Russell Danks. Russell Danks.

In 2007, the world’s top universities were teaching within their business faculties the importance of 10-year strategic plans to deliver long-term growth. Fast forward 10 years and the notion of planning into next year seems slightly alien when we are surrounded by so much change.

As we stand on the brink of the fourth industrial revolution, it is developing at an exponential rate, disrupting nearly every industry in every country, F&B included. The difficult question is: “how do you keep your eye on the horizon, one to three years out, never mind when there is just so much change in the present?”

Having a clear strategy, albeit for three years, rather than 10, does help businesses, both big and small, navigate through some of the fastest consumer and employee change the world has ever seen. Knowing that you, your teams and key stakeholders are all travelling in the same direction is a start, followed by what you are focused on and, equally importantly, what you are not going to be doing.

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Identifying within your strategic plan meaningful innovation pipelines that are focused on long-term structural trends versus short-term fads is itself an art. Then it’s a case of ensuring they are resourced appropriately and delivering at pace. This is easier said than done, especially in the hyper-competitive, fast-moving restaurant industry in places such as Dubai.

There are numerous examples of how big business is adapting its models to deliver key innovation in line with its strategy. Whether it is incubating start-ups, in-house innovation labs or acquiring businesses with the appropriate skills, they all rely on one thing: a culture of change. 

Businesses with a clear plan, but lacking a change culture, fail to deliver step-changes in performance. In the same way that culture without a plan has no real value either — just a bunch of people who get random stuff done.

Ambitious, insight-led strategies with innovation and change at their heart, coupled with open-minded and resilient collaborators, will stand the test of the fastest revolution we have ever seen. 

One thing I can guarantee for certain is uncertainty — and we need to get used to it.

Russell Danks is a futurist at Future Factory London and has worked in strategy and innovation roles for brands including Tesco, YUM Brands, KFC, P&O Cruises, Cunard and Greene King. He is acknowledged as having a fantastic ability to see into the future and understand how technology in particular is facilitating changes in human behaviour and how this impacts the way we interact with the world. Danks is one of the speakers at the Global Restaurant Investment Forum, being held from March 12-14 at Palazzo Versace Dubai. Visit: