Why time horizons are important

Posted April 17, 2020

To address complex challenges, we believe collaboration is a must.
Collaboration with multiple stakeholders and across disciplines.

To achieve collaboration that not only does the job, but keeps delivering over time, we need to do what scriptwriters do.
To write a play you first need to define what it is about and then what it is really about. This is what we call plot and subtext.
If we don’t know this, we will never know if it ends well or even if we’re done.

Once you know the plot and subtext, you need to find your characters. The ones that make the plot happen. All of them are driven by the common subtext, some as protagonists and some as antagonists.
We not only need to define them by name and position, but also by their skills and their incentives. If we don’t know what each character can contribute with and what makes him or her “tick”, then we simply can’t really make efficient use of them in the story.

The Bridge Method is very much like writing a play. We define the challenge, identify the relevant stakeholders, inventory their skills and incentives to engage and then propose multiple drafts for fast pilot projects.

To understand what makes a stakeholder tick, we need to understand what time frame they are incentivised by.
If you are fuelled by Agenda 2030 you obviously need to have a ten-year perspective on getting the job done.
If you live in a Cape Town township you are more likely to have a week-long future horizon. Plans beyond that are nice, but seldomly affects real decisions.

So, the future horizon can vary a lot between people and contexts.
In more stable communities the average future horizon is certainly longer than in contexts with less well-built infrastructure.
By the way – we are all constantly living with multiple future horizons. Nevertheless, it is each stakeholder’s time frame with respect to the challenge we’re trying to deal with, that determines whether they engage or not.

In the ongoing societal crisis, we are facing new time horizons that are both shorter than we are used to and more ambiguous. Shorter because the virus may cause tragedy close to us in the near future. Ambiguous because we simply don’t have enough information to see the future horizon clearly.
To respect each other’s most important time horizons will be crucial to write the future together.

– Jonas Klevhag, The Bridge Agency