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Consequence
Scanning

Now is your chance to make time for this key strategy session.

Many businesses are now managing a sudden change in structure, with teams working remotely. Along with its challenges, there are advantages to the new set-up. Founders can make the most of teams’ additional capacity – and good conference software – to organise a remote strategy session on consequence scanning.

Consequence scanning is about building a responsible business, which is vital for investment, recruitment and sales. But ensuring you have understood the full impact of your product can be a challenge. Doteveryone has practical advice and resources for founders:

  • Responsibility is a win-win for businesses and society
  • Understanding the consequences of a product is a key first step
  • Have a diverse group of stakeholders work on your business’s intent and how you signal it
  • See your decisions as setting a precedent for the future

Businesses need to understand their products and the impact they will have on society. That’s the belief of think tank Doteveryone and it is helping startups develop this understanding using the practice of consequence scanning.

“Understanding the consequences of your product allows you to take responsibility for it,” says Sam Brown, programme lead at Doteveryone.

“Everyone has blind spots,” explains Brown. “It can be hard to confront what might go wrong when building something ¬– but the earlier you face those things, the greater the possibilities that are available to you.”

Why consider consequences?

Analysing a product and its consequences, both intended and unintended, allows teams to understand the potential implications of their work at a deeper level. They are then able to make responsible choices and continue to develop their product at speed because everyone is on the same page. It also increases transparency of decision making, which can then be clearly communicated to investors, customers and other stakeholders.

“Customers and clients are starting to expect a company to prove ethical and environmental credentials,” Brown explains. “It’s becoming a key differentiator between businesses that fail and the ones that last.”

Brown describes founders as having a light bulb moment when they realise how a responsible approach adds value and resilience right across the business.

It’s tempting for busy founders to take shortcuts as they rush to grow. But failing to consider consequences and act responsibility at an early stage sets a precedent for how other decisions are made and becomes a part of company culture that is hard to reverse.

“When everyone around you sees you making a decision in a responsible, considered way, they’ll replicate it,” says Brown.
 

When should you consequence scan?

The earlier you consider consequences, the easier it is to make changes before people become too invested in an idea or spend too much resource. Doteveryone highlights three key stages:

  • Vision: at initial conception
  • Roadmap: as the product is planned and starts to take shape
  • Iteration: every time a feature is introduced


How to begin

Founders need to ask themselves three questions:

  • What are the intended and the unintended consequences of this product or feature?
  • What are the positive consequences we want to focus on?
  • What are the negative consequences we want to mitigate?

To answer, founders need to take a step back from the detail of the everyday and look at their business and product more broadly. Consequence scanning is the dedicated time to do this – it should fit into an iterative development process, but you may want to introduce the practice to the organisation through training or a workshop to fully explore the themes and ideas.
 

Who should be involved?

Having different perspectives is crucial to uncovering the full range of impacts, good and bad, that a product or service might have. Participants in consequence scanning should include:

  • Core team: working on the project day-to-day
  • User advocates: from as broad a range of backgrounds as possible T
  • echnology collaborators: including specialists in security, infrastructure, risk and compliance
  • Business collaborators: specialists in marketing, sales and customer service who will be involved in the product
  • Senior product sponsors: high level stakeholders who will ensure support for the event – and that its findings are acted upon

Action sorting

After ideating on intended and unintended consequences, founders and their teams need to ask themselves about the positive consequences they want to maximize, and consequences they want to take responsibility for mitigating. To determine this, they can sort their ideas for potential consequences into three categories:

  • Act: the things the core team can take forward and action immediately. These can be prioritised and given timescales
  • Influence: these are consequences that need to be handled by other stakeholders within the organisation – or externally but within reachable networks
  • Monitor: consequences that cannot be controlled, such as global trends, but that the business should stay aware of – and watch to see if they can be influenced in the future


Integrate your understanding

Consequence scanning is only effective when the results are fully integrated into the business. By involving key stakeholders in the conversation it’s more likely that everyone takes responsibility for actions based on what you’ve discovered. And don’t think of it as a one-off exercise. By building consequence scanning into your development and management processes, you can ensure the benefits continue as the business grows.

The full consequence scanning resource kit is available for free from Doteveryone.

 

Doteveryone is a charity that was established in 2015 by Baroness Martha Lane Fox. It runs courses and events through its dedicated training programme, TechTransformed.

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