Futures Playbook - Aurecon

Navigate Uncertainty. Anticipate. Act.

Three Horizons Mapping

three-horizonsThree Horizons Mapping helps you understand how ideas, opportunities, technologies and initiatives align to different types of growth for your organisation.

This play helps categorise your ideas, options or trends according to the type of growth being considered for your organisation.

Understanding where these sit across the three horizons helps form a holistic strategy, while considering the time sensitive nature of opportunities, processes and tools needed for implementation.

  • Horizon 1 – Now and the short term. A business-as-usual focus on optimisation and utilisation at scale to extend current practices and core business.
  • Horizon 2 – Medium term growth opportunities. A commercialisation and transition focus to explore and develop emerging opportunities.
  • Horizon 3 – Long term growth opportunities. A focus on less certain but more transformative opportunities.

The play is based on McKinsey’s Three Horizons which was developed in the 1990s. It is used to help companies identify and organise growth opportunities.

Dynamics + Patterns

Why run this play?

This is a Dynamics + Patterns play that helps you understand and analyse how change might occur.

You can use this play to help you:

  • Assess the readiness or growth potential of trends and opportunities
  • Visually classify ideas and opportunities according to their proximity to core business
  • Identify where you stand in the horizons and assess if there is a good balance
  • Avoid getting stuck in the past or present and identify what is coming

How do I run this play?

Play Overview

6–8 45–60 minutes Easy

As a group, select a topic or area of investigation. Have a brief discussion about what the topic means, and which aspect is up for exploration.

Using Post-It notes, individually brainstorm ideas, issues, components, and opportunities for the topic on your own.

Place your ideas against each horizon on the Three Horizons Mapping canvas. Typically, some ideas fall between two horizons, but continue to place them where you think they best fit. For ideas which you are unsure where they should be placed on the canvas, have a group discussion to decide where they should go.

Once you have allocated your ideas to the three horizons, it is time to explore the patterns. As a group, think about and discuss the following questions:

  • How are the ideas distributed across the horizons? Do we have too many in a certain area?
  • Do we need more opportunities in some of the horizons?
  • What are the opportunities that excite us in each horizon?
  • How do our capabilities match the opportunities?

Finally, as a group, reflect on the mapping process and what you have produced. What assumptions did you uncover through this process? What are some strategic implications for your organisation of the patterns that have emerged?


The Three Horizons Mapping Canvas and Facilitation Guide by Aurecon is licensed under CC BY 4.0


Define your horizons
Before you start placing your ideas on the canvas, define the scope of your three horizons as it is common to have different interpretations of where each horizon starts and stops.

The Play: in action

Aurecon hosted a Digital Event in Sydney, where we asked clients from various industries to place stickers representing different digital technologies across the Three Horizons Mapping canvas. In this scenario, the three horizons were defined as:

  • Horizon 1 – innovation for optimisation and utilisation of current practices
  • Horizon 2 – implementing and experimenting for the next wave of growth
  • Horizon 3 – innovation for future growth

Through this activity, each client discussed in detail the conditions around harnessing potential opportunities and the hurdles they needed to overcome. Collectively, it helped them understand the limitations of the technology in its current state across the three horizons, irrespective of their market or industry, and uncover the emerging areas of application.

Ready to find your future?

While this page gives you everything you need to run the Play yourself, you might prefer to work with the people who know the frameworks and theories best. Aurecon can help guide you through your Futures Playbook experience and help you navigate your digital future.

Contact us for an initial conversation

Next steps?

You can use this Strategy Play to identify what actions you need to take now to achieve your vision of the future.

To top

Unfortunately, you are using a web browser that Aurecon does not support.

Please change your browser to one of the options below to improve your experience.

Supported browsers: