vulnerable homes and businesses to higher ground, before nature necessitates it.

Concrete plans are still in development, but according to the proposal, the hotels and businesses most likely to be affected by worsening storms and rising seas would be moved inland, closer to predictions of where the future water level will be.

The thinking is strategic—prepare for the five- to 10-year horizon while maintaining the core offerings of the business. Montauk visitors would enjoy similar amenities, albeit in a location safe from flooding and erosion. The tradeoffs are up for debate among many coastal resorts and towns—will the same guests want to stay a mile further from the sea? But Montauk’s experiment sparks new thinking for all industries.

Developing your managed retreat

If you’re in a business, industry, or product market whose future looks significantly different, or whose existence might be threatened a few years down the line, what is your managed retreat … from business as usual … from today’s status quo?

With digital transformation accelerating, social and  environmental disruption becoming more common, and the pace of change ever increasing, there aren’t many businesses that won’t need to think about some form of planned retreat over the next decade. To figure out what your own might look like, consider the following questions:

  1. How will climate change, increased regulations, new technologies, or shifting societal preferences impact your industry over the next 10 years? Are any of your core products or services in jeopardy of becoming obsolete?
  2. What would a “managed retreat” look like for that business model? Are there substitutions that might open up new opportunities? (For example, a hotel further from the ocean may appeal to today’s climate-conscious, price-conscious, or traffic-sensitive consumer.)
  3. What would be the timeline for your managed retreat? What immediate steps would you take today if you knew your business model would cease to exist in five or 10 years?

Advice from chief strategy officers

Chief strategy officers in the Outthinker Strategy Network spend their days conducting scenario planning exercises just like this one. They are often responsible for driving business model innovation and future preparedness for companies that are already experiencing success under today’s conditions. By foreseeing and defining what their industry will look like in the future, they remain steps ahead of competitors and external disruption and ensure that success continues.

These additional resources offer their perspectives as you think about your managed retreat:

Photo by Bernd Dittrich on Unsplash

“8Ps” of StrategyOpportunity
for Disruption
Recommended Leverage Points
Position- The farmers, individual and corporate, that you are targeting.

- The need of the agricultural industry that you seek to fill.
3- What technologies do you control that can help you tap into market
segments that you previously thought unreachable?

- What are the potential business alliances you could think about with key players in the segment to serve your customers with integrated solutions? (Serving customers with more integrated solutions example: serving farmers with fertilizers, crop protection and other).
Product- The products you offer, and the characteristics that affect their value to customers.

- The technology you develop for producing those products.
8- What moves are your organization taking to implement Big Data and analytics to your operations? What IoT and blockchain applications can you use?

- What tools and technology could you utilize or develop to improve food quality, traceability, and

- How can you develop a more sustainable production model to accommodate constraints on arable

- What is the future business model needed to serve new differentiated products to your customers?
Promotion- How you connect with farmers and consumers across a variety of locations and industries.
- How to make consumers, producers, and other stakeholders aware of your products and services.
8- How are you connecting your product with individual and corporate farms who could utilize it?
- How could you anticipate market and customer needs to make customers interested in accessing your differentiated products?
PriceHow consumers and other members of the agricultural supply chain pay for access to agricultural products.7- What elements of value comprise your pricing? How do each of those elements satisfy the varying needs of your customers?
Placement- How food products reach consumers. How the technologies, data, and services reach stakeholders in the supply chain.9- What new paths might exist for helping consumers access the food they desire?
- How are you adapting your operations and supply chain to accommodate consumers’ desire for proximity to the food they eat?
- How could you anticipate customer expectation to make products more
accessible to customers/agile supply chain?
- Have you considered urbanization as a part of your growth strategy?
- How your food satisfies the needs and desires of your customer.
- How the services you provide to agribusiness fulfill their needs.
9- Where does your food rate on a taste, appearance, and freshness
- Could the services you provide to companies and farms in the agriculture industry be expanded to meet more needs?
- What senses does your food affect besides hunger? How does your
customer extract value from your food in addition to consumption?
Processes- Guiding your food production operations in a manner cognizant of social pressure.8- How can you manage the supply chain differently to improve traceability and reduce waste?
- How can you innovate systems in production, processing, storing, shipping, retailing, etc.?
- What are new capabilities to increase sustainability (impact on the environment, or ESG) components?
People- The choices you make regarding hiring, organizing, and incentivizing your people and your culture.- How are you leveraging the agricultural experience of your staff bottom-up to achieve your vision?
- How do you anticipate new organizational capabilities needed to perform your future strategy (innovation, exponential technologies needed, agile customer relationship, innovative supply chain)?
- How do you manage your talents to assure suitable development with exposure in the agrifood main challenges/allowing a more sustainable view of the opportunities/cross-sectors?