Back to the Futures
Futures Design relies heavily on speculation to explore what would happen if certain conditions were met in the future.
It is an approach that enables us to think about what could happen in the future based on what is happening today and what has happened in the past. It allows organisations to embrace uncertainty and leverage it to become more prepared for the unknown ahead of us.
But, given that the future cannot be predicted with 100% accuracy, how does this discipline deal with the uncertainty ingrained in the subject matter? Read on to discover the answer.
How trends come to be
Trends describe our future scenarios. They are an assumed development in the future that will have a long-term and lasting effect.
Trends leverage our basic human needs and wants in a way that aligns evolving human nature with breakthrough invention. They are a new manifestation of sustained change within society, an industrial sector or within human behaviour.
On their way to becoming well established and entering into the mainstream, trends are preceded by signals of change. They are the first indicator of change or a theme likely to become significant in the future. Their primary use case is challenging assumptions and exemplifying a more practical view of the desired future.
Signals of change are also most commonly used in scenario building, to encourage us to think about the many futures. They help us identify new opportunities that often live at the intersection of various industries; they are a reflection of our day to day lives; finally they inspire us to broaden our own understanding of what’s possibly to come.
Cone of plausibility
Why futures, and not just one future? It’s not only theory but also common sense that teaches us that the future is shaped by our actions. Different decisions in the same context will yield different results, which is incidentally what future thinkers attempt to map through Futures Design.
It is perhaps best illustrated by the Cone of Plausibility, first mentioned by Charles Taylor in 1988 Alternative World Scenarios for Strategic Planning. The cone extends on a timeline from today onwards; as it grows with time, its horizontal edges indicate limits of possibility within which sit many different futures.
The varieties of futures as seen in the Cone is as follows:
- Probable future is what would happen if current events continued without intervention or unexpected influence.
- Preferred future is there to remind us of the fact that we have a collective agency over how the future unfolds
- Futures as indicated by Scenarios are what could happen if given circumstances (e.g. wide adoption of specific signals of change) occur.
Events that can influence any of the futures but for a variety of reasons are difficult or near impossible to predict based on today’s knowledge are called wild cards. There are at least three types of wild cards:
- Black elephants — a term coined by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, black swans are events or situations which are unpredictable, but have a major effect on people’s lives.
- Pink flamingos — first used by Frank Hoffman, pink flamingo is a predictable event (so called inevitable surprise) that is ignored due to cognitive biases of the group in charge.
- Grey rhinos — suggested by Michele Wucker, grey rhinos are a slowly emerging, obvious threat that is ignored or minimized by decision makers
While these events are impossible to map out in its entirety, Futures Design aims to uncover as many of them as possible so that business owners, leaders and policy makers are less fragile and prone to failure.
How can an agency help with innovation?
Developing new products or reimagining ways of delivering value can be an overwhelming experience. Where does one need to begin? How do you bring colleagues together to set on a new path? Will this new product idea become viable at all?
When doing new things, information can be scarce and stakeholders can be skeptical. When innovating, there might not be a lot to go on other than intuition. However, the sooner that gut-feel and instinct becomes grounded on facts and sound analysis, the better the chances of translating that novel idea into a ground-breaking product, a viable business.
Here at Netguru, we believe — and have proven — that innovation is a disciplined process, rather than accidental or arbitrary. Our Innovation Consultancy offers structured and methodical approaches to help you sharpen your take on innovation — be it a novel product, an advanced technology, a new process, a fresh business concept.
An innovation agency with deep experience will not only help you uncover data and insights, but walk you through battle-tested processes, frameworks, and methodologies. At Netguru, we’ve built the expertise to prototype ideas and stress test them so you can make the right call before you heavily invest in its full development or implementation.
There are plenty of tools in our innovation toolkit, but here are some that can get you started:
- Discovery and generative research
- Trends and competitor analysis
- Product prototyping and testing
- R&D sprints
- Customer behavior analysis
- Business model discovery and design
- Product roadmap development