Thinking in three horizons
Big Business
Thinking in three horizons
Thinking in three horizons
Sole Trader

Thinking in three horizons
A tool to help you think about the present, the short-term and your long term aspirations

The big idea

Thinking in three horizons encourages you to go beyond the usual focus on fixing problems in the present. It is an approach that connects the present with desired futures and also identifies some of the disruptions which might occur in moving towards your future vision. It first emerged in the late nineties through the work of Baghai, Coley and White (1999) and has been developed by a range of practitioners (Curry & Hodgson, 2008) since, notably the International Futures Forum in Scotland.


The purpose of the model is to encourage you to think about the future of your business and to recognise signals about that future in the present. It is unusual as a future thinking tool in that neither the dominant view of the present nor the emerging view of the future is privileged. It also recognises the transition space in between where viewpoints, values and assumptions are often tested. The model stimulates discussion around:

  • The present position and challenges that the business faces. It establishes a case for change (horizon 1)
  • Your desired future state (horizon 3)
  • The tensions that might occur between moving from the present position to that desired state (horizon 2)
  • Signs of change in the present position, which give encouragement about moving towards the desired future state (horizon 3 in horizon 1)

The Tool

The tool consists of a three horizons template, which helps you think about your business now, in the medium term and in the longer-term future. You can use the template on your own or with a group and need to devote at least a few hours to the activity to begin looking for your preferred futures.